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Dec 20 2010

Karl Rove Behind Push To Prosecute Julian Assange?

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Roger Shuler is a former journalist who, according to his bio at OpEdNews lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and works in ‘higher education’.

Shuler goes on in his bio there to say that “I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are all Republicans, and the attorney who filed a fraudulent lawsuit against me has strong family ties to the Alabama Republican Party, with indirect connections to national figures such as Karl Rove. In fact, a number of Republican operatives who have played a central role in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (a Democrat) also have connections to my case”. Shuler is also author of his blog Legal Schnauzer, where he asked on December 14 Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange?

Today over at RawStory, David Edwards writes that “Former Bush political strategist Karl Rove may be connected to a Swedish effort to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, sources for several legal experts suggest” and that “Rove is a longtime adviser to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who recently tapped the Republican operative to aid his 2010 reelection campaign”:

Speaking to Legal Schnauzer’s [Roger] Shuler, an unnamed source suggested that Rove is likely “playing a leading role in the effort to prosecute” Assange. The founder of the secrets website was arrested Dec. 7 in London after Sweden issued a warrant for alleged sex crimes

After Assange’s release on bail, Guardian obtained and published leaked details of the allegations against him. A WikiLeaks source told The Australian that the leaked police reports were “a selective smear through the disclosure of material.”

And there’s no coincidence that the charges against Assange originate in Sweden, Shuler’s source said.

For at least 10 years, Rove has been connected to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik. More recently, Fredrik, who is known as “the Ronald Reagan of Europe,” has contracted Rove to help with his 2010 re-election campaign.

Rove was said to have fled to Sweden during the prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, who believes his prosecution to have been politically motivated.

“Clearly, it appears that [Rove], who claims to be of Swedish descent, feels a kinship to Sweden . . . and he has taken advantage of it several times,” the source added.

Shuler’s source speculated that Rove could be trying to protect the Bush legacy from documents that WikiLeaks may have. “The very guy who has released the documents that damage the Bushes the most is also the guy that the Bush’s number one operative can control by being the Swedish prime minister’s brain and intelligence and economic advisor.”

Following up on Shuler’s report, Washington, DC legal reform advocate Andrew Kreig noted a “reliable political source” in citing Rove’s Swedish connection.

“This all has Karl’s signature,” the source said. “He must be very happy. He’s right back in the middle of it. He’s making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he’d like – and screwing his opponents big-time.”

Kreig is a Washington, DC-based commentator, and currently is Executive Director of the Justice Integrity Project – “Investigating Selective Prosecutions”, from where his Huffington Post article Edwards refers to in his RawStory article originated. Kreig continues in his article to say that:

These days, Sweden and the United States are apparently undertaking a political prosecution as audacious and important as those by the notorious “loyal Bushies” earlier this decade against U.S. Democrats. The U.S. prosecution of WikiLeaks, if successful, could criminalize many kinds of investigative news reporting about government affairs, not just the WikiLeaks disclosures that are embarrassing Sweden as well as the Bush and Obama administrations. Authorities in both countries are setting the stage with pre-indictment sex and spy smears against WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange, plus an Interpol manhunt.

“This all has Karl’s signature,” a reliable political source told me a week and a half ago in encouraging our Justice Integrity Project to investigate Rove’s Swedish connection.  “He must be very happy. He’s right back in the middle of it. He’s making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he’d like – and screwing his opponents big-time.”

[snip]

Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Shuler, a pioneer in covering the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, beat me to the story about Rove’s Swedish work in his Dec. 14 column, “Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange?”  But a big part of our role as web journalists should be following up on each other’s work.  Shuler is an expert on how Rove-era “Loyal Bushies” undertook political prosecutions against Democrats on trumped up corruption charges across the Deep South, including against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state’s leading Democrat.

[snip]

Rove denies improper involvement in Siegelman’s prosecution, and has not yet responded to my inquiry about Sweden. For reader convenience, I’ll note that his memoir Courage and Consequence published this year contains no mention of Sweden or his client Reinfeldt. Rove’s book also denies that he was forced from the White House over the firing scandal, or that he had any improper role in the Siegelman case.

Whether or not Rove advised Sweden on how to go after Assange, the WikiLeaks revelations have brought into plain view dramatic opinions that often cross our conventional political divisions.

Kreig closes with:

Defenders of WikiLeaks tend to see more commitment to democracy in fighting for liberties in the United States than in overseas military actions to fight “terror.” In varying ways, Arianna Huffington, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Parry and Scott Horton argue compellingly that information allowing the public to oppose our Mideast wars is the real problem authorities have WikiLeaks, and that spy conspiracy charges that should be baseless under our law endanger all investigative reporting on national security issues, not simply WikiLeaks. Such threats against the First Amendment coincide with broken Obama campaign promises on a host of other justice system issues.

So why does the Obama administration treat Rove and his GOP allies with kid gloves? Why are so many in the conventional media so passive to threats to our historic due process and First Amendment freedoms? A thorough answer requires at least a separate column for documentation. For now, let’s just say that a lot of opponents of WikiLeaks seem to be in a big bed together, shouting:

“Terror! Terror! Terror! — Fear! Fear! Fear!”

Charlie Savage writing at The New York Times December 15 pointed out that “Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information”:

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.

Last week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said he had just authorized investigators to take “significant” steps, declining to specify them. This week, one of Mr. Assange’s lawyers in Britain said they had “heard from Swedish authorities there has been a secretly impaneled grand jury” in northern Virginia.

Justice Department officials have declined to discuss any grand jury activity. But in interviews, people familiar with the case said the department appeared to be attracted to the possibility of prosecuting Mr. Assange as a co-conspirator to the leaking because it is under intense pressure to make an example of him as a deterrent to further mass leaking of electronic documents over the Internet.

Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment Jack M. Balkin dissected this DOJ ‘initiative’ a little further the next day on December 16 in his aptly titled post Wikileaks and the Mayflower Hotel with:

Journalists are not merely passive recipients of information they receive from their sources. It make take weeks of negotiations (and rounds of drinks at the Mayflower Hotel) to get a source to agree to provide sensitive information, and work out the details of the disclosure. Agreements not to reveal a source who provides sensitive information are just that, agreements. If prosecutors wanted to, they would argue that such agreements were part of a conspiracy to leak classified information under the Espionage Act or related statutes.

The Justice Department might try to distinguish the two cases by seeking to prove that Assange had offered to provide technical assistance to Manning to gain access to the computer system, or provided Manning with software or programming skills. The problem is that this distinction isn’t much of a difference. Traditional investigative journalists may assist their sources in other ways besides giving them hacking software. They may, for example, make it easier for them to transmit sensitive information or help them store or transmit the information. They may smooth things over for their sources or encourage them to disclose in countless ways.

[snip]

Journalists should be very worried about the conspiracy theory that the Justice Department is considering. It puts them (and their jobs) in serious danger.

And where does all this lead? Perhaps Pepe Escobar was somewhat prohetic in his  Emperor Waits In Wings With Waterboard:

And to top it off we have Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama’s administration pulling out all stops in its extra-judicial blitzkrieg on WikiLeaks. The fact that WikiLeaks broke no US law is of course irrelevant.

The emperor badly needs to set an example: see what happens when you defy my will. Yet the US Department of Justice’s strategy doesn’t exactly embody Kant’s categorical imperative. They will try by all means necessary to force Manning to testify against Assange – and then charge Assange as a conspirator in “cablegate” and the Iraq and Afghan file leaks.

In a nutshell: the Obama administration is about to criminalize investigative journalism. And criminalize good journalism, period. Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin has stressed that “the conspiracy theory also threatens traditional journalists as well”. And all this by applying tortuous logic worthy of the Bush era: “OK, let’s make a deal with this American geek who leaked the bloody thing so we can nail that bloody foreigner who put it on the net.”

The US government is out to waterboard Wiki. We’re all about to get drowned.

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