What Nobody Sees, Gets, Understands and Comprehends About Assange

Let’s start with this week’s front page monster.There it was. Covered by everyone. An international event nonpareil, immane in structure and import. Monumental! Journalism’s watch dog and attack dog, Julian Assange’s colossal event . . . whatever the hell that was. The brutal capture, a Keystone Cops arrest, Moreno gives our man the Embassy heave-ho and amscray, the bum’s rush, a photo-op nightmare, a manucaption shitstorm without the benefit of mainprise, an impromptu Gore Vidal plug and the whole world scratching its collective head asking, “What was that supposed to be?” A hoary, pallid barbate screaming and howling. The yelp for help heard ’round the world. And why again? Moreno tore up the asylum agreement that Julian utilized after he was arrested for failing to appear anent a Swedish case whose charges had been dropped. Is this any way to run an airline? Is this sounding as nuts to you as it did the world? Well, it was and is and remember I’m saying this. By Tuesday it will be all forgotten. America has the attention span of a gnat and this creepy dude with the hard-to-place accent has no connectivity to regular American folk (though he should have). Especially when they’re told that he helped disseminate and distribute data and info that only seemed to embarrass Americans. Either way, I’m of the belief that Julian Assange is a hero in many respects, though a qualified one.
 
Ah yes, the questions.While it may seem interesting to re-catalog his journey through the insane labyrinth of this Swedish-UK legal Rube Goldberg system of clüsterfėck, a Lionel neologism, I find it more interesting to ask the following questions as to the rudiments and abecedarian basics of news collection, dissemination and reportage.
 
Is Assange a journalist?No, he’s a small engine repair tech. Of course he’s a journalist! Where in the name of God did this idiotic query come from? If CNN’s journalism then I’m Eleanor Roosevelt. And Julian Assange’s (JA hereinafter) a freaking journo! It’s that simple. I read a virtually endless litany of mind-bogglingly stupid social media questions as to what’s a journalist and if he has the appropriate decoder ring and accoutrements of the craft. In today’s world even a tatted, man-bunned moonbat named Starchild clicking away at the keyboard in some Brooklyn coffee bar qualifies as a journalist. It’s always been that way. So don’t give me that nonsense about how JA’s not able to seek solace under the umbrella’d rubric of journalist with all the attendant benefits, protections and, yes, liabilities because you simply don’t like him. If anyone’s to “blame,” it’s Bradley, er, Chelsea Manning, records thief and (ahem) whistleblower. Read the indictment. Always read the indictment.
 
What exactly did JA allegedly do?Read the words of the DOJ.

[e.s.] connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications. Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.

Did you catch that? JA’s alleged to have actively conspired with Manning to hack and crack a password. If true, that changes everything. JA goes from whistleblower to safecracker. From respected protected journalist to “Will the Defendant please rise” criminal co-defendant. This, provided, it can be proved. And don’t think there won’t be a series of challenges before he ever sees the inside of Leavenworth. Those of us who read the specifics of the indictment marveled at how the government was planning to prosecute a case where the last overt acts in the named conspiracy were in 2010. Seems that the Eastern District of VA boys are planning on bootstrapping a terrorism count/statute that would give them more time just under the wire. Maybe. No matter how you look at it, it’s going to be a tough go for the Fighting Feds.
 
Doesn’t and didn’t WikiLeaks break the law by publishing stolen, unauthorized documents?Nope. At least not in the good ol’ US thanks to SCOTUS in Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001). So long as the journalist comes into possession of a newsworthy item and never actually stole or participated in the unauthorized, trespassory taking of the items in question, Jimmy Olsen’s off the hook. I never quite grasped how Hulk Hogan claimed anything deserving of an award against the now defunct putrid rag Gawker as the latter never acquired the Hulkster’s grainy grind video illegally. If memory serves me, two courts ruled the items newsworthy. Oh, well. That’s juiced-up has-been dreck under the bridge. But let’s return to the focus at heart, Assange is protected under US law if . . . if . . . if he never participated in the alleged illegal swiping of government data, transmissions, files and the like. It all revolves around that.
 
Can journalists steal documents and then publish them?SCOTUS in Bartnickiprovided this pertinent reference. “It would be frivolous to assert-and no one does in these cases-that the First Amendment, in the interest of securing news or otherwise, confers a license on either the reporter or his news sources to violate valid criminal laws. Although stealing documents or private wiretapping could provide newsworthy information, neither reporter nor source is immune from conviction for such conduct, whatever the impact on the flow of news.” Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U. S. 665, 691 (1972).
 
So, what are the rules again?This is a marvelous adumbration of the Bartnicki rules. Publishers who legally obtain information that was originally unlawfully obtained, are protected by the First Amendment, and cannot be punished. To obtain First Amendment protections, four elements must be met: (1) the publisher did not participate in intercepting the conversation; (2) the publisher acquired the information lawfully; (3) the published information must be a matter of public concern; and (4) the information must be truthful.

Now, any questions?

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