ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Assange Hit With New Superseding Indictment, Reflecting Possible FBI Sting Operation

UPDATED: The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday unveiled the new superseding indictment against the WikiLeaks publisher, adding to existing computer intrusion charges.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

The Justice Department on Wednesday said it had filed a second superseding indictment against imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, adding to existing computer intrusion charges.

“The new indictment does not add additional counts to the prior 18-count superseding indictment returned against Assange in May 2019,” the DOJ said in a press release.

“It does, however, broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged,” the release said. “According to the charging document, Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.”

The DOJ release said the new indictment alleges that, 

“In 2012, Assange communicated directly with a leader of the hacking group LulzSec (who by then was cooperating with the FBI), and provided a list of targets for LulzSec to hack.  With respect to one target, Assange asked the LulzSec leader to look for (and provide to WikiLeaks) mail and documents, databases and pdfs.  In another communication, Assange told the LulzSec leader that the most impactful release of hacked materials would be from the CIA, NSA, or the New York Times. WikiLeaks obtained and published emails from a data breach committed against an American intelligence consulting company by an ‘Anonymous’ and LulzSec-affiliated hacker. According to that hacker, Assange indirectly asked him to spam that victim company again.”

Sabu

The indictment quotes Assange at hacking conferences encouraging hackers to obtain a “Most Wanted Leaks” list of classified materials that WikiLeaks sought to publish. 

It provides new allegations that Assange instructed a “teenager” from an unnamed NATO country to conduct various hacks “including audio recordings of phone conversations between high-ranking officials” of the NATO nation as well as members of parliament from that country. The indictment claims Manning “downloaded classified State Department materials” about this country.

WikiLeaks has identified the “teenager” as Sigurdur Thordarson, “a diagnosed sociopath, a convicted conman, and sex criminal” who had impersonated Assange to embezzle money from WikiLeaks.

Hector Monsegur, “Sabu”. (Wilimedia Commons)

Thordarson, an Icelander, became an FBI informant, and was flown to Washington in May 2019 for an interview with the FBI. 

The superseding indictment says Assange was allegedly able to learn from “unauthorized access” to a website of this government that police from that country were monitoring him. The indictment says the source of this information was a former member of Anonymous who worked with WikiLeaks named Sabu, identified in the press as Hector Monsegur, who became an FBI informant after being arrested in June 2011. 

In the same month, Iceland’s Interior Minister Ögmundur Jonasson prevented FBI agents from entering Iceland, testifying that “FBI dirty-tricks operations were afoot against WikiLeaks.” He said the agents had been sent to seek “our cooperation in what I understood as an operation to set up, to frame Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.”  The possibility remains that the new evidence against Assange was obtained in an FBI sting operation.

Jeremy Hammond, a hacker arrested for obtaining the Stratfor files, is named in the new indictment has having revealed information about his activities with Assange to Sabu in December 2011. Last September, Hammond, who was serving a 10-year sentence in Memphis, TN, was brought by prosecutors investigating Assange to Alexandria, VA to compel him to give testimony against Assange. Hammond has refused.

Reiterates Original Charges

The new indictment repeats the existing espionage and computer intrusion charges. About the latter, the DOJ release said: “In addition, the broadened hacking conspiracy continues to allege that Assange conspired with Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password hash to a classified U.S. Department of Defense computer.”

Assange was helping Manning sign in as an administrator to a system she had legal access to, not to access classified information, but instead to download video games, movies and music videos forbidden to U.S. military personnel, Assange’s lawyers argued during the first week of his extradition hearing in February at Woolwich Crown Court next to Belmarsh Prison in London. Assange is being held there on remand on a U.S. extradition request for 17 counts of espionage and the one for computer intrusion.

Routine Journalism

The late Robert Parry.

In 2010, Robert Parry, one of the best investigative reporters of his era, and the founder of this website, wrote that the then pending plans of the Obama administration to indict Assange “for conspiring with Army Pvt. Bradley Manning to obtain U.S. secrets strikes at the heart of investigative journalism on national security scandals.” 

Parry added:

That’s because the process for reporters obtaining classified information about crimes of state most often involves a journalist persuading some government official to break the law either by turning over classified documents or at least by talking about the secret information. There is almost always some level of ‘conspiracy’ between reporter and source.” [Emphasis added.]

Parry thus admitted to encouraging his sources to turn over classified information even if it meant committing the lesser crime of leaking classified information if it could help prevent a larger crime from being committed. In this way Assange encouraged Manning to turn over material such as the “Collateral Murder” video in the hope that it could end the illegal war in Iraq.

In most cases, I played some role – either large or small – in locating the classified information or convincing some government official to divulge some secrets. More often than not, I was the instigator of these ‘conspiracies,’” Parry wrote.

He added:

“Whether cajoling a nervous government official to expose a secret or exploiting some unauthorized access to classified material – is part of what an investigative journalist does in covering national security abuses. The traditional rule of thumb has been that it’s the government’s job to hide the secrets and a reporter’s job to uncover them.” 

The New York Times reported at the time that “federal prosecutors were reviewing the possibility of indicting Assange on conspiracy charges for allegedly encouraging or assisting Manning in extracting ‘classified military and State Department files from a government computer system,’” Parry wrote.

“The Times article by Charlie Savage notes that if prosecutors determine that Assange provided some help in the process, ‘they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them,” wrote Parry. 

This is precisely what the Trump Justice Department has done in the first computer intrusion indictment against Assange and now with this superseding one.

WikiLeaks identifies the teenage government source in these tweets:

Other reactions:

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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36 comments for “ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Assange Hit With New Superseding Indictment, Reflecting Possible FBI Sting Operation

  1. Me Myself
    June 26, 2020 at 13:39

    “Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.”

    Is benefiting from the truth a crime?

    “New Superseding Indictment”?

    Does the clock reset for addressing “New Superseding Indictment” more time for (J.A. in jail) discovery etc…

    Is that the game plan to thought the book at him one page at a time?

    The strategy sounds desperate.

  2. GMCasey
    June 25, 2020 at 17:05

    Wow, America
    Bush. Obama, Trump , Pompeo and the fat guy that plays the bagpipes are the Problem—-not Julian Assange. Of course, Britain and Sweden are destroying any idea of Truth and Justice anywhere!

    Spies, spies are everywhere, and not a one can think!
    Liars in these governments , their nations they do sink!

    • John
      June 27, 2020 at 11:32

      their nations they do ¨stink,

  3. willow
    June 25, 2020 at 15:43

    If I were Assange, I would not oppose extradition and would in fact seek to fastrack my US espionage trial. It would be precedent setting for all journalists, so the best lawyers from corporate media would furiously file briefs to prevent his conviction in their interests of self preservation and press freedom because they know if Assange is convicted of espionage, then all journalists are at risk. Assange is doing the US government a favor by delaying his trial because they can continue to use his imprisonment and threat of conviction as a tool to stiffle investigative reporting. He should call their bluff. Obama knew there would be backlash from MSM, so he declined to indict Assange. A show trial is the last thing the US government wants. Yes, Assange faces the possibility of a life sentence, but he would be a hero, which is also the last thing the DOJ wants.

    • June 25, 2020 at 21:32

      interesting

    • Sam F
      June 25, 2020 at 22:09

      It would be surprising if “lawyers from corporate media would furiously file briefs to prevent his conviction.” Mass media and the judiciary are controlled by the economic powers that control government, often directly by government agents; and their lawyers will do what our corrupt judiciary prefers to advance their careers. The FISA court has almost never denied a DOJ request, and would certainly ignore a brief from mass media, or not even allow it to be filed. Mass media would have raised the alarm long ago if they intended to do so. If the trial was not entirely secret, the mass media would demonize Assange in the usual way and the public would repeat whatever they were told.

    • DH Fabian
      June 25, 2020 at 23:57

      A good percentage of the country does still harbor illusions of press freedom, while the rest know better.

      hXXps://www.rcfp.org/jailed-fined-journalists-confidential-sources/

    • Stevie Boy
      June 26, 2020 at 10:38

      You really don’t understand how this works, do you ?
      If Assange is extradited he will disappear into the system and all ‘legal process’ will be behind closed doors, because of security issues.
      There is no legal basis for his extradition … he should be freed, NOW !

  4. June 25, 2020 at 15:16

    In a world where everything the President says and does is classified, banging down the door to find truth is a necessity. What happened to our free and open society? It is nowhere to be found.

    • Anonymous
      June 26, 2020 at 09:31

      You forgot the trademarks after “free” and “open”. They’ve always been about as real as the “natural flavors” on soda bottles.

  5. June 25, 2020 at 12:00

    No More War

  6. Nylene13
    June 25, 2020 at 11:39

    Apparently the U.S. Government thinks that Freedom of the Press is a Crime.

    • DH Fabian
      June 25, 2020 at 23:58

      And that’s nothing new.

  7. Annie McStravick
    June 25, 2020 at 10:51

    They must be desperate if they plan to produce as their two “star witnesses” a petty criminal and a convicted paedophile.

    • June 25, 2020 at 18:47

      It’a about time the people of the World Get off their Asses and stand up to the Atrocities committed by Governments including their own and “FORCEFULLY” free JULIAN ASSANGE from the tribunal of HATE perpetuated by the most underhanded, deceitful group of War Mongering assholes in this Universe. The EMPIRE of EVIL learned from the BRITISH EMPIRE and have been very active since day “ONE”…Where as in their 242 years of existence they have been at some kind or War , Invasion or Coup for 240 years and since WW11 they have Invaded or Committed a Coup in over 80 + plus years against Sovereign Nations…..I recently asked “HOW MANY COUNTRIES of the WORLD have attempted to INVADE CANADA ? the Answer “ONE” the USA…… and they were defeated by the strength of the FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE under the leadership of Tecumseh. GOD help this World for SATAN is certainly at work her with the EMPIRE of EVIL

  8. Sam F
    June 25, 2020 at 06:59

    Thanks for the observation that Robert Parry necessarily encouraged his sources toward “committing the lesser crime of leaking classified information if it could help prevent a larger crime” such as the “illegal war in Iraq” and that “More often than not, I was the instigator of these ‘conspiracies’.”

    One of the major crimes is the DOJ itself refusing to investigate massive crimes of theft of public funds by politicians to benefit themselves and their political parties. I have several times offered them extensive evidence of such crimes in Florida, and they refuse to even reply. Their “Public Integrity Section” apparently found public corruption more profitable, and as political party appointees, apparently refuses to investigate Republicans. My guess is that graft may be the principal means of political campaign funding, and they are appointed to protect that.

    • June 25, 2020 at 11:55

      Words of absolute truth. Pure logic says that if a government can hide it’s crimes then that proves that such a government rules it’s people ; that its people do not control its government. Furthermore it also proves that such a government is a tyrannical government, a criminal government, a corrupted government.Of course, that means that the senators and the Representatives , being the lawmakers are the source of the Corruption.

    • Josep
      June 25, 2020 at 18:18

      Another crime by the DOJ is its failure to throw the book at Microsoft for its anti-competitive business practices and split the behemoth into smaller companies.

    • Sam F
      June 25, 2020 at 18:48

      Very good, Charles: that “if a government can hide it’s crimes then that proves that … its people do not control its government” and that it is a tyranny, not a democracy.

      Exposing government crime is the greatest act of patriotism, in defense of democracy.
      Government secrets related to policies not approved directly by the people are government crimes.
      Government secrecy is responsible even for the the errors of some in judging the wrongfulness of the secrets.

      So it is the government that must be on trial for having secret acts and policies, not reporters or leakers who in good faith exposed them. The burden of proof must be put on government to prove not only that the secrets were necessarily secret from the people, but also that the leakers and reporters should have known that.

    • Sam F
      June 25, 2020 at 19:13

      So it is a sufficient defense that they did not know that unnecessary damage would be caused to the innocent:
      either because they considered the exposed acts to be crimes, or the actors thereby harmed to be criminals.

      This may be an important idea: perhaps the Assange accusers (DOJ, military, et al) can be charged with crimes of abuse of public office and “denial of honest services” to the People in a civil racketeering lawsuit.

    • paul easton
      June 26, 2020 at 02:22

      Sam I think you guessed right.

      Here is a a link to the index of OpEd News on June 15. The featured article was by Pheet Bharara. But there is a note that it is no longer accessible.

      see: opednews.com/flyer/newslarge_20200615_1.html

      Bharara was Obama’s Federal Attorney for NY. He had a reputation for bring tough on financial crime. The article amazed me so I read it three times and I can reconstruct it from memory.

      He said that he discovered that a dozen or so banks and brokerage firms were responsible for the “Securities Fraud” that led to the financial crisis. He told AG Holder he wanted to prosecute but Holder said the banks were too big to fail and couldn’t be touched. Bharara didn’t like this but decided since he wasn’t an economist he couldn’t understand.

      Some time later there was more Securities Fraud in connection with Detroit Municipal Bonds. The same cast of criminal characters were the perps. Again he went to Holder and got the same answer. This time he looked at the money and saw that all the perps gave big donations to the D Party and its candidates.

      The same thing happened again with Puerto Rican bonds, sending the PR Government into some kind of receivership. When he protested being muzzled Holder reminded him “that he served at the pleasure of the Obama Administration”.

      He said it was hard to resist the impression that the Administration was running a Protection Racket that sold legal immunity in return for political contributions. He suggested that a special prosecutor be appointed to look into it.

      Shortly after this article appeared he wrote an Op Ed in NYTimes protesting the firing by Barr of the present US attorney. I guess he pulled the first article because he didn’t want to help Trump.

    • Sam F
      June 26, 2020 at 19:23

      Thanks, Paul, I had forgotten Preet Bharara, and just emailed him to ask for help. He has done an impressive list of racketeering investigations as a US atty in NY. Mine turned out to be Rs, so we’ll see whether he thinks the agencies would be afraid to investigate during an R administration.

  9. Harpo Kondriak
    June 25, 2020 at 01:21

    I still don’t understand how Assange is subject to U.S. laws. If I am a German citizen, and steal a Vespa scooter while working in Italy, does this mean the the U.S. can extradite me to stand trial in Washington D.C. because theft is illegal there?

    • Charles Labjanco
      June 25, 2020 at 11:56

      It is accomplished bt a treaty with tbat country.

    • robert e williamson jr
      June 25, 2020 at 12:54

      You damned well best believe so, especially if you have ever stuck your finger in eyes of the fascists who are running the show here.

      We have become a nation ruled by individuals who feel “THEY ARE THE LAW”, never mind their lawlessness , they could care less and it shows more and more every day.

      Thanks to CN for all they do to stop this.

    • Anonymous
      June 26, 2020 at 09:34

      Well said, Robert. This country is absolutely in a “rule of the lawman” situation and it’s been getting worse for decades.

  10. Taras77
    June 24, 2020 at 23:53

    This is pompeo. He has sworn a vendetta ever since he was director of cia.

    He is an embarrassment on so many levels.

  11. June 24, 2020 at 23:25

    Every charge that I have heard of, which has been levelled against him is based on a ‘someone says’, essentially. A ‘someone’, by the way, which is employed by, or under the influence of, the agencies guilty of the crimes he reported on.

    • June 24, 2020 at 23:28

      If that is not biased or compromised testimony (sworn or otherwise), to the point of heresay, then what is? This man should be freed.

    • Ruth
      June 25, 2020 at 11:59

      Right on, Joshua. That is the simple and salient fact of the matter.

  12. June 24, 2020 at 23:22

    I believe that this is what Mr. Assange elected to do. I do not believe that he has caused any harm (neither He, nor his actions being a causal factor to actual harm). Quite the contrary, actually.

  13. June 24, 2020 at 23:19

    They have effectively made it ‘against the law’ to not collaborate with, or directly engage in, criminal behavior. That, in and of itself, must be opposed in every possible way.

  14. June 24, 2020 at 23:17

    Assange is not the one who has corrupted and criminally misused the laws and institutions of our nation. Those who have are the ones attacking him, and that’s why they are doing so.

  15. Joe Tedesky
    June 24, 2020 at 21:49

    Wikileaks was only doing the work of an investigative reporter… Assange must be freed!

    • robert e williamson jr
      June 25, 2020 at 12:56

      Assange must be freed is right!

    • Howard Johnson
      June 25, 2020 at 13:50

      Agree 100 %

Comments are closed.