Julian Assange: US court filing hints at charges for …

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 19, 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was behind a massive dump of classified US documents in 2010, has been charged in the United States, WikiLeaks said on November 15, 2018.(Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS, AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON Federal prosecutors may be preparing criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to media reports.

A federal prosecutor in Virginianamed Assange twice in a court filing in August for an unrelated case concerning a man accused of coercing a minor for sex. The prosecutor was attempting to keep the unrelated caseunder seal.

Noting the sophistication of the defendant, aprosecutor wrote a judgein the filing that no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged, The Washington Postreported.

The newspaper reported that Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer in the Eastern District of Virginia told the judge that the possible charges need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.

Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Eastern District of Virginiasaid the court filing was made in error.

On Twitter, WikiLeaks described the disclosure as an apparent cut-and-paste error.

Seamus Hughes, Deputy Director ofthe Program on Extremism at George Washington University, found the filing and posted part of it on Twitter Thursday night.

To be clear, seems Freudian, its for a different completely unrelated case, every other page is not related to him, EDVA just appears to have Assange on the mind when filing motions to seal and used his name,” Hughes said in a tweet.

Assange, 47, currently lives in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on rape allegations. The investigation was dropped last year, but Assange still faces charges in Britain for skipping bail.

The Australian national has decided to remain in the embassy out of fear that the United States would immediately seek his arrest and extradition over the leaking of classified documents to WikiLeaks by then-U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning.

WikiLeaks is also the focus of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections by distributing hacked materials.

Contributing: Doug Stanglin and the Associated Press.

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Julian Assange: US court filing hints at charges for …

Julian Assange charged in secret, mistake on US court …

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whose disclosure of secret documents has angered American authorities for the past eight years, has been criminally charged in secret by the US justice department, a court filing has indicated.

The court filing, submitted apparently in error by US prosecutors in an unrelated case, mentioned criminal charges against someone named Assange even though that was not the name of the defendant.

Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuadors embassy in London since seeking asylum in 2012, has long been under investigation by US law enforcement agencies for publishing classified diplomatic cables and other secret government records.

The 47-year-old Australian is also ensnared in the investigation into Russias interference in the 2016 US election, due to his websites publication of tens of thousands of emails stolen by Russian hackers from Hillary Clintons presidential campaign and other Democrats.

One of Assanges attorneys, Barry Pollack, said late on Thursday that it would be a dangerous path for a democracy to take for a government to bring criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information.

The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed, Pollack said in an email.

Earlier on Thursday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US was making preparations to prosecute Assange and was confident of being able to detain him and make him stand trial.

The court filing, written by assistant US attorney Kellen Dwyer, did not specify the nature of any charges against Assange. It was submitted to the federal court in the eastern district of Virginia, which handles many cases involving national security.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has been investigating WikiLeaks for publishing the emails taken from Democrats in 2016, disrupting Clintons campaign. US intelligence agencies concluded the emails were taken by Russian government hackers as part of an operation aimed at helping the campaign of Donald Trump.

But the group has also been under scrutiny for years for its publication of troves of US government data, including hundreds of thousands of files taken by Chelsea Manning, the former soldier jailed for almost seven years.

The mistaken court filing was a motion asking the court to seal charges, meaning they are shielded from public view. It argued that due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.

It later said: The complaint, supporting affidavit and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.

Legal analysts said the error was likely to have been caused by prosecutors copying and pasting from sealed documents outlining charges against Assange. Prosecutors are known to copy text from past court filings to make similar arguments in new cases, typically changing names and other relevant details accordingly.

Assange and his supporters have frequently claimed US authorities were already prosecuting him in secret. WikiLeaks said on Twitter that the filing reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

A spokesman for the Justice Department in Virginias eastern district would not directly address the question of whether the document meant Assange had already been charged by the US.

The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing, the spokesman, Joshua Stueve, said in an email.

WikiLeaks published more than 50,000 Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign, beginning with a batch taken from the partys servers that was dumped online shortly before its national convention in July 2016. The leak prompted the resignation of the partys chairwoman and disrupted Clintons campaign. WikiLeaks later published more emails taken from the account of Clintons campaign chairman, John Podesta.

Assanges group featured in Muellers indictment in July of a group of Russian hackers accused of carrying out the email thefts but was not charged itself. Identified only as organization 1, it was accused of receiving the stolen emails from the Russian operatives after exchanging messages.

The July indictment said WikiLeaks urged the Russians to give them the first batch of stolen emails in the days before the Democratic convention so it could publish them in a way that would have a much higher impact than what you are doing. The filings did not, however, say whether Assanges group knew it was dealing with Kremlin-backed operatives.

The mistaken court filing was first noticed on Thursday by Seamus Hughes, an academic at Georgetown University and former US government official. It was filed in the case of a man named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi. It was submitted to court in Kokayis case in August this year and was initially sealed. The reason for its unsealing was unclear.

Kokayi, 29, is charged with coercing a 15-year-old girl to have sex with him and to give him pornographic images, and with sending her a video of him masturbating.

But prosecutors told the court that investigators also collected sensitive information relating to national security as part of the case. They told the court last week that they intend to use evidence gathered via electronic surveillance.

A handwritten note on a filing in the case said Kokayis father-in-law had been convicted of terrorism charges and accused Kokayi of having a substantial interest in terrorist acts.

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Julian Assange charged in secret, mistake on US court …

Julian Assange Is Secretly Charged in U.S., Prosecutors …

WASHINGTON The Justice Department has secretly filed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, a person familiar with the case said, a drastic escalation of the governments yearslong battle with him and his anti-secrecy group.

Top Justice Department officials told prosecutors over the summer that they could start drafting a complaint against Mr. Assange, current and former law enforcement officials said. The charges came to light late Thursday through an unrelated court filing in which prosecutors inadvertently mentioned them.

The court filing was made in error, said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorneys office for the Eastern District of Virginia. That was not the intended name for this filing.

Mr. Assange has lived for years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and would have to be arrested and extradited if he were to face charges in federal court, altogether a multistep diplomatic and legal process.

The disclosure came as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is investigating links between President Trumps associates and Russias 2016 election interference. WikiLeaks published thousands of emails that year from Democrats during the presidential race that were stolen by Russian intelligence officers. The hackings were a major part of Moscows campaign of disruption.

Though the legal move against Mr. Assange remained a mystery on Thursday, charges centering on the publication of information of public interest even if it was obtained from Russian government hackers would create a precedent with profound implications for press freedoms.

[Mr. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for years. Heres how he got there.]

Mr. Assange has been in prosecutors sights for years because of WikiLeakss publication of thousands of secret government documents. Mr. Assange and his upstart website rose to prominence when Chelsea Manning, a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst, handed over thousands of classified Pentagon and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, which began publishing them in 2010.

Barry Pollack, an American lawyer representing Mr. Assange, denounced the apparent development.

The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed, Mr. Pollack wrote in an email. The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.

Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at George Washington University who closely tracks court cases, uncovered the filing and posted it on Twitter.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to say on Thursday what led to the inadvertent disclosure. It was made in a recently unsealed filing in an apparently unrelated sex-crimes case charging a man named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi with coercing and enticing an underage person to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Mr. Kokayi was charged in early August, and on Aug. 22, prosecutors filed a three-page document laying out boilerplate arguments for why his case at that time needed to remain sealed.

While the filing started out referencing Mr. Kokayi, federal prosecutors abruptly switched on its second page to discussing the fact that someone named Assange had been secretly charged, and went on to make clear that this person was the subject of significant publicity, lived abroad and would need to be extradited suggesting that prosecutors had inadvertently pasted text from a similar court filing into the wrong document and then filed it.

Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged, prosecutors wrote.

They added, The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.

The Justice Department has been studying how to charge Mr. Assange or WikiLeaks with some kind of criminal offense since the site began publishing its trove of secret military and diplomatic documents. Prosecutors, for example, toyed with the idea of charging Mr. Assange as a conspirator in Ms. Mannings crime of unauthorized disclosure of secrets related to national defense. And it eventually became public that a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia was investigating people with links to WikiLeaks.

But even as the Obama administration brought criminal charges in an unprecedented number of leak-related cases, it apparently held back from charging Mr. Assange. Members of the Obama legal policy team from that era have said that they did not want to establish a precedent that could chill investigative reporting about national security matters by treating it as a crime.

Their dilemma came down to a question they found no clear answer to: Is there any legal difference between what WikiLeaks was doing, at least in that era, from what traditional news media organizations, like The New York Times, do in soliciting and publishing information they obtain that the government wants to keep secret?

And such organizations, including The Times, have published many news articles based on documents that WikiLeaks published starting in 2010, including tranches of logs of significant combat events in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic cables leaked by Ms. Manning, and the Democratic emails in the 2016 election that were hacked by Russia.

The debate over whether to charge Mr. Assange continued under the Trump administration and was being accelerated by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to former government officials involved in the discussions, about whether Mr. Assange qualified as a journalist.

Charges against Mr. Assange raised the question of whether the Justice Department abandoned concerns about setting a precedent that would chill press freedoms after WikiLeakss role in Russias 2016 election interference and its publication of documents about C.I.A. hacking tools, or whether prosecutors decided that the new circumstances raised by the publication of the stolen emails opened a new legal avenue.

While prosecutors in the Manning era were focused on WikiLeakss publication of classified government documents activity that they analyzed primarily through the lens of the Espionage Act the Democratic emails were not government documents or national security secrets.

In July a month before the erroneous court filing Mr. Mueller charged 12 Russians with several crimes related to hacking and disseminating the emails as part of a foreign conspiracy to interfere in the election, which that indictment styled in part as a conspiracy to defraud the United States. Part of that indictment referred to WikiLeaks, which it identified as Organization 1.

In order to expand their interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the conspirators transferred many of the documents they stole from the D.N.C. and the chairman of the Clinton campaign to Organization 1, the July indictment said, referring to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. The conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, discussed the release of the stolen documents and the timing of those releases with Organization 1 to heighten their impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Mr. Stueves explanation about the inadvertent filing left open the possibility that the language in the unrelated court document was lifted from a draft document written in preparation for eventual charges, not necessarily one handed up by a grand jury and sealed by a court.

Mr. Assange became something of a cult figure for those advocating greater transparency in government and in the corporate world. The prominence of WikiLeaks also generated a debate about the boundaries of journalism and the protections of free expression in the digital age.

At the same time, Mr. Assange was pursued by Swedish prosecutors on charges of sexual abuse ultimately forcing him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in the summer of 2012. He has remained there since.

In October, Mr. Assange sued the Ecuadorean government for limiting his visitors and online activity.

WikiLeaks has been attacked for its publication of the hacked Democratic emails. In April 2017, the C.I.A. director at the time, Mike Pompeo, called it a hostile intelligence service that was aided by Russia and accused Mr. Assange of making common cause with dictators.

Mr. Hughes, the terrorism expert, who is the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, posted a screenshot of the court filing on Twitter shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Mr. Assange.

You guys should read EDVA court filings more, Mr. Hughes wrote, cheaper than a Journal subscription.

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Julian Assange Is Secretly Charged in U.S., Prosecutors …

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, appears to have ‘been …

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears to have been charged with a federal crime, according to newly discovered court documents filed by federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia.

The revelation was inadvertently included in documents filed in an unrelated case in August. It was not immediately clear what Assange has been charged with.

U.S. Attorney Kellen Dwyer filed a motion to seal a criminal complaint in a sex crime case in August. Within the report, while arguing for the specific details of the ongoing case to remain sealed, the complaint made mention of “Assange.”

In urging a federal judge to keep that unrelated case sealed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen Dwyer wrote: “Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

Dwyer apparently failed to alter Assange’s name in the document so it applied to the newer, unrelated case.

The WikiLeaks founder’s first name is not written in the document, but his last name was mentioned again later, regarding possible evasion or avoidance of arrest in the matter.

“The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” Dwyer wrote.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the court filing was “made in error.”

“That was not the intended name for this filing,” the spokesperson said.

An attorney for Assange told ABC News he has been given “no notice” of charges.

It is inexplicable that the government would file in a public document a claim that Mr. Assange has been charged when no notice has been given to Mr. Assange, Assange’s attorney Barry Pollack said.

Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought asylum and has lived for years, after facing sexual assault allegations in Sweden. Sweden dropped the investigation into the alleged offenses in 2017, but Assange still faces possible fears of extradition.

The mention of Assange’s name comes as investigators with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, continue their probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. That year, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails from Democrats, which officials said had been stolen by Russian operatives.

ABC News’ Ali Dukakis contributed to this report.

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Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, appears to have ‘been …

What is Bitcoin? (v2)

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What is Bitcoin? (v2)

Edward Snowden’s digital maneuvers still stumping U.S …

WASHINGTON The U.S. government’s efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden’s sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs, government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information Snowden viewed or downloaded.

The government’s forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden’s apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

The disclosure undermines the Obama administration’s assurances to Congress and the public that the NSA surveillance programs can’t be abused because its spying systems are so aggressively monitored and audited for oversight purposes: If Snowden could defeat the NSA’s own tripwires and internal burglar alarms, how many other employees or contractors could do the same?

In July, nearly two months after Snowden’s earliest disclosures, NSA Director Keith Alexander declined to say whether he had a good idea of what Snowden had downloaded or how many NSA files Snowden had taken with him, noting an ongoing criminal investigation.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told the AP that Alexander “had a sense of what documents and information had been taken,” but “he did not say the comprehensive investigation had been completed.” Vines would not say whether Snowden had found a way to view and download the documents he took without the NSA knowing.

In defending the NSA surveillance programs that Snowden revealed, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told Congress last month that the administration effectively monitors the activities of employees using them.

“This program goes under careful audit,” Cole said. “Everything that is done under it is documented and reviewed before the decision is made and reviewed again after these decisions are made to make sure that nobody has done the things that you’re concerned about happening.”

The disclosure of Snowden’s hacking prowess inside the NSA also could dramatically increase the perceived value of his knowledge to foreign governments, which would presumably be eager to learn any counter-detection techniques that could be exploited against U.S. government networks.

It also helps explain the recent seizure in Britain of digital files belonging to David Miranda the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in an effort to help quantify Snowden’s leak of classified material to the Guardian newspaper. Authorities there stopped Miranda last weekend as he changed planes at Heathrow Airport while returning home to Brazil from Germany, where Miranda had met with Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker who has worked with Greenwald on the NSA story.

Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence contractor, was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii before leaking classified documents to the Guardian and The Washington Post. As a system administrator, Snowden had the ability to move around data and had access to thumb drives that would have allowed him to transfer information to computers outside the NSA’s secure system, Alexander has said.

In his job, Snowden purloined many files, including ones that detailed the U.S. government’s programs to collect the metadata of phone calls of U.S. citizens and copy Internet traffic as it enters and leaves the U.S., then routes it to the NSA for analysis.

Officials have said Snowden had access to many documents but didn’t know necessarily how the programs functioned. He dipped into compartmentalized files as systems administrator and took what he wanted. He managed to do so for months without getting caught. In May, he flew to Hong Kong and eventually made his way to Russia, where that government has granted him asylum.

NBC News reported Thursday that the NSA was “overwhelmed” in trying to figure what Snowden had stolen and didn’t know everything he had downloaded.

Insider threats have troubled the administration and Congress, particularly in the wake of Bradley Manning, a young soldier who decided to leak hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents in late 2009 and early 2010.

Congress had wanted to address the insider threat problem in the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, but the White House asked for the language to be removed because of concerns about successfully meeting a deadline. In the 2013 version, Congress included language urging the creation of an automated, insider-threat detection program.

2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Edward Snowden’s digital maneuvers still stumping U.S …

Press statements | Courage Snowden

Edward Snowden was elected as rector of Glasgow University in March this year and inaugurated on 23 April. This week, he gave the official welcome for incoming students at the 2014 Freshers Address by video link. In a short address that was enthusiastically received by its audience, Edward Snowden made it clear that he would be taking his duties as rector seriously, and would be more involved in student affairs then many expected when he was elected.

A video and transcript follows below.

Thank you, thank you very much. Im really not used to this warm a welcome! In many places Im not welcome at all.

First off, Id like to congratulate you all and thank you for all of the support I have received from the university. I was elected largely to send a message and there was a great expectation that I would end up being a non-working rector.

But things have developed. Over the past year, weve learned a lot about the world, a lot about our governments, and its that key principle that times are changing, and theyre not changing on their own. Theyre being changed because of the efforts of individuals around the world, and the efforts of individuals at this university.

What we discovered was that governments around the world had been watching us. Theyve been keeping us under surveillance. Theyve been monitoring what we read, what we do, what our affiliations are, who our friends are, what were interested in and, critically, what our areas of academic research are.

But the message that youve tried to send and that were all sending together is that now were watching the government. We as the public are taking our seat back. Just as I, as rector of this university, will do my best to make sure that all serious issues are brought to me. That Ill work with the student representative council to understand and champion [these issues, which] will be brought to the highest levels of attention in the university administration. And Ill do whatever I can to ensure your interests are served, no matter what.

Now, theres only so much I can do without being physically present at the university, but I want to expand and improve upon that day by day, month by month, year by year. Im working very hard to get the installation of new telepresence equipment that can be used not just by myself but by other members of the university community, ideally. To make sure we have a more open, integrated, diverse and communicative society at the university, a better community then weve had before. And were aware of whats going on, not just in our own lives, but in the communitys lives.

So again Id like to thank you all and Id like to say that if you have any concerns, any questions, anything I can do to help, please make sure to bring it to me personally, please make sure to bring it to the student representative council.

And remember that, no matter what, no matter what the costs are, no matter what odds you face, everybody at this university, everybody in this room, everybody in this world has the opportunity to contribute to substantive and meaningful change. You can change the world by yourself, on your own, facing even the greatest and most intimidating, most powerful organisations with the greatest funding in the world. But more importantly, what one individual can do is nothing compared to what we can all do together.

So I encourage you to remember that, no matter what, there are always friends out there. there are always organisations that are able to amplify and magnify your impact. And remember the value of cooperation.

So thank you very much and welcome to Glasgow University

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Press statements | Courage Snowden

Endless Lemons Chelsea Manning Medium

(Left to right) Naomi Colvin, Nathan Fuller, Carey Shenkman, Grace North, and Yan Zhu. Photo by Gabriella Coleman.

As read by Yan Zhu on July 24, 2016, Hope Conference 2016, New York, NY.

First, Id like to thank you all for your warm love and strong support over the years. You never cease to amaze me with how truly extensive and long-lasting your support has been, and I am always hearing about your messages being posted on social media.

In just the last few weeks, I have needed you all more than ever. It has been a roller coaster for me.

I just filed my appeal a few months ago, where I have asked the judges to dismiss all charges or give me a shorter sentence based on: the harsh solitary confinement conditions before my trial, the admission of vague evidence for sentencing, the lack of evidence on charges of theft of information, the vagueness of the definition of exceeding authorized access under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the lack of proof by the government that the disclosures actually harmed the United States national security or diplomatic interests.

This last May, I saw my friend Yan for the first time in nearly seven years. If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask her. It was great to see her again and be reminded of all my friends in the tech community.

Today, as is obvious in some of the headlines that we see onlinewe are in a constant technological arms race, and I think that its important to realize that we are always only a single breakthrough away from making the methods of network obfuscation and encryption pointless or unusable.

While I agree that its unlikely, it certainly is well within the realm of possibility that we might wake up tomorrow morning and find out that some truly brilliant or devious mathematician or mathematicians have solved the Riemann Hypothesis, throwing entire regions of our encryption arsenal into turmoil. Or, we might wake up and find out that a powerful quantum computer with near perfect error correction has been built, effectively accomplishing the same thing.

Its important to keep our encryption safe in the post-quantum world. Luckily, you dont need to be a quantum math or quantum computer expert in order to be able design stronger algorithms to protect our current encryption methods against quantum attacks. These algorithms are classical, and dont require any kind of complex understanding of anything quantum. We can let the PhDs deal with that.

I am putting together a collection of materials on this topic, and I thought perhaps we could all explore this together during this years Aaron Swartz Day Hackathons.

Using SageMath, an open source python-like mathematics software system, I am hoping to start things off with a generic construct that anyone can easily start working from.

Id like to leave you with a little bit of Sage wisdom from my own life experience so far:

If life gives you endless lemons, then raise capital, industrialize your process, market aggressively, expand everywhere, and totally dominate the lemonade industry.

Much love,

Chelsea

You can work towards improving my situation, by donating to my defense fund, writing me a letter, and following my accounts on Twitter and Medium.

Originally posted here:
Endless Lemons Chelsea Manning Medium

The West is Failing Julian Assange Consortiumnews

While the media focused on Julian Assanges cat rather than his continuing arbitrary detention, evidence shows that Britain worked hard to force his extradition to Sweden where Assange feared he could then be turned over to the U.S., as Stefania Maurizi explains.

By Stefania MauriziSpecial to Consortium News

Lets start with the cat. You never would have thought one of these beloved felines would play a crucial role in the Julian Assange case, would you? And yet look at the latest press coverage. The mainstream medias headlines werent about a man who has been confined to a tiny building in the heart of Europe for the last six years with no end insight, they were about orders from Quito to feed his cat. There you have a man who is at serious risk of being arrested by the UK authorities, extradited to the U.S. and prosecuted for his publications. A man who has been cut off from any human contact, with the exception of his lawyers, and whose health is seriously declining due to prolonged confinement without even an hour outdoors. Considering this framework, wasnt there anything more serious to cover than the cat?

But theres a story to be told behind Assanges cat. One of the last times I was allowed to visit Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, before the current government of Lenin Moreno cut off all his social and professional contacts, I asked the founder of WikiLeaks whether his cat had ever tried to escape from the embassy given that, unlike his human companion, he can easily sneak out of the building without the risk of being arrested by Scotland Yard.

Assange didnt take my question with the lightness with which it was intended, quite the opposite, he became a bit emotional and told me that when the cat was small, it had in fact made some attempts to escape from the building, but as it had grown, it had become so accustomed to confinement that whenever Assange had tried to give thecat to some close friends so the animal could enjoy its freedom, it showed fear of wide open spaces. Confinement has a deep impact on the behavior and health of all creatures, animal and human.

Strength

I have worked as a WikiLeaks media partner for the last nine years, and over these nine years I have met Assange many, many times, but only once did I meet him as a free man: that was back in September 2010, the very same day the Swedish prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for allegations of rape. Initially he was under house arrest with an electronic bracelet around his ankle, then he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19, 2012. Since then he has remained buried in that tiny embassy: a depressing building, very small, with no sunlight, no fresh air, no hour outdoors. In my country, Italy, even mafia bosses who strangled a child and dissolved his corpse in a barrel of acid enjoy an hour outdoors. Assange doesnt.

In these last eight years, I have never heard Julian Assange complain evenonce: at least in my presence, he has always reacted to the enormous stress he has been under with strength and whenever I have contacted his mother, Christine Assange, she has never wished to discuss the details of her personal feelings and concerns about the conditions of her son.

But for all his strength, this harsh situation is seriously undermining Assanges physical and mental health. In an op-ed in The Guardian last January , three respected physicians, Sondra S. Crosby, Chris Chisholm and Sean Love, tried to draw attention to this problem, yet nothing has changed. Assange remains buried in the embassy in extremely precarious conditions due to the complete lack of cooperation from the UK authorities which have always refused to offer him safe passage to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.

This lack of cooperation from the UK authorities which can be reasonably interpreted as a deliberate effort to make Assange feel helpless, to break him down, so hell step out of the embassy and they can arrest him has helped create this Catch-22 situation, with Ecuador attempting various options to find a solution, like giving Assange diplomatic status so he can leave the embassy protected by diplomatic immunity. But at the end of the day there is very little a small country like Ecuador can do, and with Lenin Moreno in power, Ecuadors interest in protecting Assange seems to be fading to the extent that Ecuador is considering stripping Assange of his Ecuadorian citizenship, one of the most important shields protecting the WikiLeaks founder from extradition to the U.S..

The UKs Special Interest?

Having spent the last 3 years fighting in four jurisdictions Sweden, the UK, Australia and the U.S. to access the full documentation on the Assange and WikiLeaks case under FOIA, I have acquired a few documents which leave no doubt as to the role played by UK authorities in contributing to create the legal and diplomatic quagmire which is keeping Assange confined to the embassy. Why have the UK authorities done this? What special interest, if any, do they have in the Assange case?

I mention a special interest because documents reveal that from the very beginning of the Swedish case, the UK authorities advised the Swedish prosecutors against the only investigative strategy that could have led to a quick solution of the preliminary investigation against Assange: questioning the WikiLeaks founder in London rather than extraditing him to Stockholm. It was this decision to insist on extradition at all costs that led the Australian to take refuge in theEcuadorian embassy, fighting tooth and nail, convinced that if extradited to Sweden he could end up extradited to the U.S.

Documents reveal that the UK authorities referred to the Assange case as not an ordinary one from the very beginning. Please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request, they wrote on January 13, 2011 to the Swedish prosecutors. A few months later, a UK official added: I do not believe anything like this has ever happened, either in terms of speed or in the informal nature of the procedures. I suppose this case never ceases to amaze. What is specialabout this case? And why did the UK authorities keep insisting on extradition at all costs?

At some point even the Swedish prosecutors seemed to express doubts about the legal strategy advocated by their UK counterpart. Emails between UK and Swedish authorities I have obtained under FOIA show that in 2013 Sweden was ready to withdraw the European Arrest Warrant in light of the judicial and diplomatic paralysis the request for extradition had created. But the UK did not agree with lifting the arrest warrant: the legal case dragged on for another four years, when finally on the May 19, 2017, Sweden dropped its investigation after Swedish prosecutors had questioned Assange in London, as he had always asked.

Although the Swedish probe was ultimately terminated, Assangeremains confined. No matter that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention established that the WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. TheUK, which encourages other states to respect international law, doesnt care about the decision by this UN body whose opinions are respected by the European Court of Human Rights. After trying to appeal the UNdecision and losing the appeal, Britain is simply ignoring it. There is no end in sight to Assanges arbitrary detention.

Silence and Suspicion

There are two more suspicious elements: the fact that the UK authorities destroyed the emails regarding the Assange case, as they admitted in my litigation before the UK Tribunal, and the fact that they have always refused to provide me with any information as to whether they have communicated with the U.S. authorities on the Assange case, because they sustain that confirming or denying it would tip Assange off as to the existence or non of an extradition request from the U.S..

If there is or will be an extradition request from the U.S., the UK authorities want to be able to extradite Julian Assange for his publications just like any other criminal.

The risk of an editor or publisher being extradited for his publications should raise red flags and public debate in our democratic societies, yet we dont see any debate at all.

Julian Assanges situation is very precarious. His living conditions within the embassy have become unsustainable, and his friends speak as if there is no hope: When the U.S. gets Julian, they say, as if it is a foregone conclusion that the U.S. will get him and no journalist, no media, no NGO, no press association will do anything to prevent it.

In the last six years that Assange has been languishing in the embassy, not a single major Western media has dared to say: we shouldnt keep an individual confined with no end in sight. This treatment of Julian Assange by the UK and, more in general, by the West is not only inhumane, but counterproductive.

In these years, the Russian state-funded network RT has continued to cover the Assange case intensely. It isnt hard to understand why Russia is so ecstatic about the Assange case. The case provides Russia with the evidence to affirm that while the West is always preaching freedom of the press and aggressive journalism, it in fact crushes journalists and journalistic sources who expose state abuse at the highest levels. Chelsea Manning spent seven years in prison, Edward Snowden was forced to leave his country and seek asylum in Russia, Julian Assange has spent the last six years confined to a tiny building and in seriously deteriorating health. Its time to stop this persecution.

Stefania Mauriziworks for the Italian dailyLa Repubblicaas an investigative journalist, after ten years working for the Italian newsmagazinelEspresso. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents, and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden files about Italy. She has also interviewed A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, revealed the condolence payment agreement between the US government and the family of the Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto killed in a US drone strike, and investigated the harsh working conditions of Pakistani workers in a major Italian garment factory in Karachi. She has started a multi-jurisdictional FOIA litigation effort to defend the right of the press to access the full set of documents on the Julian Assange and WikiLeaks case. She authored two books:Dossier WikiLeaks. Segreti ItalianiandUna Bomba, Dieci Storie,the latter translated into Japanese. She can be reached atstefania.maurizi@riseup.net

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