After the arrest of Julian Assange by British police and the unsealing of the U.S. indictment against him, the question is why is the U.S. doing this and why now?
The indictment alleges that Assange 'conspired' with Chelsea Manning by giving support to her attempt to find a password to an account that would have allowed her to conceal her pilfering of U.S. documents. Glenn Greenwald argues that the case is quite thin and clearly an attack on press freedom. That a reporter or editor has to help a source to conceal its identity is part of the job description.
The Obama administration, not known for reluctance to go after whistleblowers, had already weighted the 'conspired' case and decided against prosecuting it.
It is thus likely that the case, as unsealed now, is only a pretext to extradite Assange from Britain. The real case will only get unsealed if and when Assange is in U.S. custody.
National security reporter William Arkin, who left NBC News over its warmongering, is likely right when he writes that the issue behind this is Wikileaks' publishing of the CIA's hacking tools known as Vault 7.
While the publishing of the Vault 7 files received little coverage in the media, it seriously damaged to the CIA's capabilities. Arkin wrote on April 11 about the Vault 7 connection. The Guardian and the Daily Beast were offered the piece but declined to publish it:
The American case, which shifted completely in March 2017, is based up WikiLeaks' publications of the so-called "Vault 7" documents, an extensive set of cyber espionage secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Vault 7 was little noticed in the emerging Russian collusion scandal of the new Trump administration, but the nearly 10,000 CIA documents that WikiLeaks started publishing that March constituted an unprecedented breach, far more potentially damaging than anything the anti-secrecy website had ever done, according to numerous U.S. officials.
"There have been serious compromises - Manning and Snowden included - but until 2017, no one had laid a glove on the Agency in decades," says a senior intelligence official who has been directly involved in the damage assessments.
"Then came Vault 7, almost the entire archive of the CIA's own hacking group," the official says. "The CIA went ballistic at the breach." The official is referring to a little known CIA organization called the Center for Cyber Intelligence, a then unknown counterpart to the National Security Agency, and one that conducts and oversees the covert hacking efforts of the U.S. government.
Wikileaks acquired the Vault 7 files in late 2016 or early 2017. In January 2017 a lawyer for Julian Assange tried to make a deal with the U.S. government. Assange would refrain from publishing some critical content of the Vault 7 files in exchange for limited immunity and safe passage to talk with U.S. officials. One issue to be talked about was the sourcing of the DNC files which Wikileaks published. U.S. officials in the anti-Trump camp claimed that Russia had hacked the DNC servers. Assange consistently said that Russia was not the source of the published files. He offered technical evidence to prove that.
On March 23 2017 Wikileaks published some Vault 7 files of minor interest.
The Justice Department wanted a deal and made on offer to Assange. But intervention from then FBI director Comey sabotaged it:
Multiple sources tell me the FBI's counterintelligence team was aware and engaged in the Justice Department's strategy but could not explain what motivated Comey to send a different message around the negotiations ...
With the deal seemingly in jeopardy Wikileaks publish the CIA's Vault 7 files of "Marble Framework" and "Grasshopper". These CIA tools systematically changed its sniffing tools to make them look "Russian" or "Iranian" by inserting foreign language strings into their source code. The publication proved that the attribution of the DNC pilfering and other "hacks" to Russia was nonsense. The publishing of these files ended all negotiations:
On April 7, 2017, Assange released documents with the specifics of some of the CIA malware used for cyber attacks. It had immediate impact: A furious U.S. government backed out of the negotiations, and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo slammed WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service."
The alleged leaker of the Vault 7 files, one Joshua Schulte, is in U.S. custody but still has not had his day in court. It is likely that the U.S. wants to offer him a deal should he agree to testify against Assange.
In another piece Arkin expands on his first take by setting the case into a wider context:
[C]oming on the heels of massive leaks by Edward Snowden and a group called the Shadow Brokers just months earlier, and given the notoriety WikiLeaks had earned, Vault 7 was the straw that broke the governmental back. Not only was it an unprecedented penetration of the CIA, an organization that had evaded any breach of this type since the 1970's, but it showed that all of the efforts of the U.S. government after Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden had failed to either deter or catch "millennial leakers."
The targeting of Assange is not only for revenge, though revenge is surely part of the motive. The wider aim is to shut down on leaking:
The thinking of government officials - current and former - that I've talked to is that shutting down WikiLeaks once and for all - or at least separating it from the mainstream media to make it less attractive as a recipient of U.S. government secrets, will at least be one step towards greater internal security.
Assange will first be sentenced in Britain for jumping bail. He will be convicted to some six month of jail. Only after that time will the legal fight about the extradition to the States begin. It may take up to three years.
Assange's greatest hope to escape an extradition is a change of government in Britain:
Jeremy Corbyn @jeremycorbyn - 19:34 utc - 11 Apr 2019
The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.
The time it will take for the extradition case to move through British and EU courts is likely long enough for Labour to win a general election. With Jeremy Corbyn in charge Assange would likely be safe. It is one more reason for the transatlantic establishment to prevent a Corbyn win by all means available to it.
Posted by b on April 13, 2019