In 2007, the Bush administrations Justice Department sent me a letter saying it was conducting a criminal investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information in my 2006 book, State of War.
When my lawyers called the Justice Department about the letter, the prosecutors refused to say I was not a subject of their leak investigation. That was ominous. If I were considered a subject, rather than simply a witness, it meant the government hadnt ruled out prosecuting me for publishing classified information.
From left to right: Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Reality Winner.
Photo: Getty Images
Eventually after the Obama administration took over the case the Justice Department decided to treat me only as a witness and did not try to prosecute me.
But in the future, the outcome of a similar case for a journalist might be very different if Julian Assange is successfully prosecuted on the charges brought against him by President Donald Trumps Justice Department.
The Trump administration has charged Assange under the Espionage Act for conspiring to leak classified documents. The indictment focuses on his alleged efforts to encourage former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents to him and WikiLeaks. If the Assange prosecution is successful, it will set a dangerous precedent: that journalists can be prosecuted based on their interactions with sources who provide them with government secrets.
Such a precedent could make it extremely difficult for journalists to cover military, intelligence, and related national security matters, and thus leave the public in the dark about what the government is really doing around the world.
That is why the U.S. indictment of Julian Assange is so dangerous to liberty in America, and why the case against Assange should be dropped and he should be pardoned.
While Trump has still not publicly accepted his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, he has begun to issue a spate of pardons. On Tuesday, he issued pardons to a group that included two convicted of crimes in connection with the Trump-Russia investigation, and four former Blackwater contractors convicted of killing Iraqi civilians.
Despite the stench surrounding Trumps latest pardons, supporters of several whistleblowers have launched public campaigns to lobby for pardons; the supporters of Assange and Edward Snowden have been the most vocal.
Like Assange, Snowden clearly deserves a pardon. Snowdens massive 2013 leak documented the full extent of the National Security Agencys domestic spying on Americans. But rather than recognize that Snowden has performed a public service, the U.S. government has forced him into exile in Russia. Meanwhile, Assange now sits in prison in Britain, awaiting extradition to face prosecution in the United States.
Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate outside the Central Criminal Court after Assange appeared in court for a full extradition hearing on the last day of the trials in London on Oct. 01, 2020.
Photo: Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Public support for the pardon of whistleblower Reality Winner has also begun to build. Winner was arrested in 2017 and accused of anonymously leaking an NSA document disclosing that Russian intelligence was seeking to hack into U.S. election voting systems. That document was allegedly leaked to The Intercept, which had no knowledge of the identity of its source. (The Intercepts parent company supported Winners legal defense through the First Look Medias Press Freedom Defense Fund, which I direct.) She pleaded guilty in the case in 2018 and was sentenced to more than five years in prison, the longest sentence ever imposed in a case involving a leak to the press.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court denied Winners request for compassionate early release after she contracted Covid-19 in prison. She remains in federal prison today.
Former Pentagon official J. William Leonard wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post earlier this week calling for Winners pardon, arguing in part that her prosecution constituted overreach by the government.
But there are other whistleblowers who deserve pardons as well.
During Trumps four years in office, his administration has arrested and charged eight government officials in leak cases. That is almost equal to the record nine (or 10, depending on how you count) leak prosecutions conducted by the Obama administration over eight years.
Four of the leak cases during the Trump administration were connected to disclosures related to Trump, the circle of people around him, and the Trump-Russia inquiry. The Justice Department was clearly under intense pressure from Trump to go after people who leaked stories that Trump didnt like.
Winners case was the first of those four. In addition, James Wolfe, the director of security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was charged in 2018 with making false statements to the FBI in connection with a leak investigation into a Washington Post story revealing that the government had obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
Wolfe pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with reporters and was sentenced to two months in prison.
Also in 2018, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, who was a senior adviser at the Treasurys Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, was charged with disclosing reports about financial transactions related to people under scrutiny in the Trump-Russia inquiry, including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. She allegedly leaked the information to BuzzFeed News. In 2020, she pleaded guilty, and her sentencing is now scheduled for January 2021.
In 2019, John Fry, an IRS employee, was charged with leaking suspicious activity reports involving the financial transactions of Trumps former lawyer, Michael Cohen, including information about how a company owned by Cohen received $500,000 from a company with ties to a Russian oligarch. The Trump Justice Department recommended prison time for Fry, but in 2020, a federal judge instead gave Fry probation and ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine.
Other whistleblowers have also been caught up in Trumps crackdown, including FBI agent Terry Albury, who was arrested in 2018 and charged with leaking information about the systemic racial biases at the bureau, which were reported by The Intercept. And former intelligence analyst Daniel Hale was also arrested in 2019, charged with leaking information about the U.S. militarys use of drones to conduct targeted assassinations, also allegedly to The Intercept.
Former Minneapolis FBI agent Terry Albury, front, followed by his attorney, walks out of the federal courthouse in St. Paul after Albury was sentenced to four years in prison for leaking classified defense documents to a reporter on Oct. 18, 2018.
Photo: Shari L. Gross/Star Tribune/AP
While most of the public lobbying for pardons for whistleblowers has focused on Assange and Snowden, and to a lesser extent Winner, the other whistleblowers prosecuted by Trump have largely been forgotten.
For the most part, the small press freedom community has made the case for Assange and Snowden on the grounds of the First Amendment, press freedom, and government transparency. Yet the campaign to convince Trump to pardon Snowden and Assange has also attracted a strange group of extreme Trump supporters. They argue that pardoning the two men offers Trump the opportunity to stick it to the so-called deep state.
The deep state is, of course, the mythical beast at the heart of so many of Trumps conspiracy theories. Trump believes that a secret cabal of intelligence and national security officials has been trying to destroy him personally since at least the 2016 campaign.
It is important for press freedom advocates to steer clear of these deep state conspiracy theories and instead continue to argue for the pardons on the merits of press freedom. Indulging in Trumps fantasies in order to win the pardons will only taint the cause of press freedom in the future.
Its important for press freedom advocates to steer clear of deep state conspiracy theories and instead continue to argue for the pardons on the merits of press freedom.
As a journalist, I have spent much of my career covering, exposing, and criticizing the American national security establishment. Let there be no mistake: There is, in fact, a massive U.S. military-industrial complex, and a newer post-9/11 homeland security-industrial complex. Those two complexes overlap, comprising career military, intelligence, and federal law enforcement officials, executives at giant defense companies, and legions of smaller defense and intelligence contractors, as well as career political figures who take top positions in the defense and intelligence agencies when their party is in power, and become consultants or think-tank pundits when their party is out of power.
The military-industrial complex and the newer homeland security-industrial complex tend to support expansionist American national security and foreign policies, and since 9/11 have pushed for a continuation of American military involvement in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are driven by greed and power, and they believe that endless war is good for business. As I wrote in Pay Any Price, my 2014 book, America has become accustomed to a permanent state of war. Only a small slice of society including many poor and rural teenagers fight and die, while a permanent national security elite rotates among senior government posts, contracting companies, think tanks and television commentary, opportunities that would disappear if America was suddenly at peace. To most of America, war has become not only tolerable but profitable, and so there is no longer any great incentive to end it.
Whats more, the national security establishments power stems in part from its ability to suppress the truth about its activities at home and abroad, and thus it seeks to punish whistleblowers and journalists who try to disclose the truth. The CIA, the NSA, and other elements of the national security apparatus frequently apply pressure on the Justice Department and the White House to prosecute whistleblowers who disclose their abuses.
I have had firsthand experience with this ugly phenomenon.
But acknowledging the gravitational pull of a militaristic national security establishment toward war and imperialism doesnt mean that you believe in the existence of a deep state, as imagined by Trump and his allies.
Demagogues like Trump are dangerously effective at taking bits of truth and weaving conspiracy theories out of them. Trump has taken the truth about the existence of a military-industrial complex and twisted it into a conspiracy theory that claims that the military-industrial complex is actually a deep state out to destroy him personally. It is conspiracy theory victimology taken to its most extreme.
Rudy Giuliani appears before the Michigan House Oversight Committee for suspicion of voter fraud in Lansing, Mich., on Dec. 2, 2020.
Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images
Among Trumps ardent supporters, talk of a deep state often quickly descends into the madness of vile, rambling QAnon conspiracy theories.
Right-wing pundits and pro-Trump political figures, many of whom were longtime supporters of the governments draconian counterterrorism measures instituted after 9/11, including the NSAs illegal domestic spying program, suddenly became skeptics of the national security establishment when Trump began to complain about the investigation, conducted first by the FBI and later by special counsel Robert Mueller, into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collaboration by the Trump campaign. Trumps claims that he has been the victim of a witch hunt, a hoax investigation perpetrated against him by the deep state, have been the central theme of his conspiracy theory-laden presidency. And so ardent Trump supporters who accepted Trumps deep state conspiracy theories now view pardons for Assange and Snowden through the Russia hoax narrative.
Newsmax, the pro-Trump website, recently published a column calling for pardons for Assange and Snowden. If there is any way to thoroughly get back at the left over the next month, President Trump should make it a priority to pardon those individuals whose clemency would get the attention of the deep state, wrote Kenny Cody at Newsmax. For the deep state has worked against this president and his administration unlike any other previously. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newly elected Republicanrepresentative from Georgia who has been criticized for being a QAnon supporter, also tweeted her support for pardons for Assange and Snowden.
A smattering of Assange supporters are echoing the line of these pro-Trump pundits and right-wing politicians.
For example, Assanges partner, Stella Morris, said on Fox News recently that she wants Trump to pardon Assange to protect him from the deep state. George Christensen, a member of Australias parliament, sent a message to Trump on a website devoted to a pardon for Assange, who is also an Australian.Christensen wrote, The same people who are trying to take the election from you are the ones trying to prosecute Julian Assange.
Rep.Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat and one-time Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted that Trump should pardon Snowden and Assange because they exposed the deception and criminality of those in the deep state.
What makes any endorsement of the deep state trope by advocates of Assange and Snowden particularly dangerous now is that it comes at the same time that Trump is employing his persecution fantasies to claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him by a pro-Biden deep state.
The danger of enabling Trumps deep state rhetoric was highlighted by a frightening story on Saturday, when the New York Times reported that Trump met on Friday with conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell and discussed making her some sort of special counsel to investigate baseless claims of voter fraud that Trump believes cost him the election. The same story revealed that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has talked about trying to seize voting machines from around the country to try to prove the fiction that they were rigged against Trump.
As the pro-Trump supporters pushing for pardons for Assange and Snowden remain silent on so many of the other leak cases brought during the Trump administration, they have also said nothing to counter Trumps dangerous and hateful anti-press rhetoric, which has created a toxic climate for reporters working in the United States. Trumps constant attacks on the press have convinced his supporters as well as local, conservative politicians and law enforcement officials to intensify their rhetorical, legal, and physical attacks on journalists around the nation.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, managed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, shows that there have been 120 cases of a journalist arrested or detained on the job in the United States in 2020. The tracker found that during one week at the height of the racial justice protests in late May and early June, more reporters were arrested in the U.S. than in the previous three years combined. The tracker also found that more than a third of those journalists arrested were also beaten, hit with rubber bullets, or chemical agents.
The bottom line: Advocates of press freedom must remain disciplined as they campaign for the pardons for whistleblowers and make their arguments on the merits of press freedom. They must be careful not to indulge Trumps conspiracy theories while they lobby for the pardons.
Accepting Trumps insane conspiracy theories in order to get him to do the right thing has been the downfall of many prominent figures during Trumps presidency. Enabling Trumps worst instincts never works and only shreds the reputations of those who have sought to appease him.
Go here to see the original:
- NSA: We 'don't know when or even if' a quantum computer will ever be able to break today's public-key encryption - The Register - September 5th, 2021
- Opportune moment for indigenous development of 5G NSA & SA by C-DOT: Prakash - United News of India - September 5th, 2021
- A Softening Economy Will Be Buffeted By Stimulus Withdrawal And Delta-Variant Surge - Forbes - September 5th, 2021
- Actions of IT giants pave the way for states to monopolize data Snowden - TASS - September 5th, 2021
- Microsoft's Azure Government Top Secret Cloud: All you need to know - TechHQ - September 5th, 2021
- The Scandalous History of the Last Rotor Cipher Machine - IEEE Spectrum - September 5th, 2021
- The NSA Does Not Deny Reading Tucker Carlsons Emails - July 12th, 2021
- Home, but Not Free: NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Adjusts to Her Release From Prison - The Intercept - July 12th, 2021
- Congress newest subcommittee is focusing on cyber troops and JEDI - Federal News Network - February 11th, 2021
- End the war on whistleblowers - The Week - February 11th, 2021
- NSA Warned Russia to Stay Out Of 2020 Election And Got SolarWinds Hack Instead - NPR - February 1st, 2021
- Biden administration will build on the Quad: NSA Jake Sullivan - The Hindu - February 1st, 2021
- William P. Crowell, Former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency, Joins LookingGlass Advisory Board - HSToday - February 1st, 2021
- SolarWinds Is Not the 'Hack of the Century.' Its Blowback for the NSA's Longtime Dominance of Cyberspace - Common Dreams - February 1st, 2021
- NSA fumes over the violation of coronavirus safety protocols - GhanaWeb - February 1st, 2021
- A Top Biden Cybersecurity Aide Donated Over $500000 to AIPAC as an NSA Official Mother Jones - Mother Jones - February 1st, 2021
- What to expect from NASS and NASED conferences - Politico - February 1st, 2021
- Companies Pay Criminal Penalties And Compensation For Undermining Competition - JD Supra - February 1st, 2021
- Split Up NSA and CYBERCOM - Defense One - December 28th, 2020
- Edward Snowden Pardon and the SolarWinds Hack | - City Journal - December 28th, 2020
- Edward Snowden and wife share photos of newborn son amid push for Trump to pardon NSA leaker - Washington Times - December 28th, 2020
- NSA Year in Review: Election Security, Cybersecurity, and More - HSToday - December 28th, 2020
- No, the United States Does Not Spend Too Much on Cyber Offense - Council on Foreign Relations - December 28th, 2020
- The US has suffered a massive cyberbreach. It's hard to overstate how bad it is - The Guardian - December 28th, 2020
- Satoshi Nakamoto from NSA, AntiChrist and Other Bitcoin Conspiracy Theories - Cryptonews - December 28th, 2020
- How A Cybersecurity Firm Uncovered The Massive Computer Hack - NPR - December 28th, 2020
- National Security Agency - Wikipedia - October 10th, 2020
- Talks with China will not help says USA NSA on situation on Ladakh - Oneindia - October 10th, 2020
- How to choose the right multifactor authentication program - Federal News Network - October 10th, 2020
- UofL to launch health care cybersecurity curriculum with $6.3 million from National Security Agency, pilot focused on veterans and first responders -... - October 10th, 2020
- National Storage Affiliates Trust Announces Date of its Third Quarter 2020 Earnings Release and Conference Call - Business Wire - October 10th, 2020
- NSA announces new Autumn webinar series 'Feeding the flock and getting it right' - The Scottish Farmer - October 10th, 2020
- How the NSA is disrupting foreign hackers targeting COVID-19 vaccine research - TechCrunch - September 18th, 2020
- Crime Prevention and Community Outreach, Common Goals for NSA and NYPD Commissioner - Abasto, Food and Beverage Industry News - September 18th, 2020
- Deputy NSA gets one year extension - The Hindu - September 18th, 2020
- Exceeding All Expectations: A Journey of Adversity, Triumph and Eternal Optimism - Worth - September 18th, 2020
- Huge threat to national security as hackers attack NIC computers, steal sensitive information - DNA India - September 18th, 2020
- Police: 2 more held in Agra boys kidnap-murder, NSA to be invoked - The Indian Express - September 18th, 2020
- NSA to be invoked against miscreants involved in killing Malihabad farmer: Lucknow DM - Outlook India - September 18th, 2020
- Did the NSA spy on Congress? RT The World According to Jesse - RT - September 5th, 2020
- Nebraska native, 101, defied convention: She served in South Pacific, with MacArthur and at NSA - Omaha World-Herald - September 5th, 2020
- NSA Ajit Doval reviews situation at India-China border - The New Indian Express - September 5th, 2020
- NSA Webinar Part 3: Skills Development and the future of learning during and post the Covid-19 pandemic - Mail and Guardian - September 5th, 2020
- ICE Robotics Expands Offering With NSA Partnership - CleanLink - September 4th, 2020
- National Security Agency | History, Role, & Surveillance ... - August 16th, 2020
- The NSA and FBI Expose Fancy Bear's Sneaky Hacking Tool - WIRED - August 16th, 2020
- NSA and FBI Expose Russian Previously Undisclosed Malware Drovorub in Cybersecurity Advisory FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation - August 16th, 2020
- Shah Faesal reached out to NSA before he quit party; open to IAS return - Hindustan Times - August 16th, 2020
- How has the pandemic impacted work at the NSA? - C4ISRNet - August 10th, 2020
- Election interference efforts have shifted, NSA and Cyber Command election threats leads say - CyberScoop - August 10th, 2020
- Did Hedge Funds Make The Right Call On National Storage Affiliates Trust (NSA)? - Yahoo Finance - August 10th, 2020
- National Speakers Association Inducts Mary Kelly, Ph. D. into the Speaker Hall of Fame - The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel - August 10th, 2020
- For 2020 Election, Threat is Bigger than Russia > US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - Department of Defense - August 10th, 2020
- The White House reportedly quashed part of an intelligence report that showed Russia is helping the Trump campaign - MSN Money - August 10th, 2020
- GFA Express Appreciation To NSA | General Sports - Peace FM Online - August 10th, 2020
- NSA O'Brien Says US Has 'Sanctioned The Heck Out Of Russia' - Newsmax - August 10th, 2020
- DHS Warns of a Persistent Cyber Threat Targeting Critical Infrastructure in the U.S. - CPO Magazine - August 10th, 2020
- Money Explodes; Gold Glitters; The Recovery Slows - Forbes - August 10th, 2020
- NSA Reports on New Cyber Vulnerability in Computers - ExecutiveGov - August 10th, 2020
- The Trump administration reportedly quashed an intelligence report that showed Russia is helping him win the 2020 election - MSN Money - August 10th, 2020
- There Will Be Blowback - Forbes - August 10th, 2020
- What and how are you thinking? Anything is possible - Martins Ferry Times Leader - August 10th, 2020
- TikTok and National Security: The Need for a Comprehensive U.S. Privacy Law - Security Boulevard - August 10th, 2020
- Buhari to overhaul the nation's security apparatus, says NSA - TheCable - August 10th, 2020
- Trump quashed report section showing Russia is helping him win 2020 - Business Insider - Business Insider - August 9th, 2020
- NSA Sheep 2020 to be a virtual sheep show - South West Farmer - August 8th, 2020
- All you need to hijack a Mac is an old Office document and a .zip file - TechRadar - August 8th, 2020
- Silicon Valley's Vast Data Collection Should Worry You More Than TikTok - Jacobin magazine - August 8th, 2020
- T-Mobile Is The First Carrier Globally To Launch Nationwide Standalone (SA) 5G - Forbes - August 7th, 2020
- The Room Where It Happened: Former US NSA exposes the frailties of the Trump administration - The Financial Express - August 4th, 2020
- NSA Sheep 2020 to go virtual over two days - FarmingUK - July 31st, 2020
- Protect Our Power Urges Vigilance in Response to NSA and CISA Warning on Critical Infrastructure - PRNewswire - July 31st, 2020
- A "Time of Heightened Tensions": Homeland Security and National Security Agency Issue Joint Cybersecurity Alert - JD Supra - July 31st, 2020
- Amid 'heightened tensions,' US government issues warning to critical infrastructure providers - Utility Dive - July 31st, 2020
- Garmin Hack, Glitch in Flight Navigation and an NSA Warning: The Massive Threat of WastedLocker - News18 - July 31st, 2020
- Netflix is looking to Splinter Cell for its next big video game adaptation - The Verge - July 31st, 2020
- US real GDP to expand by 15% in Q3 TDS - FXStreet - July 31st, 2020
- Two Rebels Against the Establishment: Oliver Stone and Edward Snowden - CounterPunch - July 31st, 2020
- Orange announces it will launch 5G later this year - Explica - July 31st, 2020
- Privacy Shield Struck Down: Schrems II Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back in the Harbor - JD Supra - July 31st, 2020