4 Myths About Julian Assange DEBUNKED

April 14, 2019 in News by Slad

Julian Assange is no victim - ExtremeTech

Source: washingtonsblog.com
by WashingtonsBlog

Myth #1: The U.S. Is Respecting First Amendment Freedom of the Press, and Only Prosecuting Assange for Hacking

While the criminal indictment against Assange focuses on his alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning to hack a Department of Defense password, there is a lot of language complaining about standard journalism practiced by Assange.

New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane tweets:

Even as some commentators say of the Assange charge, “This isn’t about journalism,” the indictment is written to make it about journalism.

The Washington Post’s media columnist Margaret Sullivan writes:

“The indictment discusses journalistic practices in the context of a criminal conspiracy: using encryption, making efforts to protect a source’s identity, and source cultivation,” said University of Georgia media law professor Jonathan Peters.

Those practices, he told me, are not only routine and lawful, “they’re best practices for journalists.”

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News organizations now provide secure drop boxes for sources.

They wisely use encryption applications such as Signal to converse with, and receive information from, sources.

That these practices are cast as part of the conspiracy “should worry all journalists, whether or not Assange himself is seen as a journalist,” Peters said.

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The risks to news organizations of prosecuting him remain very real.

The New Yorkers’ John Cassidy points out:

In explaining the charges against Assange, the indictment’s “manners and means of the conspiracy” section describes many actions that are clearly legitimate journalistic practices, such as using encrypted messages, cultivating sources, and encouraging those sources to provide more information. It cites a text exchange in which Manning told Assange, “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left,” and Assange replied, “Curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” If that’s part of a crime, the authorities might have to start building more jails to hold reporters.

The indictment, and some of the commentary it engendered, also makes much of the fact that Assange offered to try to crack a computer password for Manning. The Department of Justice claims that this action amounted to Assange engaging in a “hacking” conspiracy. Even some independent commentators have suggested that it went beyond the bounds of legitimate journalism—and the protections of the First Amendment.

But did it? On Thursday, my colleague Raffi Khatchadourian, who has written extensively about Assange, pointed out that, as of now, it looks like Assange didn’t do much, if anything, to crack the password once Manning sent the encrypted version. Khatchadourian also pointed out that federal prosecutors have known about this text exchange for many years, and yet the Obama Administration didn’t bring any charges. “As evidence of a conspiracy,” Khatchadourian writes, “the exchange is thin gruel.”

Even if Assange had succeeded in decoding the encryption, it wouldn’t have given Manning access to any classified information she couldn’t have accessed through her own account. “Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log onto the computers using a username that did not belong to her,” the indictment says. “Such a measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information.” So the goal was to protect Manning’s identity, and Assange offered to assist. But who could argue that trying to help a source conceal his or her identity isn’t something investigative journalists do on a routine basis?

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