The Assange prosecutors’ clever strategy

The U.S. Department of Justice cleverly Julian Assange is conspiracy to commit computer hacking—not violation of the Espionage Act.

This means that he would not face the possibility of execution or life imprisonment, as would have been possible under the Espionage Act.  The maximum penalty he faces is five years in prison.  Also, he would get a trial in a civil court and not before a secret military tribunal.

But it also makes his extradition more certain.  UK prosecutors promised President Moreno of Ecuador that Assange wouldn’t be extradited to a country with the death penalty.  The United States has the death penalty, but extraditing him to be tried for computer hacking rather than espionage could be seen as a way to keep this promise.

It also means Assange’s lawyers wouldn’t be able to raise the issue of abuse of the Espionage Act as a vehicle for censorship..

I say all this conditionally because there is a strong possibility that additional charges will be added later.

Update.  The following language is found in Article 18 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty of 2003:

Rule of Specialty

1. A person extradited under this Treaty may not be detained, tried, or punished in the Requesting State except for:

(a) any offense for which extradition was granted, or a differently denominated offense based on the same facts as the offense on which extradition was granted, provided such offense is extraditable, or is a lesser included offense;

This would seem to protect Assange from the government piling on additional charges.  But wait.  There’s an escape clause.

(c) any offense for which the executive authority of the requested state waives the rule of speciality and thereby consents to the detention, trial or punishment.

The treaty also forbids extradition for political offenses.  But it doesn’t define political offenses.  I don’t know how political offenses are defined by British law.



Assange Arrest and Extradition Roundup by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.  Excellent information and many good links.

Text of the indictment of Julian Assange.

Text of the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty of 2003.

The Next Woodward and Bernstein Could Go to Jail by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin.

The Legal Narrative That’s Being Used to Extradite Assange by Caitlin Johnstone.

The UK Blurring Two Very Different Extradition Claims by Jonathan Cook for Consortium News.  [Added 4/22/2019]

Assange Sentenced to 50 Weeks on Bogus Bail Charge by Caitlin Johnstone.  [Added 5/1/2019]

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4 Responses to “The Assange prosecutors’ clever strategy”

  1. Fred Says:

    Very clever. The question becomes if he actually did anything that could be considered hacking.

    But it is also better for Assange. He’s not going to die or spend the rest of his life in prison. That matters. If convicted and sentenced to 5, he could be out in 2 years.


  2. Susan Pfeiffer Says:

    Hi Phil. I am new to blogging so forgive my fumbles.
    Have you researched Bill Binney, former NSA technical director who resigned rather than be complicit in wholesale spying on Americans —and the rest of the world.
    If he is telling the truth (and I believe he is) this matter is the tip of the iceberg that is sinking our democracy.
    William Barr confirmed to Congress this week that indeed the Trump campaign was monitored (my word—the term bugging is old verbiage for what’s going on now).
    According to Binney, a single FIASA warrant allows them to monitor “two hops”. That means that the folks that Page was talking to (hop one) and the folks THEY are talking to (hop two) are all covered under Page’s FIASA warrant. And the NSA has all of the data going back at least 15 years.
    My goal in starting a blog is to air these truths which our corporate media will not cover. Traditional investigative journalism is dead.


    • philebersole Says:

      I wish you good success with your new blog! I don’t have any reason to doubt Bill Binney, but I haven’t looked into the “two hop” FISA warrant or written anything about it.


  3. electqualfiedmiddleclass Says:

    Well, perhaps we should be saying that Assange was not clever when he hacked US military secrets with the help of a US military person and he hacked democratic files that helped Trump to be elected.


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