One avenue by which the United States could press charges against Julian Assange appeared to have closed Monday, with US military officials’ admission that they can’t find a link between the WikiLeaks founder and PFC Bradley Manning, the alleged source of WikiLeaks’ State Department cables.
News reports late last year indicated that the US was trying to build a criminal conspiracy case against Assange through evidence that he aided Manning when the Army private allegedly copied more than a quarter million classified State Department cables onto CD and walked away with them.
But according to military officials who spoke to NBC News, the US has failed to find evidence proving that link:
The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.
The news appears to jibe with what Assange himself has said. In an interview with ABC News, Assange said he had “never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press.”
Assange added that WikiLeaks technology was designed such that sources of leaked information remain anonymous even to WikiLeaks itself. “That is, in the end, the only way the sources can be guaranteed that they remain anonymous, as far as we are concerned.”
Without a link to Manning, the US can’t charge Assange with conspiracy under the Espionage Act. The only clear path towards prosecution left would be to charge Assange directly with disseminating secret US information — the first time a non-governmental employee would be charged directly under the Espionage Act.
Critics see that option as politically distasteful, because the law could just as easily be applied in the same way to the New York Times, which worked with WikiLeaks last year to release the State Department cables. US media have a long tradition of publishing classified government information, and traditionally it has been the government employees who leaked the information, and not the reporters who disseminated it, who have been charged.
Thus, prosecuting Assange in this way could alienate and antagonize the US media establishment.
OFFICIALS DENY MANNING MISTREATED
US military officials also denied to NBC News that Manning is being mistreated in US custody at the brig at Quantico.
Many observers have said Manning’s pre-trial detention — which sees him in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day — is a form of torture, perhaps designed to break his will before the trial.
Officials told NBC News Manning’s treatment is standard for any maximum security detainee at the facility.
They did, however, note that the brig commander “did not have the authority” to place Manning on “suicide watch” last week.
Manning was temporarily confined to his cell, stripped of his clothing and denied his reading glasses for several days last week when the suicide watch was in effect. The watch was quickly dropped after Manning’s lawyer filed a complaint.
‘Fox News is eating her brain’: Columnist describes drastic measures to get her mom to take COVID-19 seriously
New York Times columnist Kara Swisher had an incredibly hard time getting her mother to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously -- and she says that Fox News is primarily to blame.
In her latest column, Swisher said that her mother for the past few weeks largely kept going about her daily life as though there weren't a deadly pandemic raging across the country. Swisher became so concerned for her mother's safety that she frantically called and texted her to the point where her mother told her to knock it off.
Florida Democrats beg Gov. Ron DeSantis to ignore the White House and issue stay-at-home order
More than a dozen Florida lawmakers called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to lock down the state to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned Americans that social distancing must continue for at least several more weeks to space out the number of cases so patients don't overwhelm hospitals, and 13 Democratic lawmakers asked DeSantis to issue a stay-at-home order, reported WFLA-TV.
Colorado mayor faces furious backlash after dismissing coronavirus concerns and daring someone to spit in his mouth
The mayor of the Colorado city of Longmont is under fire from residents for comments he made at last Wednesday’s Longmont City Council work session while discussing the city's coronavirus response.
According to the Times-Call, Mayor Brian Bagley, who has spoken out against lockdowns and the closing down of non-essential businesses, chose some colorful language to express his belief that low-risk people should risk exposing themselves to the virus.