Hacking Dirty Government Secrets Is Not a Crime

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British goon cops acting at the request of the United States government entered Ecuador’s embassy in London, dragged out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and prepared to ship him across the pond. After this event last month most of the mainstream media reacted with spiteful glee about Assange’s predicament and relief that the Department of Justice had exercised self-restraint in its choice of charges.“Because traditional journalistic activity does not extend to helping a source break a code to gain illicit access to a classified network, the charge appeared to be an attempt by prosecutors to sidestep the potential First Amendment minefield of treating the act of publishing information as a crime,” reported a pleased The New York Times.

At the time, the feds had accused Assange of hacking conspiracy because he and Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning allegedly discussed how to break into a Pentagon computer.

Bob Garfield of NPR’s “On the Media,” a veteran reporter who should and probably does know better, was one of many establishmentarians who opined that we needn’t worry because Assange isn’t a “real” journalist.

This being the Trump Administration, self-restraint was in short supply. It turns out that the short list of Assange charges was a temporary ploy to manipulate our gullible English allies. Now Assange faces 17 additional charges under the Espionage Act and a finally-concerned Times calls it “a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues” and “a case that could open the door to criminalizing activities that are crucial to American investigative journalists who write about national security matters.”

Corporate media’s instant reversal on Assange—from rapist scum to First Amendment hero within minutes—elevates self-serving hypocrisy to high art. But that’s OK. Whatever gets Assange closer to freedom is welcome—even the jackals of corporate media.

May we linger, however, on an important point that risks getting lost?

Even if Assange were guilty of hacking into that Pentagon computer…

Even if it had been Assange’s idea…

Even if Manning had had nothing to do with it…

Even if Trump’s DOJ hadn’t larded on the Espionage Act stuff…

 Assange should not have faced any charges.

Included in the material Manning stole from the military and posted to WikiLeaks were the “Afghan War Logs,” the “Iraq War Logs,” files about the concentration camp at Guantánamo and the “Collateral Murder” video of the U.S. military’s 2007 massacre of civilians in Baghdad.

For the sake of argument let’s assume that Assange, without Manning, had personally hacked into a Pentagon computer and in doing so discovered proof that U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were guilty of war crimes, including torture and the mass murder of civilians for fun—and put that evidence of criminal wrongdoing online. Would Assange deserve a prison term? Of course not. He would merit a medal, a ticker-tape parade, a centrally-located handsome statue or two.

Even if Assange were “guilty” of the hacking charges, so what? The “crime” of which he stands accused pales next to the wrongdoing he helped to expose.

Good Samaritan laws protect people who commit what the law calls a “crime of necessity.” If you save a child from your neighbor’s burning house the police shouldn’t charge you with trespassing. Similarly if the only way to expose government or corporate lawbreaking is to steal confidential documents and release them to the press à la Edward Snowden, you should be immune from prosecution. That principle clearly applies to the materials Manning stole and Assange released as a public service to citizens unaware of the misdeeds committed under their name and at their expense.

Even among liberals it has become fashionable to observe that people who engage in civil disobedience must be prepared to face legal punishment. This is a belief grounded in practicality: individuals who confront the state need to understand that theirs will be a difficult struggle.

Over the past few decades, however, what was common sense has become perverted into a bizarre justification for oppression: Snowden/Assange/Manning/Winner violated laws, they knew what they were doing, that’s the risk they took, and so—this is the weird part—the Left need not defend them.

Yes, these whistleblowers knew (or ought to have known) that they risked prosecution and prison time. But that’s the way things are, not the way they ought to be. The project of a Left must be to fight for society and politics as they should be, not to blandly shrug our shoulders and accept the status quo. Laws should be rewritten to protect whistleblowers like Manning and journalists like Assange who expose official criminality.

Whistleblowers should never face prosecution.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


33 thoughts on “Hacking Dirty Government Secrets Is Not a Crime

  1. He [i e, Julian Paul Assange] would merit a medal, a ticker-tape parade, a centrally-located handsome statue or two.

    That on the assumption that we live in a rational world, Ted. Nothing in our five and a half millennia of recorded history leads me to believe that this is case….


  2. I was mightily impressed when Assange leaked all those files about Afghanistan and Iraq. I do not believe he should be prosecuted for that, regardless of how the information was acquired.

    The military’s response was hilarious – “he gave information to the enemy.” Who, exactly is the enemy here? The Afghans already knew what was going on, they had front row seats. It was the American People who needed to hear that which the military didn’t want them to hear. (Although, many of us were already aware that the US wasn’t playing nice with others.)

    So it saddened me to learn that my idol had feet of clay …. or rather bullshit.

    Even if you believe the silly-assed “Bernie Bro with a thumb drive” fable, Assange had the DNC leaks before the Dem Convention. He could have used that info to help Bernie, instead he used it to help Trump.

    With that one dick move, he showed himself not to be a modern Diogenes, but rather a Machiavelli. He released some of the data within hours of the infamous Access Hollywood tape trying to upstage that revelation. He allegedly had dirt on Republicans, but didn’t release that.

    He’s a partisan, selectively using his knowledge to further an agenda.

    “The best way to lie is to tell the truth, but not all of it.” – Lazarus Long’s grandfather.

    But it’s even worse than that, as Mueller has texts between Wikileaks and DJTJR suggesting a lie be told about Hillary (that she’d ordered drone strikes against Assange.)

    Between half-truths and outright lies, it’s obvious that we can no longer trust Assange or Wikileaks.

  3. Readers here would be advised to keep in mind that that so-called «silly-assed “Bernie Bro with a thumb drive” fable» as our foul-mouthed troll chooses to call it, is vouched for by people like William Edward Binney, whose credibility, I submit is greater than that of this troll and Robert Swan Mueller put together…. 😉


  4. And so the bait has been taken. If someone would like to post a link to the original silly-assed report, I’ll happily shred it – but here it is from memory.

    Not all of members of the group endorsed their conclusions, and several have since recanted.

    Their entire mountain-from-molehill was based on “metadata” that “proved” when the files were downloaded. First Problem: if Bernie Bro did it, he would have to be logged in to the network. Further, in order to access someone else’s emails he’d need admin access. All we have to do is examine the security logs to see what admins were logged on at the time: and we nab the perp. Done deal. Yet, this hasn’t happened.

    The self-proclaimed experts say that the internet doesn’t go fast enough “especially when pushing data across the Atlantic.” Okay, so these experts have never heard of “the cloud”? OF COURSE you don’t push it across the Atlantic in one swell foop. Upload it to Amazon S3, either us-east-1 or us-east-2, THEN you push it across the Atlantic. Any junior web-dev worth his salt can tell you that, but the ‘experts’ can’t??!!

    The experts have evidently never heard of “file compression” either – their numbers assume that the data was streamed uncompressed. Again, any junior web-dev can suggest much a more efficient means. SMTP is basted on 7-bit ASCII, you can absolutely compress the shit out of it. Moreover, the timestamps on the files inside the ZIP file would be the times that the files were downloaded from the server – not the time they were transmitted/written to thumb drive.

    The experts assumed USB 3.0 since neither 1 nor 2 are fast enough. But even today, it’s difficult to find a thumb drive that writes at anywhere near that speed. So BB would need 1) a state-of-the-art drive and 2) a USB 3.0 port on the computer. (oh, and the security log would show when it was mounted as well)

    Nor have they heard of using multiple threads to speed upload (hmmm, maybe that’s closer to ‘senior web-dev’ but still well within the range of ‘expert’)

    So, that’s my analysis based on pre-Mueller data. Today, the feds have the actual malware binaries used to do the dirty work and the emails used to get it in the door. They’ve also got texts between the Dastardly Russian hackers and Wikileaks.

    Of course, Assange has *told* us that he got it from a Bernie Bro, but as we now know he’s been exposed as a liar with an agenda, I don’t give that a lot of credence.

  5. Pingback: Hacking Dirty Government Secrets Is Not a Crime - LA Progressive

  6. I note that the silly-arsed troll has commented on its silly-arsed claim that the release of the DNC documents was not the result of a leak via a thumb drive, but rather a hack by those dastardly Russians. That a foul-mouthed silly arse maintains a silly-arsed theory hardly comes as a surprise…. 😉


      • I note that the only counter arguments offered are ad hominem attacks and whining about ad hominem attacks.

        It would certainly be a refreshing change if someone would care to discuss my post rather than my person.

        But in order to do so, one would need to actually have a counter argument…

  7. The Fake News had better protect bearers of true news if they intend to continue the practice of their deceits in service to power by now touting rule of law under the protection of the First Amendment, by answering to the rule of law, instead of to the rule of men (as is their history of answering to such men as these who will always come into positions of rule).

    There may not be any right to free speech under this defunct constitution, but the act of acting AS IF there were a right to free speech will make the support of those defending their rights a force to be contended with by these rulers of men.

    Nixon was deterred from nuking Vietnam by people who acted AS IF they had a right to free speech.

    There is no right without DEMAND for that right by living, breathing persons acting AS IF that right actually existed as more than a marketing ploy used by the powerful.

  8. I note that our silly-arsed, foul-mouthed troll, as usual, shows itself incapable of understanding an argument which doesn’t coincide with its prejudices ; instead it whinges that it, poor innocent troll, has been unfairly attacked. Quelle surprise ! Nor is it surprising that its Latin is not the best ; when it comes to trolls like itself, the term is not ad hominem, which requires a degree of membership in H sapiens sapiens in the object, but rather ad monstrum…. 😉


    • uhhh, henri?

      I made three points:

      1) Assange’s release of Afghan/Iraq data is whistleblowing and not a crime.

      2) Assange screwed us by helping Trump instead of helping Bernie.

      3) I blew your “argument which doesn’t coincide with its prejudices” out of the water, using facts, logic, and a solid understanding of the underlying technical principles. (this “prejudice” is shared by many experts who have offered up similar analyses, also based on facts, logic, and solid understanding of the underlying technical principles.)

      Your responses, in order are:

      1) Readers here would be advised to keep in mind that that so-called «silly-assed “Bernie Bro with a thumb drive” fable» as our foul-mouthed troll chooses

      2) I note that the silly-arsed troll has commented on its silly-arsed claim that the release of the DNC documents

      3) I note that our silly-arsed, foul-mouthed troll, as usual, shows itself incapable of understanding

      I note that on this thread, I have not once called you names; while you have not made one response which didn’t consist entirely of calling me names.

      That would imply that you are incapable of understanding either the argument or the counter argument. Feel free to prove me wrong, using, you know – facts, logic, and a solid understanding of the underlying technical principles.

  9. «Note, that on this thread, I have not once called you names» Our favourite – or at least most persistent – silly arsed, foul-mouthed troll would perhaps care to deny making obscene and repugnant remarks about one of my parents ? Given the fact that it has, time and time again shown itself to be a liar and coward, perhaps, indeed, it will do just that….



    • Whenever I quote someone, I find it helps to *read* the quote before posting it. In this case, the phrase “on this thread.” A quick review will show that I have not insulted *anyone’s* parents on this thread.

      However, this is the fourth time you have directly insulted my person on this thread.

      Ad hominem attacks: 4
      whining about ad hominem attacks: 4
      facts: 0
      logic: 0
      understanding: 0

      But since you asked, I have indeed insulted your mother on other threads. In fact, I did such a good job of it that you’re still whining about it a year later. #DamnImGood

      And now that that’s settled, would you care to comment on my posts instead of my person?

  10. As our favourite silly-arsed, foul-mouthed, and not least, rather stupid troll continues to befoul this forum, let me point out that its whinging about being the object of entirely accurate derision can hardly be justified by saying that it hasn’t gratuitously insulted others – and their parents, about whom it know even less than it does about the majority of matters on which it deigns to comment – on just this thread ; it has done so on the forum of which this particular thread constitutes a part. One might want to consider it the epitomé of the political situation obtaining in the country in which it resides ; nothing is ever its own fault ; instead the poor thing is always being put upon by those dastardly and nefarious Others…. 😉

    As to the substance of its comments, it has both here and on other threads demonstrated its utter inability to grasp arguments which don’t correspond to its prejudices. So what else is new ?…



    • ad hominem attacks: 5
      whining about ad hominem attacks: 5
      facts: 0
      logic: 0
      understanding: 0

      comments on my post rather than on my person: 0

  11. To CH:

    Re: your comment below ” … Assange had the DNC leaks before the Dem Convention. He could have used that info to help Bernie, instead he used it to help Trump.”

    The 2016 DNC national nominating convention began on 25 July 2016.

    The DNC emails were published on 22 July 2016, according to wikipedia referencing SF Bay Area CBS.

    To wit: “On 22 July 2016, WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 e-mails and over 8,000 attachments from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the U.S. Democratic Party. The leak includes emails from seven key DNC staff members, and date from January 2015 to May 2016. The collection of emails allegedly disclose the bias of key DNC staffers against the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. WikiLeaks did not reveal their source.”

    Note, This was BEFORE the convention and therefore was released in ample time “to help Sanders” contrary to your claims, quoted above. I suggest the rate limiting step was Sanders himself, not Assange.

    The Podesta emails were released in Oct 2016. They revealed essentially nothing regarding Sanders..

  12. https://consortiumnews.com/2019/06/05/after-assanges-espionage-act-indictment-police-move-against-more-journalists-for-publishing-classified-material/

    “Following the arrest and Espionage Act indictment of Julian Assange a number of police actions against journalists for publishing classified information and other journalistic activity has heightened fears among mainstream journalists that they could be next.

    “Police in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday raided the offices of the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, copying thousands of files related to a 2017 ABC broadcast that revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.”

    Following the lead of the US, the elimination of war crimes (from the media) now begins in earnest.

  13. To CH

    1) Re my attacking your post rather than your person: this is quite a condescending, noisome and hypocritical comment coming from the person who called me a goldfish.

    2) Re your allegation that Assange’s motive was specifically to help the then Herr Hair rather than to hinder Clinton. In the rigid, decrepit, US, 2-party system it is impossible to help one candidate without simultaneously harming the other. Attempting to make a meaningful issue by presuming otherwise, is pure folly.

    3) Re your barrage of essentially meaningless, irrelevant and/or contradictory links:

    It appears now since RTP©-gate has fizzled, that Assange is the fall guy of preference. Except now the complaint is what was NOT done. Your list of links lacks any support for your lament that Assange HAD “dirt” on GOP, much less that he should have leaked it. Nor is there any evidence that Wikileaks had any pre/election dirt on the then Herr Hair.

    As to the specific posts:

    A) Tweet: Assange quite accurately explained why Clinton should not have been president. The tweets began before the Dem primaries began when the best guess was that HRC would be the candidate. Any Assange tweets about Sanders from the beginning of primaries to 22July2016?

    When Sanders established himself as a credible challenger, Assange acted consistently with his opinion of HRC by releasing the DNC emails before the convention. And he continued after Sanders balked/caved. Your concern is better concentrated on the ideology of the US media (as diametrically opposed to journalists) that gave an estimated several hundred billion $$$ of free coverage to the then Herr Hair.

    B) FBI says Russia hacked GOP emails: I see nothing in this article referring to WikiLeaks nor Assange. Therefore, there was no information for Assange to have held back, for which you falsely condemn him. You do presume, not surprisingly, that Russia had(s) a direct link to Wikileaks AND, of course, that if it could hack the GOP it MUST have also hacked the DNC. If the HRC corps had anything to to with DNC cyber security, a motivated 5-year-old could have easily hacked it. (But, since you brought it up, when WILL the FBI demand the DNC servers?)

    C)Re: Wikileaks turns down emails from Russian government.
    ” ‘As far as we recall these are already public,’ WikiLeaks wrote at the time.” These emails must have either been old news and/or uniquely uninteresting if no other outlet ended up with it, like the execrable Guardian, as follows, for example.

    D) Ah, yes. the Guardian. It has been correctly accused of making false claims against Assange and was shamed into amending one article (wiki re Guardian). Further, as mouthpiece, and guardian, of the previous empire, it currently thinks His Hairness is meddling in UK affairs. Apparently it has lost its collective memory on the perks of empire. May we assume that the Guardian is as sanctimoniously outraged about the UK company Cambridge Analytica meddling in the US election?

    E) You should have continued to forget the Podesta emails and/or read my posts in their entirety or at least read the article you have offered. From that article: the contents of the Podesta emails were
    i) Clinton’s Wall Street Speeches
    ii) Discussions of Catholic religious activities
    iii) Presidential debate questions shared by Donna Brazile
    iv) Saudi Arabia and Qatar
    The word “Sanders” appears nowhere in the article. As I stated above, the Podesta articles say NOTHING about the DNC election fraud, contrary to your assertion. So it and the date of its release is irrelevant to your claims.

    • falco, you share a trait with a certain psupposed psychiatrist. To wit, you seem to be unable to distinguish between an attack and a retaliation.

      I offer the same olive branch to everyone: you talk nice, I talk nice. I thanked you for talking nice, and you replied with insults. What kind of response do you expect?

      You’re obviously making an effort, so let’s try again. If you would be so kind as to repost the above minus the snark, I will be happy to address your concerns.

      Deal or no deal?

    • «I offer the same olive branch to everyone: you talk nice, I talk nice.» Falco, our silly-arsed, foul mouthed – and rather stupid – troll does think rather well of itself, does it not ? Should it refer to an interlocutor as a «goldfish» or cast obsene aspersions on a parent to one who had the temerity to disagree with its infallible analysis of the Russian takeover of the US executive branch, why rather than that requiring an apology on its part, instead it’s merely a demonstration of its victimhood and how greatly it has been put upon. Like the land in which it resides, it always comes in peace and nothing is ever its own fault….

      Disgsuting – but entirely predictable….


  14. @henri

    I propose a truce. From the time of this post forward, I’ll talk nice if you’ll talk nice. Note that this means we wipe the board clean, no one has ever said anything derogatory about anyone else.