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  • Julian Assange: Free for Now

    “It’s great to smell the fresh air of London again” announced infamous WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he was released on bail this evening in London. While Assange enjoys his limited freedom until his hearing—he’ll be under “mansion arrest” as well as wearing a tracking bracelet—a host of other issues regarding his continuous dump of classified documents on the Internet awaits him.

    First and foremost of these issues is what action (if any) the U.S. intends to take against Assange for the disclosure of classified U.S. national security information. This afternoon, The Heritage Foundation hosted a public event where Senior Legal Fellow Cully Stimson addressed the issues surrounding a possible prosecution of Assange.

    While it is easy to prosecute Private Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly provided Assange with confidential documents in July, dealing with Assange is more tricky. Manning took an oath that he would not transfer any classified information for which he is not authorized; Assange is free from such commitments. Stimson assessed that the prosecution of Assange presents a more difficult questions and can be assessed only after a thorough investigation.

    Assange claims that a he is “a publisher and editor-in-chief who organises and directs other journalists.” Defining what is and is not a media source surrounds much of this scenario. In a recent paper co-authored with Visiting Heritage Fellow Paul Rosenzweig, Stimson explains that one of the main issues is the “distinction between the protections afforded by traditional media organizations that are commenting on the WikiLeaks affair and Assange’s more direct involvement in the initial disclosures.”

    While Assange attempts to seek refuge in a veil of professional journalism, the U.S. State Department doesn’t see it this way. According to State Department Spokesman P. J. Crowley, Assange “could be considered a political actor. I think he’s an anarchist, but he’s not a journalist. … He has an agenda. He’s trying to pursue that agenda, and I don’t think he can … qualify as either a journalist on the one hand or a whistleblower on the other.” Do we consider him a journalist? The answer is no.

    Perhaps the U.S. government’s best chance of seeking retribution lies in updating American laws that apply to the changing world of intelligence. As Stimson and Rosenzweig mention, these laws are vague, and in many cases it is difficult to apply current situations to the ones that the laws were originally intended to address. Indeed, the Internet has created a realm where the lines determining what is legal and illegal are far more difficult to specify, and as a result laws addressing espionage, treason, and the like must be modified to protect national security against evolving threats.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Julian Assange: Free for Now

    1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Julian Assange: Free for Now | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News. -- Topsy.com

    2. Pingback: Julian Assange: Free for Now | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News. | AfricaLeaks

    3. George Colgrove, VA says:

      "Perhaps the U.S. government’s best chance of seeking retribution lies in updating American laws that apply to the changing world of intelligence.”

      I think taking a week or two in reviewing the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have access to these documents to start with. The federal government is too big and it is hard to control. Shrinking the size and scope of the federal government will go far in sealing up these leaks.

      Wikileaks wronged this country. However, it has done nothing illegal. Wikileaks as a media outlet can send out what ever they want. Just as the Washington Post did back in the days of Nixon and as the media did with the Pentagon papers. The media has the responsibility to publish the news as they get it. We may believe releasing such documents is reprehensible – because it is. But it is not against any law. Focusing on punishing Wikileaks is like fixing a tool that is not broken, while still using the broken tool. The massive leaking was done by our high paid federal employees in the DoD and the Sec of State’s office and offices we are yet to learn of. We may get rid of Wikileaks, but new web sites will pop up. If they can still get documents from federal employees they will continue to stay in business. To stop this danger we need to stop it here at home.

      If we are to believe just a 22 year old single private had access to all the leaked documents, then I would say the problem is even greater than if we had thousands of federal employees leaking documents. This premise is based on the fact the classified documents now numbering over a million – with threats of over two million still to be released – were accessed by a single federal (MIL) employee and was gathered without detection by the keepers of these documents. This is an example of the failure of the federal government. The DoD spends six times the amount China spends on their military (10 times what Russia spends) and we cannot keep millions of classified documents out of the hands of our enemies?

      What we need to do – and it will not cost a cent – is to tighten up the number of people who have access to classified documents. It takes just a memo. Classified documents are to be kept in the hands of their “owners” until they are sent via secure courier to an closed off physical and electronic archive – guarded and accessed only by military personnel with working knowledge and experience of the subject matter. They should have knowledge of the collaborative effects of releasing any part of these documents. The rest of the federal government should be working with redacted and secured electronic versions of these documents that cannot be printed. This is not a hard idea, can be implemented today, and will not cost the taxpayer a cent. In fact, if we tighten procedures and eliminate the current redundancies in this part of the federal government, we may actually save some money that can pay for military gear or better yet could be sent back to the taxpayer.

      This concept will eliminate the risk that this massive amounts of classified documents could be released in mass ever again. If they are ever released like this again, at least they will be done so with redacted documents.

    4. George Colgrove, VA says:

      If we tighten up the access to classified information to far fewer federal employees the risk of leaks will be significantly reduced. But here are other benefits:

      1. Would force a review of every logistics and procedures that will expose redundancy and overlapping of duties.

      2. By moving to a system that provides only declassified documents in electronic form to the federal government can eliminate the expensive secured couriers and highly secured network systems and massive security in nearly every federal office. We should be moving government to conduct business under standard business office and security practices, which have been honed down to be as efficient and as secure as the bottom line can afford. Using something as simple as Adobe Acrobat Professional or other competing software, the “owner” can permanently burn classified content from all documents with full compliance with the FOIA legislation and regulations. The documents can be saved in standard business format with proper security. This software is easy to use and would require very little training. The only additional training the “owner” would need is to know what classification the redaction needs to be identified as. The code identifications (as it relates to strictly National Security concerns) can be summarized on a single page cheat-sheet which can be used by the “owner” if need be. Very inexpensive. This redaction (which the “owner” is doing anyway right now) can be done at the “owner’s” office or the at the secured document archive. This would need a process of independent review by lawyers and if need be a judge when appealed. The documents can be posted to standard business secured networks with NO RISK of any breach of National Security. Before sending out to the public these declassified documents would be passed through the FOIA process for additional redaction for other federal exemptions and privacy concerns.

      3. By cleansing hundreds of thousands of federal personnel out of the security clearance process would be a massive savings to the taxpayer or can provide needed money to military needs. Various sources estimates that the cost to clear a single employee can be $15,000 to $20,000. With 850,000 top-secret clearances being reviewed every 5 years, the cost can amount to $2.6 billion each year (just for TS only!). The system currently has a heavy backlog. It can take up to and over a year to complete a review of an employee’s clearance. Many needless clearances are bogging up a system that should be available to check people quickly.

      4. Redefine what should be classified so that the burden is kept to a minimum. As each year goes by the collection of classified documents mount. At what point does the system consume itself? There should be reasonable expiration dates on what is kept secret. Protocols should be set up with non-federal independent (yet secure) oversight that allows for the permanent destruction of old documents that have no current pertinence but that have permanent national security concerns. These documents can be summarized for historical purposes by people who have knowledge on the subject matter and know the impact of what the information would have if released. There would be a significant cost savings by keeping far fewer secrets. An interesting read is: [ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/10/15/... ]

      We are not only talking about increasing security by reducing the number of people with access and forcing the federal government to adopt a more cost effective standard business practices, but we are also talking about significant savings to the taxpayer and to the DoD who can apply that financial resource to far better endeavors on the front line.

    5. John, Cincinnati says:

      Manning should, no doubt, be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Assange is a different case entirely. As a foreign citizen acting on foreign soil, we have no claim upon him. It would be most unwise to pass legislation giving the US expansive jurisdiction over such actors, for the simple reason that other nation could pass similar enactments to be used against US citizens acting on US soil. Would an American who publicizes Russian state secrets from his living room in Nebraska have to worry about a warrant for his arrest being issued by the Kremlin? Even if the US wouldn't enforce it, what about John Q. Public's next trip to Mexico or Canada?

    6. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Assange isn't the only one dancing away from Justice. Our own Hillary Clinton is responsible for State Department Security, and when she 'improved' it, centralized it (whatever) she is responsible for our secrets being made so easily leaked. Oh sure! Blame it on the Private, but did we put Gomer Pyle in charge of secrets just to have a ready fall guy for what is actually High Crime? The dog didn't eat the homework, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should lose her job instantly!

      I don't think it is funny that Wikileaks gets support from Soros and the Berzerkly crazies are honoring him! Meanwhile the DINOs have taken over the White House, and Communists have been packed into the Shadow Government. Who designed and implemented the Security System at our Department Of State? They should swing. Hillary doing something stupid? Not a chance! She did it intentionally!

    7. Michael Guy says:

      Aiding and abetting a known enemy of one's country is by definition treason. British, American and other nationaly troops throughout the Mideast and Afghanistan are in dire jeopardy. Allies, friends, collaborators and those contributing to the safety and succes of these troops , as well as the British and American governments will now be hunted down, intimidated, tortured and liquidated thanks to Mr, Assange and Wikileaks. In short Wikileaks is a terrorist organization, colluding and cooperating with those who hate capitalism, Christianity and our Constitutional republics.

      Unfortunately there must be high ranking officials in the White House, Congress, Senate Armed Services Committee and State Department who likewise share Wikileaks antipathy towards America and her allies, These progressives must not only be the source but also act as the cover up for Wikileaks.

    8. Jim Thomas, Perth WA says:

      Another point not mentioned is that Julian Assange is neither an American citizen, or a resident of the United States. Although Private Manning can be tried for breaching his sworn duty, and possibly for treason, Julian Assange has committed no such crime.

      Unfortunately the Internet creates all sorts of problems in this situation. What jurisdiction would the United States Government have to charge (or to legislate for in future) a foreign national publishing information overseas, even if the original source of that information breached US law, unless that person was directly involved in illegally obtaining the information?

      I have to agree with George, whatever your opinion of Assange’s actions is they're most probably not illegal. Even if you could crush Assange it's not going to stop the problems with using the internet to transfer classified information across jurisdictions to be published.

      Rather than seek to stop organisations publishing the information, time and money would be better spent keeping it secret in the first place.

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