Wikileaks began as a broke whistleblowing outlet in 2006, sending shockwaves through the world as it exposed government corruption and widespread malfeasance on the part of those in power. In 2010, governments fought back and convinced Visa and MasterCard to halt payments to Wikileaks, quickly strangling the organization to near death. Later that year, in an interview with Russia’s top daily newspaper, Kommersant, Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson teased an upcoming document dump, saying that “Russian readers will learn a lot about their country. We want to tell people the truth about the actions of their governments.”
In response, an official at the FSB (the successor to the KGB), told LifeNews that “It’s essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever.” The documents never came out. A year later, Wikileaks was in far better financial shape, and Julian Assange had his own show on Russia Today—the Kremlin’s state TV apparatus. While holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2015, Assange stated in a press release that he requested Russian security. One year later, Wikileaks would turn down documents on the Russian government at the same time that they were leaking as many Democratic Party e-mails as possible during the election—with a daily dump beginning the moment the Access Hollywood tape dropped in October.
Which brings us to a stunning revelation from last night, first unearthed by former intel policy officer Seamus Hughes. Hughes was reading about a completely unrelated case in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), when he stumbled across this passage.
Soon after, The Washington Post confirmed this extraordinary finding:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged under seal, prosecutors inadvertently revealed in a recently unsealed court filing — a development that could significantly advance the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and have major implications for those who publish government secrets.
Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, said, “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”
The New York Times reported it a bit differently, saying that prosecutors have “prepared an indictment.” What makes this extra confusing is that the case in which Assange's name appeared is a criminal complaint, not an indictment, and we have no idea what Assange may have been charged with—but WaPo has sources saying that Assange has indeed been charged and the indictment is being kept under seal.
So what is going on? How did a passage about Julian Assange already being indicted make its way into a completely unrelated case? Law Twitter has some theories. We'll start with conservative defense lawyer, Ken White, who contextualized it in the larger picture of the federal government constantly throwing its weight around in criminal cases.
Lawyer Luppe B. Luppen helped lay out the timeline of when Assange may have been charged (before Aug. 22).
So why does this matter? Well, you may have heard lately that longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone said he expects to be indicted, as Robert Mueller's focus on Wikileaks has intensified rapidly since August. In October 2016, a couple weeks before the Podesta e-mails were dumped right after the Access Hollywood tape was released, Stone tweeted “Wednesday, Hillary Clinton is done #Wikileaks.” It sure looks like Robert Mueller and his team are closing in on Wikileaks and their allies in the Trump camp, which further calls into question the endless stream of pro-Wikileaks rants in 2016 like this from President Trump. Was his camp in touch with the organization making these disclosures that Trump was using in nearly every speech?
Now, there is a serious legal question underlying this that has nothing to do with the Trump camp: prosecuting someone for releasing information is indeed a slippery slope, and if mishandled, could lead to establishing precedent of the criminalization of journalism. That said, national security lawyer Mark Zaid highlighted how Assange and Wikileaks do not operate under the same rules as the media.
For example, while the media does strive to obtain classified material in order to release vital information to the public, soliciting it in this manner is far from journalistic.
Does this request from Wikileaks to Don Jr. sound more like a journalist or an activist to you?
“That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing about Clinton will have a much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a “pro-Trump” “pro-Russian” source, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.
Not to mention the fact that Wikileaks has followed the longtime Kremlin tactic of releasing forgeries within a larger document dump that is mostly factual. If you believe that Wikileaks is an upstanding journalistic outlet, then you also must believe that our government is communicating with extraterrestrials. Believing that the following is a forgery, but Wikileaks is still a journalistic outlet is the definition of a contradiction. Per Wikileaks’ Podesta dump:
Because the War in Space race is heating up, I felt you should be aware of several factors as you and I schedule our Skype talk. Remember, our nonviolent ETI from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth. They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space. The following information in italics was shared with me by my colleague Carol Rosin, who worked closely for several years with Wernher von Braun before his death. Carol and I have worked on the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, attached for your convenience.
Wikileaks practices a form of journalism, but that doesn’t make them journalists. They’re propagandists who effectively serve as a laundromat for Kremlin intelligence, and we know for a fact that they were in contact with the president’s longtime adviser as well as the president’s most favored son during the 2016 campaign. If Julian Assange is in legal jeopardy, then it stands to reason that anyone who joined him in whatever crimes he is accused of should follow in his footsteps. No wonder Don Jr. is reportedly worried about getting indicted.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.