Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks' Anarchism Continues; Feds Ponder Next Step

Wikileaks, just days after releasing hundreds of thousands of classified State Department documents, is now claiming that they will release a similar number of documents about a major US bank.

Just what is Wikileaks intentions? It clearly seems that they are intent upon causing anarchy and upheaval in the US and world markets, on national security, foreign policy and business and economic grounds. Analysts are concerned that the document dump may lead to the loss of life and putting lives of Americans at greater risk. It further complicates foreign policy and diplomatic efforts on issues ranging from the Middle East to China and North Korea - flashpoints that could boil over into open hostilities in a heartbeat.

Army analyst Bradley Manning, who originally obtained the military and State Department documents had anarchy on his mind when he provided the documents to Wikileaks.

It's an organization that has placed itself just out of reach of US authorities unless the US gets assistance from foreign governments in tracking down and arresting those involved to be extradited to the US to face justice.

So, what is the US to do. They can issue stern warnings and attempt to placate and reassure allies, but the damage has been done. The military and State Department have to revise their methodologies to reduce the chances that a single person could do the kind of damage that Manning did.

Moreover, prosecutions of those who obtained classified documents and transmitted them to unauthorized persons for publication or retransmission must be swift and harsh. Prosecutors are looking at bringing charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his cohorts.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation.'' Others familiar with the probe said the FBI is examining everyone who came into possession of the documents, including those who gave the materials to WikiLeaks and also the organization itself. No charges are imminent, the sources said, and it is unclear whether any will be brought.

Former prosecutors cautioned that prosecutions involving leaked classified information are difficult because the Espionage Act is a 1917 statute that preceded Supreme Court cases that expanded First Amendment protections. The government also would have to persuade another country to turn over Assange, who is outside the United States.

But the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is rapidly unfolding, said charges could be filed under the act. The U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria - which in 2005 brought Espionage Act charges, now dropped, against two former pro-Israel lobbyists - is involved in the effort, the sources said.

The Pentagon is leading the investigation and it remains unclear whether any additional charges would be brought in the military or civilian justice systems. Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst suspected of being the source of the WikiLeaks documents, was arrested by the military this year.

Holder was asked Monday how the United States could prosecute Assange, who is an Australian citizen. "Let me be very clear," he replied. "It is not saber rattling.

"To the extent there are gaps in our laws," Holder continued, "we will move to close those gaps, which is not to say . . . that anybody at this point, because of their citizenship or their residence, is not a target or a subject of an investigation that's ongoing." He did not indicate that Assange is being investigated for possible violations of the Espionage Act.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others, called Assange and Wikileaks terrorists for exposing the hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and documents.

I'm not quite sure that Wikileaks fits that definition. They are anarchists because they are trying to overturn existing geopolitical structures and undermining the US by any means possible. Terrorism has a specific definition for US law: 18 USC 2331. Providing material assistance to terrorist organizations has a specific definition. I'm not so sure that prosecutors can prove that Wikileaks and Assange conforms to the meanings of the statutes. That doesn't mean that prosecutors can't find other relevant statutes to work with.

Julian Assange and the other people working for Wikileaks must be held to account for their supernational effort to undermine US national security. Their actions are fully within the scope of 18 USC 794 and 18 USC 798, which relates to the disclosure of classified information.

I'd also expect prosecutors to take a closer look at Wikileaks as a criminal enterprise/racket and treat it under racketeering statutes (RICO).

As the damage from the document dump fallout continues, US allies may be more than willing to arrest and extradite Assange and his cohorts to the US to stand trial for their activities. Australia is looking into whether Assange broke Australian law (Assange is an Australian citizen).

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