The Washington Post released a story late this afternoon (Monday) saying anonymous “senior law enforcement sources” admit the U.S. government has not filed a sealed indictment against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. The question is, after three years of secret investigation, why is the government letting this information out now? Or, if the Obama administration doesn’t want the information out, will it pursue the anonymous sources as whistleblowers?
Okay, that last question rings of sarcasm, we know. Law enforcement has a history of not caring to prosecute its own, particularly under a century-old law like the Espionage Act with its death penalty.
But, why, after a plodding investigation into Assange–including corroborating with the United Kingdom in cornering him in London’s Ecuadorean embassy for over a year-do unnamed government officials want to let Assange’s “non-indictment” be known?
The Washington Post quotes one secret official as etching the boundary between government employees who blow the whistle (such as Edward Snowden) and a publisher who sends that whistle out to the world, like Assange. Says the Post:
“Snowden was a person who swore an oath, an employee of the National Security Agency,” said a second senior U.S. official, drawing a line between Snowden’s legal obligations and responsibility, and someone like Assange.
Federal officials said the grand jury investigation has not been closed, and a spokesman for WikiLeaks said the organization drew no comfort from the fact that there was no sealed indictment.
Peculiar Progressive has been following the Assange saga through the CFR since January 2011, beginning with our column “Will the U.S. Indict the Wikileaks Leader?” We contended back then the government would not. We based this partly on reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had sent an Aug. 16, 2010 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, diffusing the threat of the Wikileaks Pentagon document revelations. And we based it more heavily on a December 2010 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report stating that government precedent has been not to prosecute anyone in Assange’s journalistic position for having leaked classified information publicly. That CRS report was updated this September.
But the Obama administration hasn’t let the Constitutional right to freedom of the press stand in its way with Assange. What may work for an American publisher obviously doesn’t, in its mind, for an Australian. And certain powers in Congress have supported that, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She went so far as to claim that Assange was not a journalist and should be prosecuted-despite his operating a website that reveals secret government operations, including wrongdoing, a major mission of the press, and hosting television interviews with political leaders of other countries.
Despite the Congressional research report clearly stating the legal precedents and political problems inherent in pursuing Assange, Obama has continued to stalk the Aussie, receiving support from the UK and from Sweden, where two women have accused him of rape at just the time the U.S. needed something legally for cornering him. Believing the Swedish legal action was an effort to have him extradited to the U.S. for possible torture and eventual trial under the Espionage Act, Assange sought and found asylum from Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, no friend to the U.S. Assange has resided in the Ecuadorian embassy since the summer of 2012.
Not one to linger idly, Assange while in the embassy has held a couple of world-televised press conferences, and even ran for the Australian Senate, in absentia forming the Wikileaks Party in Australia. He didn’t get elected.
But the question is, now, will he not be just persecuted, but prosecuted by the U.S.? Officials have just leaked information that he hasn’t been indicted, but that the three-year investigation continues. And, if Assange leaves the embassy in London, British authorities still are prepared to arrest him, possibly sending him to Sweden.
What might the American public consider doing while the Assange saga continues? We could demand U.S. officials publicly and clearly answer for the illegal activities Snowden and other whistleblowers have revealed through Wikileaks and other press outlets. And we could also make the government publicly account for how much of our tax money it has spent in relentless pursuit of Assange, Snowden, and others who have courageously brought to light the government’s illegal activities.
The Post above quoted a federal official who spoke of Snowden’s legal obligations and responsibilities. What about the government’s legal obligations and responsibilities — to not perform illegal activities?