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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/4/17

FBI Director Hints At Arresting Assange If He Weren't In Ecuador Embassy

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Reprinted from shadowproof.com by Kevin Gosztola

FBI Director James Comey offered some of the clearest indications yet that the United States government remains committed to prosecuting WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. He stated WikiLeaks is an "important focus" of intelligence agencies.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey attempted to distinguish WikiLeaks from outlets like the New York Times or the Washington Post. He acknowledged the First Amendment rights journalists have in the U.S. while arguing WikiLeaks does not engage in journalism.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse asked Comey why Assange has not been charged with a crime. Comey did not want to confirm whether there were charges pending but came pretty close by saying Assange "hasn't been apprehended because he's inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London."

Assange has been in the Ecuador embassy under asylum since August 2012. He has claimed that he fears if he went to Sweden to face allegations related to sexual assault claims he will be extradited from Sweden to the U.S. The Swedish claims against Assange have kept him in limbo. The testimony from Comey essentially affirms concerns that many of WikiLeaks' fiercest critics have treated as unfounded.

"Nothing That Even Smells Journalist"

Sasse went above and beyond to create a moment where the FBI director could argue WikiLeaks is a threat to the United States, not a "journalistic outfit."

SASSE: There is a room for reasonable people to disagree about what point an allegedly journalistic organization crosses a line to become some sort of a tool of foreign intelligence. There are Americans, well-meaning thoughtful people, who think that WikiLeaks might just be a journalistic outfit. Can you explain why that is not your view?

COMEY: I want to be careful that I don't prejudice any future proceeding. It's an important question because all of us care deeply about the First Amendment and the ability of a free press to get information about our work and publish it. To my mind it crosses a line when it moves from being about trying to educate a public and instead becomes about intelligence porn.

Just pushing out information about sources and methods without regard to interests, without regard to the First Amendment values that normally underlie press reporting and simply becomes a conduit for the Russian intelligence services or some other adversary of the United States just to push out information to damage the United States. And I realize reasonable people struggle to draw a line but surely there's conduct that's so far to the side of the line that we can all agree that there is nothing that even smells journalist about some of this conduct.

Referring to the release of emails from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and Democratic National Committee documents, Comey previously stated, "We assess [WikiLeaks] used some kind of cutout. They didn't deal directly with WikiLeaks, in contrast to DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0."

But whether the government has any clear evidence of a "cutout" with ties to Russian intelligence is called into question by officials like Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who testified, "The WikiLeaks connection, evidence there is not as strong , and we don't have good insight into the sequencing of the releases or when the data may have been provided."

Assange claims, "We have said clearly that our source is not a member of the Russian state. And even the U.S. government is not suggesting that our source is a member of the Russian state."

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com
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