Assuming he is successfully extradited (legal experts say there is a chance he might be able to successfully fight extradition, despite the blatant antipathy expressed toward him by British judges), Julian Assange will stand trial in a courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia where prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia will try to prove that he broke US law by goading Chelsea Manning into turning over hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
To recap: Prosecutors surprised Assange’s supporters when they revealed in their extradition warrant that, rather than pursuing him on espionage charges, or charges related to Wikileaks’ publication of the classified documents, only one charge had been levied against Assange: conspiracy to hack a government computer.
If convicted, he could face a maximum of five and a half years in prison.
In the Assange indictment, prosecutors claimed that after Manning had already handed over hundreds of thousands of documents to Wikileaks, Assange tried to help the former Army private and intelligence analyst crack a password that would have allowed her to access hundreds of thousands of documents.
However, Assange never succeeded in cracking the password, at least not as far as prosecutors are aware. What he did allegedly do was conspire with Manning to transmit the documents she had succeeded in stealing, while – and this is key – encouraging Manning to turn over more documents when she expressed reluctance.
To support its case, the government has obtained chat logs from March 2010 showing Manning communicating with a mysterious individual who alternatively went by the handles “Ox” and “pressassociation”. The government believes this user was Assange. After transmitting hundreds of thousands of war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and detainee assessment briefs from Guantanamo Bay, Manning said her stash of secret documents had run dry.
“After this upload, that’s all I really have got left.”
To which her co-conspirator replied: “Curious eyes never run dry in my experience.”
The indictment also references a claim made by Manning during her court martial statement that she had discussed the value of the Guantanamo detainee assessments with the person alleged to be Assange.
“During my conversation with Nathaniel, I asked him if he thought the DABs were of any use to anyone. Nathaniel indicated, although he did not believe that they were of political significance, he did believe that they could be used to merge into the general historical account of what occurred at Guantanamo.”
Manning added: “After this discussion, I decided to download the data.”
As for how they intend to conclusively prove that Assange was the individual who corresponded with Manning on the Jabber chat service they were using…well…that hasn’t yet been revealed.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has become the latest organization to warn the UK not to extradite Assange to the US, out of concern that he could face human rights violations while there, while adding that the legal mechanism that allowed British police to enter the embassy has not yet been made clear.
“Amnesty International calls on the UK to refuse to extradite or send in any other manner Julian Assange to the USA where there is a very real risk that he could face human rights violations, including detention conditions that would violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment and an unfair trial followed by possible execution, due to his work with Wikileaks.
“We are aware of allegations of rape and other sexual violence against Julian Assange, which should be properly investigated in a way that respects the rights of both the complainants and the accused and be brought to justice if there is sufficient evidence against him. If Sweden decides to pursue an extradition of Mr. Assange from the UK, there must be adequate assurances that he would not be extradited or otherwise sent to the USA.
“It remains unclear what formal process took place to allow the UK authorities to enter the Ecuadorian embassy and detain Julian Assange, who had reportedly had his Ecuadorian citizenship suspended yesterday. We urge the UK authorities to comply with the assurances provided to Ecuador that he would not be sent anywhere he could face the death penalty, torture or other ill-treatment.”
As the Assange’s legal team prepares to fight extradition, Manning is still sitting in a Virginia jail, after spending a month in solitary confinement, for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury, a tactic that the government is using to try and coerce answers out of her.
But if there’s one takeaway from this case, it’s that the charges aren’t what’s important, as Tulsi Gabbard so eloquently pointed out.
The arrest of #JulianAssange is meant to send a message to all Americans and journalists: be quiet, behave, toe the line. Or you will pay the price.
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) 11 April 2019