Is Julian Assange a Russian agent, a criminal hacker, a rapist, all of the above, or, perhaps, nothing of the sort?
The WikiLeaks founder was arrested in the United Kingdom pursuant to a U.S./U.K. extradition treaty. He will soon be extradited to the United States, where he will face charges in the Eastern District of Virginia. The Department of Justice publicly charged Assange with participating in the hacking of classified U.S. government documents.
UPDATE: Julian Assange has been further arrested in relation to an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States authorities. He remains in custody at a central London police station. https://t.co/rK3mtlsPBE pic.twitter.com/kipiWbflOh
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) April 11, 2019
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, charged in computer hacking conspiracy. Click here for copy of the indictment: https://t.co/9JItxR6VRX
— U.S. Attorney EDVA (@EDVAnews) April 11, 2019
In both chambers of Congress, and all over cable news, Assange’s arrest drew defiant reactions. The United States has apprehended the notorious WikiLeaks “Russian” operative Assange, many proclaimed.
"While President Trump may ‘love Wikileaks’ for flooding the airwaves with information stolen by the Russian government, Mr. Assange is in fact a tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence service."
Read more of Chairman @RepEliotEngel statement⬇️https://t.co/OCskrS5dtU
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) April 11, 2019
This arrest is good news for freedom-loving people. Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services. He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.https://t.co/LJAQeKhrj6 https://t.co/LQpoOoTv1y
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) April 11, 2019
"If you're acting at the behest of a foreign power, you are in a fundamentally different position and I don't view that person as a pure journalist or that organization as a journalistic organization"
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) April 11, 2019
— The Hill (@thehill) April 11, 2019
Assange’s active participation in the hacking of classified documents, if proven true, should remove any protections that he would have as a mere journalist or publisher. There is a big difference between publishing content and actively assisting the American criminal who now goes by the name Chelsea Manning in hacking top secret documents.
But interestingly, nothing can be found in today’s indictment, or in any statements released by the U.S. government related to his arrest thus far, about Assange’s alleged links to Russia.
For years, U.S. government officials and top political leaders have labeled Assange and WikiLeaks elements of the Russian government.
When WikiLeaks published the “hacked” DNC and Podesta emails (which were originally obtained thanks to primitive spear-phishing attacks that did not require the sophistication of a top tier cyberwarfare apparatus), Democrat officials such as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, her top adviser John Podesta, and many anti-Trump commentators insisted with certainty that WikiLeaks and the GRU (Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency) must be an interconnected entity.
Clinton: Wikileaks a 'subsidiary of Russian intelligence', Julian Assange does 'bidding of dictator'. https://t.co/zYk5vnKLeQ
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 22, 2017
And this assertion has also been reflected through statements made by Trump administration officials.
“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who now serves as U.S. secretary of state, said in April 2017. “It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” Pompeo added.
I am personally no fan of Assange and his inner circle of anti-American thugs. His decision to host a show on Kremlin-run Russia Today and interview a notorious terrorist leader was appalling. Additionally, he assisted the notorious accused traitor Edward Snowden, who was given safe haven by the Kremlin and now lives in Russia.
But our personal views on Assange should not cloud our judgment. There is no publicly available evidence to date that WikiLeaks is a branch of the Russian government, or that WikiLeaks knowingly communicated with Russia to target American interests. We have been told, for years now, with certainty, that WikiLeaks is something akin to a tool of or direct entity of the Russian government and that there is plenty of evidence to back that up. If this assertion is true, the American public deserves to see the evidence sustaining the charge.
Remember, our Intelligence Community claimed in a FISA court filing that Trump campaign aide Carter Page is an “agent of a foreign power” — Russia. “The FBI believes that the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page,” the FISA application added. Of course, this turned out to be evidence-free nonsense. Page was no Russian agent. He was merely sympathetic to the idea of a foreign policy detente with Russia, and this was seemingly enough for the Obama Intelligence Community to attempt to destroy his livelihood.
For quite some time, the prevailing wisdom was that Assange was not only a Russian asset, but also a rapist. But those charges simply disappeared in 2017, after Swedish authorities dropped them.
In the post-Trump-Russia era, we can no longer give the benefit of the doubt to officials who insist that the evidence for bombastic allegations is “classified” or would potentially harm “sources and methods.” Following the unprecedented, illegal espionage campaign against President Trump and his associates, on the basis that he too was compromised by the Russians, the American people deserve to see the evidence for tall accusations, like the one linking Assange to the Russians or to any other hostile intelligence service. Transparency demands it.