warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Bradley Manning's Ties To Julian Assange Face Justice Department Scrutiny

Paresh Dave |
December 15, 2010 | 7:22 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Attorney General Eric Holder under pressure to make an example of Assange, but needs to build a better case.
Attorney General Eric Holder under pressure to make an example of Assange, but needs to build a better case.
Was Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning's decision to leak hundreds of thousands of classified government documents somehow influenced by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?

That's a question federal prosecutors are now looking into as they figure out what crime they could possibly charge Assange with, even though Manning hasn't even been convicted of anything yet--let alone be charged with a crime.

Reports the New York Times:

Since WikiLeaks began making public large caches of classified United States government documents this year, Justice Department officials have been struggling to come up with a way to charge Mr. Assange with a crime. Among other things, they have studied several statutes that criminalize the dissemination of restricted information under certain circumstances, including the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.

But while prosecutors have used such laws to go after leakers and hackers, they have never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information for passing it on to others — an activity that can fall under the First Amendment’s strong protections of speech and press freedoms.

Because of those past failures, the Justice Department would rather nail Assange for being a co-conspirator--a much more direct charge.

Their best public evidence appears to be Manning's infamous chat with computer hacker Adrian Lamo, which was published by Wired.

Attorney General Eric Holder is under pressure from the Pentagon, Congressional leaders and others in the federal administration to take down Assange, hopefully deterring others from acting with such brazen disregard for diplomatic secrecy.

For his part, Manning is still not cooperating with investigators. He's been indefinitely detained since May and is in solitary confinement in Virginia.

Assange is in jail in Britain for at least another day. British prosecutors have appealed a judge's decision to grant him $310,000 bail. A hearing is set for about 3:00 a.m. PST Thursday.

At the bottom of their article, the New York Times also notes WikiLeaks, on its website, has changed several sentences describing its operation. The moves show a motivation to position WikiLeaks as a news organization rather than a whistleblower haven.

Reach executive producer Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.