In a new interview with Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings, Julian Assange outlines what is at stake in America’s determination to prosecute him for daring to expose its dirty little secrets:
In diplomatic cables, the investigation into WikiLeaks by the U.S. government has been called “unprecedented both in its scale and nature.” How much do you know about it? Since last September, a secret grand jury was empaneled in Alexandria, Virginia. There is no defense counsel. There are four prosecutors, according to witnesses who have been forced to testify before the grand jury. The jury itself is taken from the local area, and Alexandria has the highest density of government and military contractors anywhere in the United States. It is a place where the U.S. government chooses to conduct all national-security grand juries and trials because of that makeup of the jury pool.
The investigation has involved most of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, the FBI, the State Department, the United States Army. It has subpoenaed the records of most of my U.S. friends or acquaintances. Under what are called Patriot Act production orders, the government has also asked for their Twitter records, Google accounts and individual ISPs. The laws which they’re working toward an indictment on are the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.
And they’re going after Manning, who is facing a life sentence, to get him to say that you’re a spy?
To be another chess piece on the board in the attack on us. The U.S. government is trying to redefine what have been long-accepted journalistic methods. If the Pentagon is to have its way, it will be the end of national-security journalism in the United States.
They’re trying to interpret the Espionage Act to say that any two-way communication with a source is a collaboration with a source, and is therefore a conspiracy to commit espionage where classified information is involved. The Pentagon, in fact, issued a public demand to us that we not only destroy everything we had ever published or were ever going to publish in relation to the U.S. government, but that we also stop “soliciting” information from U.S. government employees. The Espionage Act itself does not mention solicitation, but they’re trying to create a new legal precedent that includes a journalist simply asking a source to communicate information. A few years ago, for example, the CIA destroyed its waterboarding interrogation videos. In the Manning hearing, prosecutors described how we had a most-wanted list, which included those interrogation videos if they still existed.
The WikiLeaks site had a “most-wanted” list of stories you were eager to get?
This list was not put together by us. We asked for nominations from human rights activists and journalists from around the world of the information they most wanted, and we put that on a list. The prosecution in the Manning hearing has been attempting to use that list as evidence of our solicitation of information that is likely to be classified, and therefore our complicity in espionage, if we received such information.
From a journalist’s perspective, a list like that would be the equivalent of a normal editorial meeting where you list the crown jewels of stories you’d love to get.
So if you’re going to jail, then Bob Woodward’s going to jail.
Individuals like Sy Hersh and Dana Priest and Bob Woodward constantly say to their sources, “Hey, what about this, have you heard anything about it? I heard that there’s been an airstrike in Afghanistan that’s killed a bunch of civilians – do you have any more details, and can you prove them with paper?” And all those would be defined as conspiracy to commit espionage under the Pentagon’s interpretation.