WikiLeaks announced Feb. 28 that it has obtained a hacked email from Stratfor, a Texas political intelligence company with ties to Karl Rove, discussing a secret U.S. indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Reported also is evidence that Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a former prime minister, is a longtime CIA informant in Sweden, which is ostensibly a neutral country that boasts of a strong human rights record.
The U.S. Justice Department and Stratfor have declined comment. But the email claiming a secret indictment of Assange would, if true, further undermine the credibility of Sweden’s massive effort to gain custody of Assange from the United Kingdom in proceedings that began in 2010.
Assange, at right in a Wikipedia photo, has claimed the proceedings are a legal ruse for Sweden to gain custody so that its officials can extradite him by prearrangement to the United States for disclosing secret U.S. cables. A lower court in the United Kingdom disregarded his arguments, and ordered him extradited to undergo questioning on two brief sexual relationships he had in Sweden.
A decision on his appeal to the top United Kingdom court is expected within weeks. Update: FireDogLake reports the identity of Statfor's FBI source. See below.
Telegraph (United Kingdom), WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to run for Australian Senate, March 17, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is planning to run for election to the Australian Senate. Assange, an Australian citizen, is on bail awaiting a British court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations. He strongly denies the claims, saying they are politically motivated and linked to the activities of WikiLeaks, which has published thousands of confidential documents on the internet. The whistle-blowing website said it appeared that the 40-year-old's current legal situation did not rule him out of running for Australia's upper house. "We have discovered that it is possible for Julian Assange to run for the Australian Senate while detained," WikiLeaks said on Twitter. "Julian has decided to run."
The Guardian reported March 7: LulzSec leader Sabu was working for us, says FBI. "The world's most notorious computer hacker has been working as an informer for the FBI for at least the last six months," the article said. "Hector Xavier Monsegur, an unemployed 28-year-old Puerto Rican living in New York, was unmasked as "Sabu," the leader of the LulzSec hacking group that has been behind a wave of cyber raids against American corporations including Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, the intelligence consultancy Stratfor, British and American law enforcement bodies, and the Irish political party Fine Gael."
Sweden claims it simply wants to question the WikiLeaks founder about complaints two women made through a politically connected law firm after they invited him to sleep with them separately during an August 2010 speaking trip to Sweden. The trip was during a period when WikiLeaks was on the verge of distributing vast numbers of stolen diplomatic cables embarrassing to the United States, Sweden and many other nations. Rove went on Fox News that month to call for Assange’s capture and execution.
In December 2010, our Justice Integrity Project and Legal Schnauzer reported that Rove was an advisor to the Swedish government. Next we reported on the background of Bergstrom and Bodström, the law firm that brought complaints of sexual misconduct against Assange. The firm's name partner, Thomas Bodström is a former Minister of Justice for Sweden. In that post, he cooperated with the CIA to implement the CIA’s request for rendition to Egypt of a terrorist seeking asylum in Sweden. Egypt tortured the suspect, according to human rights complaints later.
Swedish human rights activist Marcello Ferrada de Noli, left, was a torture victim in his native Chile and later a longtime epidemiology professor in Sweden. He has published extensive reports documenting on his Professors Blogg Sweden’s performance record on human rights issues. This gist, he writes, is that Sweden is justifiably proud of a human rights track record that is far better than most nations -- but that any serious observer should recognize also a record of embarrassing exceptions made through the decades with scant public discussion.
His surveys have shown also that the mainstream media in Sweden have been very supportive of government actions against Assange, not surprisingly because WikiLeaks threatens the traditional information gatekeeper role of established media in reporting on government actions. He has decried as a "duck pond" a comfortable Swedish culture of media, government, public relations firms and U.S.-style think tanks. The emails are hacked, or stolen, and thus violate basic norms of privacy and private property in the rule of law. But the raw emails allow the public to see not just actions of officials making life and death decisions in private, but at times shocking examples of what appears to be lawbreaking by officials and cozy relations with members of the media.
Critics of the prosecution effort against Assange include American author and feminist Naomi Wolf, right. She has called Sweden’s extradition effort suspicious because it is so unusual for a nation to go to such enormous efforts to extradite in a sex misconduct “case” that has not even reached the level of a formal charge of criminality.
Sweden is governed by the Moderate Party, regarded as the most conservative of the major parties. The government is led by Prime Minister Frederic Reinfeldt, left. So far, he and the government have been able to win preliminary legal victories in the Assange prosecution. Similarly, the Obama administration has obtained an indictment against Army Private Bradley Manning for allegedly helping WikiLeaks obtain documents. The two countries thus present a solid front in moving forward on prosecution. The United States is focused on its employee Manning. Sweden is ostensibly protecting its women from any like the Australian Assange, who is being held under house arrest in England while awaiting results of his protest of the pending extradition order.
However, cracks are appearing in any Swedish-U.S.-mainstream media narrative about the case. Expressen, Sweden’s largest tabloid and a paper owned by Bonnier, the nation’s largest, most politicly connected media company, broke the story about WikiLeaks evidence suggesting U.S. intelligence ties since the 1970s by Carl Bildt, at left.The column took a hostile tone to WikiLeaks from the outset, beginning, according to a translation, "WikiLeaks is planning a massive smear campaign against Sweden in order to prevent the Swedish government from agreeing to extradite the organization's frontman Julian Assange to the United States." Nonetheless, it put issues prominently before the public.
In the United States, the revelations underscore also concerns that a company such as Stratfor is trading in inappropriate access to confidential law enforcement information -- and that well-connected players like Rove operate in national security matters beyond his ostensible work as a Republican political strategist. Rove, those with memories will recall, has long worked for the Bush family. Its current patriarch, George H.W. Bush, was CIA director in the1970s long before his Presidency. That is a long track record of many shared global secrets and relationships.
Some also, of course are calling for much tighter security measures to identify and prosecute the anonymous thieves who hacked Stratfor’s information and gave it to WikiLeaks. The group Anonymous is suspected.
Whatever the case, the situation is increasingly out in the open. So, those seeking Swedish spy-thrillers need not buy more Stieg Larsson novels. It's real life these days, or so it seems.
Updated WikiLeaks News
FireDogLake, Defense Files Motion to Dismiss Charges Against Bradley Manning, Kevin Gosztola, March 15, 2012. The defense filed a motion to dismiss all charges with prejudice against Bradley Manning after concluding the government had violated Manning’s rights by failing to turn over evidence. After more than an hour of deliberation in court over a motion to compel discovery, defense attorney David Coombs declared that the defense would be filing a motion. The defense decided the way the government was using Brady, which is a rule that mandates the disclosure of evidence, violated Manning’s right to a fair trial. The defense urged the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, to examine the request to compel discovery, the standards cited by the government, and what they relied upon to provide evidence thus far needed when reviewing the motion.
The Guardian, LulzSec leader Sabu was working for us, says FBI, Charles Arthur, Dan Sabbagh and Sandra Laville, March 7, 2012. The world's most notorious computer hacker has been working as an informer for the FBI for at least the last six months, it emerged on Tuesday, providing information that has helped contribute to the charging of five others, including two Britons, for computer hacking offences. Hector Xavier Monsegur, an unemployed 28-year-old Puerto Rican living in New York, was unmasked as "Sabu," the leader of the LulzSec hacking group that has been behind a wave of cyber raids against American corporations including Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, the intelligence consultancy Stratfor, British and American law enforcement bodies, and the Irish political party Fine Gael. It was revealed that he had been charged with 12 criminal counts of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking and other crimes last summer, crimes which carry a maximum sentence of 124 years and six months in prison. According to indictments filed in a Manhattan federal court, he secretly pleaded guilty on 15 August last year. Despite that, Sabu carried on with his aggressive online persona as the LulzSec "leader", with the father of two going so far as to deny online – the day after his secret guilty plea – that he had "snitched" on his friends. His online "hacker" activity continued until very recently, with a tweet sent by him in the last 24 hours saying: "The feds at this moment are scouring our lives without warrants. Without judges approval. This needs to change. Asap."
FireDogLake, Live Blog: WikiLeaks Releases the Stratfor Emails (Day 5), Kevin Gosztola, March 2, 2012. Dear US media, a “source” in the FBI was feeding information to Stratfor related to ongoing government investigations. Oh, yawn. Here at Firedoglake the release has been receiving full coverage. And, these are some highlights from Day 4 of the release:
—Stratfor’s FBI source was James Casey. Last night, Firedoglake‘s Jane Hamsher put up a post showing how she had harnessed the power of Google and figured out, by plugging in Casey’s email address, that he had just quit the FBI on February 29. His retirement was covered by a Florida newspaper. And, of course, the writer of the article never realized that simultaneously news has been swirling around all week that someone in the FBI told Stratfor there was a “sealed indictment” against Julian Assange.
—WikiLeaks released more emails on the Occupy movement. The emails released were partially known to exist prior to the release because Anonymous released a few of them. They deal with a Texas Public Safety Department agent, who was spying on an environmental activist group, Deep Green Resistance, at Occupy Austin General Assemblies. Additionally, the emails suggest someone might have been spying on Occupy Des Moines and, actually, that person might have been an analyst for Stratfor, who just so happens to be from Iowa.
—Emails released raised doubts about whether Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea. The emails did not make much news at all, but the fact is that Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton was giving updates indicating the body was being moved to Maryland. If Burton was giving accurate information when he said he saw a “sealed indictment” against Assange, then his updates on where Bin Laden’s body was going after he was killed may be credible.
FireDogLake, Stratfor “Source” James Casey Leaves FBI, Jane Hamsher, March 1, 2012. Moral of the story: Bradley Manning gets charged with “aiding the enemy” for potentially leaking information that was available on the SIPRNET to hundreds of thousands of people. This guy gets a gold watch and no investigation for potentially leaking the existence of a sealed DoJ indictment of Julian Assange that I imagine almost nobody knew about. If I were Bradley Manning’s lawyer I’d be putting James Casey, LLC on my witness list pronto. He seems to be the chatty type.
Rolling Stone, WikiLeaks Stratfor Emails: A Secret Indictment Against Julian Assange? Michael Hastings, Feb. 28, 2012. On January 26, 2011, Fred Burton, the vice president of Stratfor, a leading private intelligence firm which bills itself as a kind of shadow CIA, sent an excited email to his colleagues. "Text Not for Pub," he wrote. "We" – meaning the U.S. government – "have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect." The news, if true, was a bombshell. At the time, the Justice Department was ramping up its investigation of Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which over the past few years has released hundreds of thousands of sensitive government documents. An indictment under the 1917 Espionage Act would be the most serious action taken to date against Assange, possibly paving the way for his extradition to the U.S.
Professors Blogg, Sweden's Plan Z, The Swedish PSYOP against WikiLeaks and Media Trial of Julian Assange...To save Minister Bildt? Marcello Ferrada de Noli, March 2, 2012. This is Part II of “Anatomy of an untruthful scoop." What is the background of the Swedish on-going political offensive against WikiLeaks? What does the media campaign have to do with Swedish Foreign Policy and its head, Carl Bildt? What is the NATO connection in the case? And further, what does the content of such media articles have to do with the domestic decline of Bildt’s popularity, and peoples questioning as to the extent to which the Swedish rulers themselves are primarily responsible for the drastic deterioration of the international prestige of Sweden?
Professors Blogg, Anatomy of an untruthful scoop: Sweden’s psychological warfare against WikiLeaks, and the political case vs. Julian Assange. Part One, Feb. 23, 2012. On the eve of the extraditions judgments in London, the Swedish mainstream media has produced a multiple barrage of articles on WikiLeaks and on the person of its founder, editor and journalist Julian Assange. The offensive, never before assayed with such degree of seemingly coordination or impetus – and which contrasts with a nearly total silence in Sweden on such themes during the past months -- was initiated with a piece by the president of the Swedish Publicists’ Association in Journalist.Se, followed by a remarkable “scoop” in Expressen. This was in its turn echoed, of course, by an article in the the Local and of another vilifying piece in an on-line site called Nyheter24.
Telegraph, The (United Kingdom), Stratfor: executive boasted of 'trusted former CIA cronies,' Alex Spillius, Feb. 28, 2012. A senior executive with the private intelligence firm Stratfor boasted to colleagues about his "trusted former CIA cronies" and promised to "see what I can uncover" about a classified FBI investigation, according to emails released by the WikiLeaks. Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence at the Texas firm, also informed members of staff that he had a copy of the confidential indictment on Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The second batch of five million internal Stratfor emails obtained by the Anonymous computer hacking group revealed that the company has high level sources within the United States and other governments, runs a network of paid informants that includes embassy staff and journalists and planned a hedge fund, Stratcap, based on its secret intelligence. It operates something of an employment revolving door with branches of the Washington establishment. Burton was previously deputy chief of the counter-terrorism division in the state department's diplomatic security service. The emails indicated that the company pays for information. One email released by WikiLeaks described a £4,000-a-month payment made to a Middle Eastern source, and another carried bits of gossip dropped by a retired spy. Derided as a "shadow CIA" by Assange, one email from chief executive George Friedman also suggested it used methods redolent of spy agencies.
WikiLeaks / Global Intelligence Files / Citizens for Legitimate Government, STRATFOR: 'Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist,' Feb. 28, 2012. Confidential emails obtained from the US private intelligence firm Stratfor show that the United States Government has had a secret indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for more than 12 months. Fred Burton, Stratfor's Vice-President for Counterterrorism and Corporate Security, is a former Deputy Chief of the Department of State's (DoS) counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). In early 2011, Burton revealed in internal Stratfor correspondence that a secret Grand Jury had already issued a sealed indictment for Assange: "Not for Pub - We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect." (375123) According to Burton: "Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist." (1056988)... Emails from Fred Burton reveal that the US Government employs the same counterterrorism strategy against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as against Al Qaeda: "Take down the money. Go after his infrastructure. The tools we are using to nail and de-construct Wiki are the same tools used to dismantle and track aQ [Al Qaeda]. Thank Cheney & 43 [former US President [sic] George W. Bush]. Big Brother owns his liberal terrorist arse."
ABC News (Australia), Greens call for details on secret Assange charges, Feb. 29, 2012. 'We will not tolerate his transfer to the United States to face charges that could potentially land him in prison or in a hole like Guantanamo Bay, as David Hicks did, potentially for decades.' The Greens have called on the Federal Government to reveal whether it knew about secret United States charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. An email from staff at private US intelligence agency Stratfor, released by WikiLeaks, refers to an indictment on Assange. "We have a sealed indictment on Assange," said the short email from Stratfor's vice-president of intelligence Fred Burton to analysts at the security firm. The information comes with the request to protect the information and not to publish. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wants Prime Minister Julia Gillard to say whether the Government will defend the Australian against possible extradition to the US.
Professors Blogg, WikiLeaks Claims Secret U.S. Charges Against Assange, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 29, 2012. Andrew Kreig is a regular guest columnist in the Professors blogg.
Professors Blogg, What Julian Assange does with WikiLeaks is not only right. It is morally right, it is ethically right and it is legally right, Jennifer Robinson (right), Feb. 28, 2012. Professors Blog proudly presents a new great contribution by Jennifer Robinson, the acclaimed media and human rights lawyer. She also is a legal adviser of WikiLeaks founder – editor and journalist Julian Assange.
Raw Story, DOJ refuses to confirm Assange indictment revealed by Stratfor leak, Stephen C. Webster, Feb. 28, 2012. The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to comment on whether it has prepared espionage charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, even after emails allegedly stolen from the Austin, Texas firm Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) and published Tuesday revealed that the company claims to have a sealed indictment against him. In an email published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday morning, Stratfor vice president Fred Burton writes that his firm has “a sealed indictment on Assange,” and asks subordinates to “Pls protect” the document, which was labeled “Not for Pub[lication].” In another email, Burton suggests that authorities could “lock him up” by having Assange detained as a material witness. Burton’s email was sent in response to a discussion about reports that U.S. prosecutors have not been able to hang the case against Pvt. Bradley Manning on any direct contact with Assange. Speaking to Raw Story Tuesday morning, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said that they cannot comment “on whether anyone has been charged in a sealed indictment.”
Associated Press / CBS, WikiLeaks publishes emails on private Intel firm, Feb. 27, 2012. WikiLeaks said Monday it was publishing a massive trove of leaked emails from the geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor, shedding light on the inner workings of the Texas-based think tank that bills itself as a leading provider of global intelligence to a range of clients. The online anti-secrecy group said it had more than 5 million Stratfor emails and it was putting them out in collaboration with two dozen international media organizations. The small selection so-far published to WikiLeaks' website gave a rare look at the daily routine at a private Intel firm: One described a $6,000-a-month payment made to a Middle Eastern source, another carried bits of gossip dropped by a retired spook, and many were filled with off-color office banter.
Global Intelligence Files / WikiLeaks, Stratfor Files: McCain for Internal Use (2008), WikiLeaks, Feb. 27, 2012. On Monday February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.
Expressen (Sweden), WikiLeaks: Carl Bildt was a USA informant, Kassem Hamadé and Christian Holmén, Feb. 22, 2012. Translation: WikiLeaks is planning a massive smear campaign against Sweden in order to prevent the Swedish government from agreeing to extradite the organization's frontman Julian Assange to the United States. Internal WikiLeaks documents that Expressen noted said the Wikileaks threatens to publish a previously unknown American diplomatic report that Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was an informant for the U.S. since the 1970s. He will be forced to resign. It may mean the end of his political career, says a person familiar with the Wikileaks material and planning. Carl Bildt, who yesterday was in London, did not respond to Wikileaks accusation. We are awaiting their comments. We want to see what kind of document it is about before we comment, Foreign Ministry's press officer Anders Jörle told Expressen's Niklas Svensson last night.
Business Insider, New WikiLeaks Drop Alleges That Sweden’s Foreign Minister Has Been a U.S. Spy, Adam Taylor, Feb. 22, 2012. WikiLeaks is said to be preparing a release that will allege Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has been a US informant since the 1970s. The news was broken by Swedish newspaper Expressen, which said it has access to an internal Wikileaks memo. The memo says that the allegations are supposedly based on a US diplomat's report, and will be politically explosive. "He will be forced to resign," one source told the paper. Bildt (shown at right with Condolezza Rice) is alleged to have reported to Karl Rove, the former advisor to George W. Bush. Bildt has publicly admitted he meets with Rove but in an informal manner. However, the document reportedly reveals he has acted as an "informer" to the US government since 1973.
Bildt Wikipedia bio: Nils Daniel Carl Bildt KCMG, born in 1949, is a Swedish politician and diplomat. Formerly Prime Minister of Sweden from 1991 to 1994 and leader of the liberal conservative Moderate Party from 1986 to 1999, Bildt has served as Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs since 6 October 2006. He has also been noted internationally as a mediator in the Balkan conflict, serving as the European Union's Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia from June 1995, co-chairman of the Dayton Peace Conference in November 1995 and as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from December 1995 to June 1997 immediately after the Bosnian War. From 1999 to 2001, he served as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Balkans.
Justice Integrity Project, Manning Inquiry Begins With Challenge To Tribunal's Fairness, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 16, 2011. The Article 32 hearing for Private Bradley E. Manning began Dec. 16 at Fort Meade in Maryland with a challenge by the defense team to the fairness of the military proceedings. Manning was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq for suspicion of passing restricted material to WikiLeaks. Counsel for the defense argued that the hearing officer lacks sufficient independence In March 2011, Manning was accused of "aiding the enemy," among other charges. Manning, who turned 24 on Dec. 17, is appearing for the first time to face 22 charges of distributing government secrets. The hearing will determine whether he must stand trial on charges that could imprison him for life. About a hundred news organizations have requested credentials to cover the proceedings, expected to last about a week. A compilation of on-the-scene coverage is excerpted below.
Professors Blogg, Sweden and Pinochet: On torture crimes, extradition lawyers, and politically designed judges, Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Feb. 13, 2012. “U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder does not prosecute U.S. torturers; he prosecutes those who speak out about U.S. torture. Will Julian Assange be next?” says human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, legal advisor to Assange. "The analysis of this blog," Dr. Ferrada de Noli writes, "reviews in similar fashion the historical background of Swedish policy regarding extradition of political prisoners. We revisit the risks as to whether Swedish authorities would give their prospective prisoner Assange -- already accused by high-profile U.S. politicians of being a terrorist -- to the United States. Sweden undertook a shameful and largely hidden policy during and after World War II, for example, to return political refugees to Russia. In 1998, pro-USA Swedish officials declined to support the extradition to face trial in Spain of CIA-installed dictator Augusto Pinochet, then in London and shown at right in a Wikipedia photo. Spain, then as now, asserts universal jurisdiction on crimes involving politically motivated torture and assassination. Spanish authorities documented how Pinochet's forces had inflicted these crimes in Chile on hundreds of political prisoners later living in exile in Sweden, including this author."
Professors blogg (Sweden/Italy), Human Rights concerns regarding the case against Julian Assange, Jennifer Robinson, Dec. 30, 2011. Brief submitted by to the meeting of MPs of the Federal Parliament, at Parliament House, Canberra, discussing extradition aspects in the Swedish case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Editors Note by Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli: Professors blogg proudly presents to the Swedish and international audience the new and much valuable guest column of distinguished human-rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, right. She will now join celebrated American feminist writer Naomi Wolf and the notable Washington attorney and journalist Andrew Kreig – also columnists in the Huffington Post -- with her scholarly and expert opinions on the legal, medical and human rights aspects on important world events, such as now about the Swedish case against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Salon, The intellectual cowardice of Bradley Manning’s critics, Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 24, 2011. Ever since Bradley Manning was accused of being the source for the WikiLeaks disclosures, those condemning these leaks have sought to distinguish them from Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers. With virtual unanimity, Manning’s harshest critics have contended that while Ellsberg’s leak was justifiable and noble, Manning’s alleged leaks were not. One problem for those wishing to make this claim is that Ellsberg himself has been one of Manning’s most vocal defenders, repeatedly insisting that the two leaks are largely indistinguishable. But the bigger problem for this claim is how blatantly irrational it is. As Ellsberg clearly details in this Al Jazeera debate (VIDEO), he — Ellsberg — dumped 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents: the highest known level of classification; by contrast, not a single page of what Manning is alleged to have leaked was Top Secret, but rather all bore a much lower-level secrecy designation. In that sense, President Obama was right: “Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way” — the secrets Ellsberg leaked were classified as being far more sensitive.
Associated Press / Huffington Post, Bradley Manning's Defense Lawyers Employing Three-Pronged Strategy For Alleged WikiLeaks Suspect, David Disneau and Pauline Jelinek, Dec. 20, 2011. The government neared completion of its case against the Army intelligence analyst blamed for the biggest leak of U.S. secrets in American history as the prosecution and defense wrangled over which parts of the proceedings should be public and private.
Washington Post, Bradley Manning’s attorney in WikiLeaks case seeks presiding officer’s recusal, Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 16, 2011. The military pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning opened contentiously Friday, with his defense attorney arguing that the presiding officer lacked the impartiality to render fair judgment in a case growing out of the release of a trove of government secrets to WikiLeaks last year. His attorney said Army Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, a reservist who also works for the Justice Department, could not be unbiased, citing that department’s ongoing investigation of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange. “That simple fact alone, without anything else, would cause a reasonable person to say, ‘I question your impartiality,’ ” the attorney, David E. Coombs, told Almanza, who works in the child exploitation unit of the Justice Department. Almanza rejected a request for recusal after considering it during a recess. He said his unit has no involvement in the case or in national security issues.
FireDogLake, Manning Defense Files Motion Requesting Article 32 Officer Recuse Himself, Kevin Gosztola, Dec. 16, 2011. Manning’s defense lawyer, David E. Coombs, has filed a motion requesting Lt. Col. Paul Almanza recuse himself from his position as the presiding investigative officer over Pfc. Bradley Manning’s Article 32 hearing. Coombs listed four reasons that he says independently support but collectively mandate Almanza recuse himself.
- First, he has served as a career prosecutor with the Justice Department since 2002 and has prosecuted over 20 cases. The DoJ also has an ongoing investigation into the case of Bradley Manning. He alleged the DoJ would like to flip Manning and have him testify against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The Justice Department has also not ruled out taking over the prosecution from the military.
- Second, the government requested twenty witnesses and had all of them granted. They only listed names and no basis for why they would be relevant to the hearing. The defense, on the other hand, submitted a 19-page list of forty-eight witnesses. Ten happened to be on the government’s list and were approved. Only two of the thirty-eight other witnesses, Coombs stated, were approved “to the detriment” of Bradley Manning who is accused of “aiding the enemy,” a charge that carries the death penalty....
BBC, Bradley Manning military hearing begins, Mark Mardell, Dec. 16, 2011. Defence lawyers representing the US Army analyst accused of leaking government secrets have asked the investigating officer to step aside. The hearing offers the first opportunity for his defence team to present their case since he was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and placed in military custody. It is taking place under tight security at an army base at Fort Meade, Maryland. As the hearing opened, Pte Manning's defence team asked for the investigating officer -- equivalent to a judge in a civilian court -- to withdraw from the case, the BBC's North America editor Mark Mardell reports from the base. Pte Manning was reported to be sitting in the courtroom dressed in military khaki and wearing black-rimmed glasses. During the Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a pre-trial hearing, both prosecuting and defence lawyers will make their initial cases and are permitted to cross-examine witnesses.
BBC, At the Scene, Paul Adams, Dec. 16, 2011. For almost everyone present, this is our first glimpse of the man accused of the biggest leak of confidential material in American history. Private Manning (at right in Wikipedia photo in his native Oklahoma) sat in uniform, wearing thick-rimmed glasses, hands clasped before him. In his only remarks so far, he said he understood his rights and confirmed the identities of the one civilian and two military officers representing him. But the focus of attention was the investigating officer.
Manning's civilian lawyer demanded he recuse himself, arguing that as prosecutor for the Department of Justice, Lt Col Paul Almanza works for an organisation actively pursuing a separate case against Wikileaks. Mr Coombs said Lt Col Almanza's decision to reject defence witnesses, as well as the government's alleged reluctance to put forward witnesses to explain the damage done by the leaks suggested Almanza was biased. "Where's the damage? Where's the harm?" Mr Coombs demanded, in an early indication of part of his defence strategy. Lt Col Almanza announced a recess to consider the defence plea. It could last some time.
Fox News, Manning Judge on Trial at WikiLeaks Case Hearing, Justin Fishel, Dec. 16, 2011. Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old soldier accused of providing hundreds of thousands of secret government documents to the website WikiLeaks, appeared publicly Friday at a military courthouse for the first time since being arrested in Iraq 19 months ago. Defense attorney David Coombs touched off an unusual courtroom debate by asking investigating officer Lt.Col. Paul Almanza to recuse himself due to bias. Almanza later refused and the hearing adjourned for the day, but Coombs is trying to put the trial on hold in response. The defense attorney has filed a motion to request a stay before the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, though Almanza plans on proceeding with the hearing Saturday unless he is told otherwise. Coombs claimed Almanza was biased due to his role as a Justice Department prosecutor, and the department's alleged desire to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The government prosecutor, Capt. Ashden Fein, asked Almanza if he had ever dealt with any issues related to WikiLeaks or Manning in his prior role as a Justice Department attorney, a job he left on Dec. 12. Almanza told the court he had no dealings with this case prior to his appointment and that he believed he could be impartial.
Politico, Barack Obama on Bradley Manning: 'He broke the law,' MJ Lee and Abby Philli, April 22, 2011. President Barack Obama’s assertion at a recent California fundraiser that Bradley Manning “broke the law” may have run afoul of presidential protocol, according to legal analysts who have been tracking the case of the Army private charged in the WikiLeaks case. “I have to abide by certain classified information,” Obama said on a video that quickly began to circulate among media outlets Friday. “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law. … We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate. … He broke the law.”
Huffington Post, Spy vs. Spy As Hackers Square Off Over DC Dirty Tricks, Andrew Kreig, Feb.11, 2011. The mainstream media are paying increasing attention to a shocking scandal arising from retribution by pro-WikiLeaks hackers against government contractors apparently trying to sell political dirty tricks services to hurt critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bank of America.
Justice Integrity Project, Rove’s Swedish Connections: The Controversy And The Facts, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 14, 2011. My Huffington Post column in December describing links between Karl Rove and Sweden’s governing party continues to generate controversy. That’s because of implications of Sweden’s all-out effort to capture WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Developments since then illustrate how the Assange law enforcement scandal is similar to many Rove-style political prosecutions in the United States. Among the tell-tale signs are using the media to smear a defendant with pre-trial leaks. These foster an anti-defendant climate in the courts and public, helping to ensure that unfair court procedures won’t generate effective protest by legislators, the media or general public.
Washington Post, Arguments in Assange extradition hearing end; ruling expected Feb. 24, Anthony Faiola and Karla Adam, Feb. 11, 2011. Attorneys for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange insisted in the closing arguments of his extradition hearing Friday that the Swedish arrest warrant against him was not valid, adding that media leaks about the sexual assault allegations against him had created a "toxic atmosphere" that ensured he could not get a fair trial in Sweden.
Birmingham News, George Will wrong about Siegelman, Eddie Curran, Feb. 28, 2012. In a recent column, Washington Post columnist George Will warned that "all elected officials" and "everyone who cares about the rule of law" should hope that the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to consider the appeal filed last month by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. The conservative columnist asserts that, should the court fail to hear and, one supposes, overturn the charges against Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy, then those who seek public office will do so "at their peril" because prosecutors will retain a "dangerous discretion to criminalize politics."
Legal Schnauzer, Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange? Roger Shuler, Dec. 14, 2010. Former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove likely is playing a leading role in the effort to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a source with ties to the justice community tells Legal Schnauzer. Assange was arrested last week in London for alleged sex crimes in Sweden. A lawyer for Assange said Monday that the arrest was a rusedesigned to give the United States more time to build a case against Assange on other charges. The lawyer said a grand jury is being prepared in Washington, D.C., to look into WikiLeaks' activities. Meanwhile, Assange has a court date today in the UK, where he is expected to seek a release on bail.