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December 16, 2010

Feds Looking To Nail Assange On Conspiracy

Conspiracy is the best avenue for a conviction, in terms of legal principle, but it will be hard to prove.

Assange obviously can't be convicted of treason -- he's not an American. And it's hard to get him on disseminating classified information, as the MFM specializes in that sort of sedition, and such a prosecution probably isn't going to come from the Obama Administration. As a purely legal matter, the First Amendment doesn't give you license to break the law, but judges tend to take what they call "policy considerations" into account.

Conspiracy seems harder to prove but less likely to ruffle media feathers. Encouraging someone to commit a crime is a crime anywhere.*

Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information. Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, 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.

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

If Manning's telling the truth, I imagine he'd have those records, somewhere, or they'd be discoverable. On the other hand, I don't know tech at all, and it's completely possible (all things are possible to the ignorant, as I am) that Assange pulled some hacker trick so that Manning would have no record of their correspondence.

I know people are going to say "prosecute him under the Espionage Act," and I agree, but it's never a bad thing to have a Plan B. Plus, I just don't think Obama or Holder, confirmed men of the left, are going for Plan A.

* Yes, I am aware that the media does this, too, the encouragement of/ facilitation of the crime of disseminating classified information. So I do get the objection that any media type who would object to a prosecution based on the Espionage Act has a very similar rationale to oppose a prosecution based on conspiracy.

I'm not sure why I think it's a little different -- I just do. I guess maybe because it's one step removed from the crime the media wants to engage in (dissemination of classified information).

One thing I don't know about is just assassinating him. I know that's a popular cry, but obviously it would be controversial, and obviously President Prissypants isn't going to do that. Beyond that, though, I have trouble conceiving of assassinating someone for doing what in their minds is the right thing to do, and, from a certain point of view (that is, a certain mode of thinking) is a plausibly right thing to do.

That seems to me to sort of being imposing the death penalty over a difference in philosophy. I don't like leftists, and I'm no fan of Assange's, but I don't know if I could (if I had the power) decide that I was so sure of my point of view that I could sentence a man to death for disagreeing with me.

A moot point, given that Obama definitely isn't going to kill a lefty hero. But I wonder where I'd be if the situation weren't hypothetical, if, say, the President were Dick "Warcock" Cheney and this was at least a live possibility. I think even a Cheney would refuse to order the hit, and I'm pretty sure I'd back him up.

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posted by Ace at 12:04 PM

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