The Obama Victims: Julian Assange
After WikiLeaks released the Manning material, US authorities began investigating WikiLeaks and Assange personally with a view to prosecuting them under the Espionage Act of 1917. In November 2010 US Attorney-General Eric Holder said there was “an active, ongoing criminal investigation” into WikiLeaks. It emerged from legal documents leaked over the ensuing months that Assange and others were being investigated by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia. An email from an employee of intelligence consultancy Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) leaked in 2012 said, “We have a sealed indictment on Assange.” The US government denies the existence of such an indictment.
In December 2011 prosecutors in the Chelsea Manning case revealed the existence of chat logs between Manning and an alleged WikiLeaks interlocutor they claimed to be Assange; he denied this, dismissing the alleged connection as “absolute nonsense”. The logs were presented as evidence during Manning’s court-martial in June–July 2013. The prosecution argued that they show WikiLeaks helping Manning reverse-engineer a password. The evidence that the interlocutor was Assange is circumstantial, however, and Manning insists she acted alone.
Assange was being examined separately by “several government agencies” in addition to the grand jury, most notably the FBI. Court documents published in May 2014 suggest that Assange was still under “active and ongoing” investigation at that time.
Moreover, some Snowden documents published in 2014 show that the United States government put Assange on the “2010 Manhunting Timeline”, and in the same period they urged their allies to open criminal investigations into the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.In the same documents there was a proposal by the NSA to designate WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor”, thus increasing the surveillance against it.
On 26 January 2015, WikiLeaks revealed that three members of the organisation received notice that “Google had handed over all their emails and metadata to the United States government”. In the notifications, there was the list of possible charges that originated the warrant to Google and that the secret grand jury intends to use against WikiLeaks and likely Assange too. They were espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, theft or conversion of property belonging to the United States government, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and general conspiracy. They carry up to a minimum of 45 years in prison, if they amount to one charge per these five types; otherwise, even more years could be added.
The United States investigation confirmed its ongoing proceedings against WikiLeaks in a 15 December 2015 court submission.
Assange wrote on WikiLeaks in February 2016: “I have had years of experience in dealing with Hillary Clinton and have read thousands of her cables. Hillary lacks judgement and will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism. … she certainly should not become president of the United States.”
On 25 July, following the Republican National Convention (RNC), during an interview by Amy Goodman, Assange was quoted saying, “You’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea? … Personally, I would prefer neither.” However, Assange has publicly denounced Clinton on multiple occasions, even stating that he will release information that will have Clinton arrested in an interview with ITV. WikiLeaks editor, Sarah Harrison, has stated that the site is not choosing which damaging publications to release, rather releasing information that is available to them.
On 26 August, Assange spoke to Fox News and said that Clinton was causing “hysteria about Russia”. This statement was repeated in the Russian media outlet RT.