Cryptome Founder Asks to Be Indicted With Assange

John Young, the founder of the Cryptome website, has asked the U.S. Justice Department to also indict him as he published un-redacted State Dept. files before WikiLeaks did, reports Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

The founder of a U.S.-based website that earlier published the same un-redacted documents that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was later indicted for has invited the U.S. Department of Justice to make him a co-defendant with Assange. 

“Cryptome published the decrypted unredacted State Department Cables on September 1, 2011 prior to publication of the cables by WikiLeaks,”  John Young wrote in a Justice Department submission form, which Young posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

“No US official has contacted me about publishing the unredacted cables since cryptome published them,” he wrote. “I respectfully request that the Department of Justice add me as a co-defendant in the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act.”

Assange has been charged with possession and dissemination of classified information, some of the same material that Young possesses and disseminated.

Young founded Cryptome, which he calls a “free public library” in 1996. It was a precursor of WikiLeaks in publishing raw, classified and unclassified government documents on the internet.

Young testified at Assange’s extradition hearing in London in September 2020. His sworn statement says:

“I published on unredacted diplomatic cables on September 1, 2011 under the URL and that publication remains available at the present. … Since my publication on of the unredacted diplomatic cables, no US law enforcement authority has notified me that this publication of the cables is illegal, consists or contributes to a crime in any way, nor have they asked for them to be removed.”

‘Harmed Informants’

A cornerstone of the Justice Department’s case against Assange is that he recklessly published State Department cables leaked to him by Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning, which, the U.S. says, endangered the lives of named U.S. informants.

Young is asking the Justice Department why he too hasn’t been prosecuted for publishing these names before Assange did. 

Award-winning journalist Julian Assange.

At Manning’s court martial, Brig. Gen. Robert Carr, testified under oath that no one was actually harmed by the WikiLeaks releases. Then Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the leaks “awkward” and “embarrassing” but said they did only “fairly modest” damage to U.S. foreign interests.   

Reuters reported in January 2011:

“Internal U.S. government reviews have determined that a mass leak of diplomatic cables caused only limited damage to U.S. interests abroad, despite the Obama administration’s public statements to the contrary.

A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.”

Assange was actually more concerned about redactions than the editors of his mainstream media partners who worked with him on publishing the releases. 

Mark Davis, an Australian television journalist who documented Assange’s activities during the weekend in London before publication, said that while the other editors went home, Assange pulled all nighters to redact informants names.

Guardian Journalists & the Password

Two days before publication Assange wrote to the U.S. ambassador in London seeking help from “the United States Government to privately nominate any specific instances (record numbers or names) where it considers the publication of information would put individual persons at significant risk of harm that has not already been addressed.”

The U.S. responded by demanding that WikiLeaks stop publication of the cables and return those in its possession. 

In the end, only a redacted version of the State Department Cables was published in November 2010 by WikiLeaks and its mainstream partners, The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and DER SPEIGEL. 

This remained the case until a book was published by two Guardian journalists in February 2011, in which the password to the unredacted files mysteriously appears as part of a chapter heading. This went unnoticed, as WikiLeaks tried to keep it quiet, until a German publication named Freitag said it had the password in August 2011. 

When Assange learned this he contacted the State Department to try to warn them about the impending publication of informants’ names.  He was rebuffed. This is shown in a scene in Laura Poitras’ film Risk.

PirateBay published the unredacted files first and then Cryptome did on Sept. 1, 2011. It was the next day that Assange decided to publish the unredacted files so that informants could search for their names and try to get to safety. This was before it was known that no one was harmed,

“The notion that Mr. Assange knowingly put lives at risk by dumping unredacted cables is knowingly inaccurate,” said Assange lawyer Mark Summers at the extradition hearing in February 2020. 

The publishers and editors of WikiLeaks‘ partners oppose Assange’s Espionage Act indictment and on Monday wrote an open letter to the Biden administration urging the case be dropped. 

Having published WikiLeaks classified documents, are they ready to take the same step as Young, a U.S. citizen, who is daring the DOJ to indict him too under the U.S. Espionage Act, for doing the exact thing Assange, an Australian, did, only earlier?

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe  


14 comments for “Cryptome Founder Asks to Be Indicted With Assange

  1. Archie1954
    December 2, 2022 at 14:27

    This courageous man is just making sure that everyone knows the blatant hypocrisy of the US DOJ. So many individuals have detailed the illegal and criminal actions of the US government, the military, the CIA and other agencies and paid for it with prison sentences while the perpetrators of the crimes are never prosecuted. So much for a democracy following the rule of law!

  2. Mark
    December 2, 2022 at 00:58

    I’m all for Julian, but that YouTube clip of the call to Hillary is suspect. Why would you film that event, and cinematically at that?

      December 2, 2022 at 01:06

      It is a record that proves he tried to warn the State Dept. against those who would say he is lying.

  3. WillD
    November 30, 2022 at 20:15

    Why now? All this activity all of a sudden. What has triggered it? What induced the 5 newspapers to collaborate on an open letter?

    While it’s good that the Australian PM finally did something, and the Cryptome founder has asked to be prosecuted alongside Assange, I can’t help wondering if there is something going on that hasn’t been made public yet.

    Regardless, I sincerely hope that all this activity will produce positive results for Julian. He desperately needs some if he is to survive.

  4. bardamu
    November 30, 2022 at 19:38

    Respectful applause for John Young, Cryptome, Joe Lauria, Consortium News, and of course Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

    We all need to sort this before things slide much further.

  5. Rex Williams
    November 30, 2022 at 18:33

    Well done, John Young.

    A man of principle. How refreshing.
    Yes, it is a pity that The Guardian didn’t show the same level of gratitude for the additional circulation they enjoyed as a result of Julian’s information which was supplied to this now disgraced publication.

    Now the same newspaper is trying to make amends for their blatant disregard for his value to them in the past. A little late, Guardian. You have burnt your bridges in my book and in the opinion of so many others throughout the world. You let your supporter down and turned Assange enemy #1 by your actions. Never to be forgiven.

    A comment on the Australian Prime Minister with his ‘better late than never’ approach to the corrupt US authorities. Bear in mind he is only a 7 month old PM. Who knows what demands the USA has placed on any form of return for Julian Assange. The US, as is known around the world survives on threats and sanctions and Australia has recently given them permission for a nuclear-armed B52 bomber base to be located in their country.

    Could be part of the US bribe. It’s the name of the game in that rapidly declining country, sadly, once an empire, but now on a fast downhill run.

  6. John K Leslie
    November 30, 2022 at 14:35

    Saving face is not confined to Oriental cultures. Washington will see Julian dead, by any means. This man deserves a Nobel prize, not slow death in a British dungeon.

  7. IJ Scambling
    November 30, 2022 at 10:55

    Versus the first amendment tradition, and astounding through all these years, is the falsity of the Justice Department and the corresponding public smear campaign versus the facts as presented here–the false charges via the females in Sweden and that “Mr. Assange knowingly put lives at risk.”

    Clearly, a major issue is how much further the US can sink into manipulation of “reality” in order to suffocate opposition to “the official narrative.” This question moves beyond Assange into additional directions as the years go by.

  8. November 30, 2022 at 10:34

    I wonder who in DOJ has a hard on for Julian.

    • Antiwar7
      December 1, 2022 at 10:06

      It’s the CIA. They’re incredibly pissed that he leaked the Vault 7 software. Literally worth billions of dollars, whether in cost to produce, or in the value it provided them. And now everyone was aware, everyone could block it, and everyone could use it. Plus, those are hard people who lead that organization. Imagine the bloodlust.

  9. mgr
    November 30, 2022 at 08:10

    Thank you for clarifying again these important points in the persecution of Julian Assange which demonstrate what a prejudicial sham the government’s case against him is.

    As for Cryptome, like Wikileaks, I’m thinking, profiles in courage. In contrast, I wonder if the Guardian and its “journalists” will follow suit. You think..? Or will it confirm that it is just a gossip rag that reflexively bends over for government authority?

  10. Valerie
    November 30, 2022 at 05:06

    In today’s Guardian:

    “Australian PM Anthony Albanese urges US government to end pursuit of Julian Assange”

    “Prime minister says he raised Wikileaks co-founder’s case with US representatives recently and will continue to push for it to be ‘brought to a close.”

    There is a lot of support suddenly for Julian. The US cannot ignore this.

    • JonT
      November 30, 2022 at 06:57

      Yes, but Albanese and others are still tiptoeing around this. “My position is that not all foreign affairs is best done with the loudhailer… “. Perhaps, but why not in this case?

  11. November 30, 2022 at 04:08

    In the time since I became consciously aware of Cryptome’s existence (in my case, since approximately 2014-15ish, whereas I was first conscious of WikiLeaks’s existence around 2009, before they became a brand name with their publications of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and US diplomatic cables, the following year), I have come to suspect that the pragmatic reason that US and foreign authorities have not indicted Cryptome nor persecuted it to the same extent as WikiLeaks is that the latter organization partnered with major press outlets, pioneering new forms of collaboration between mass media and an independent transparency platform at an unprecedented scale.

    In particular, outside journalists could draw widespread attention to the materials that remained under WikiLeaks’s stewardship in a coordinated fashion that simultaneously did not give them complete editorial control over which published materials members of the public could casually access with a relatively low barrier of entry, since people could directly view the primary source material on WikiLeaks rather than solely being relegated to viewing secondary coverage of it (meaning that NYT, WaPo, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc. could not as easily just kill a story, sit on it, or omit/alter the framing of selective elements, whether due to active pressure by government/corporate/lobby interests or otherwise). This goes against the increasingly pervasive ethos in many social quarters that the masses should at best be passive information consumers rather than active information analysts, a revealed (and sometimes admittedly intentional) preference of our policy elites, in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson’s candid quote that “we want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”

    By contrast, while Cryptome has often been much less cautious than WikiLeaks about the materials that it has published and met with some degree of controversy over it at times (going against the narrative that WikiLeaks carelessly flung around materials with little to no concern for the well-being of the most vulnerable among those being exposed), it has been left alone by the authorities simply because it has not had the same relationship with other media outlets that WikiLeaks once did and lingers in relative obscurity as a result. Put plainly and cynically, what the government really cares about is not terrorists or hostile foreign actors taking advantage of information released by anyone, be it WikiLeaks, Cryptome, The Washington Times (see Jack Shafer, “Don’t Blame The Washington Times for the Osama bin Laden Satellite Phone ‘Leak’,” Slate, Dec. 21, 2005), jogging apps (see Andrew Moseman, “U.S. Troops Accidentally Reveal Secret Bases by Going Jogging,” Popular Mechanics, Jan. 29, 2018), or others, which they can always themselves exploit to help scare their populations into compliance and conformity on their behalf – rather, it is their own citizenry holding them to account when reputationally-damaging information receives widespread attention, and is not confined to a niche subculture.

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