Apr 17 2019

Julian Assange

tl;dr, I know.

I feel I should state my position up front. I think that Wikileaks performs a valuable service which is fully covered by all the protection the First Amendment offers. I think that Julian Assange is a hero for helping to initiate it and the allegations against him by the Swedes unfounded and probably motivated by anger of the U.S. National Security apparatus over the Chelsea Manning Release.

Didn’t know we shot screaming, fleeing Brown Babies from Helicopters? We do that.

That is merely a discussion on Al Jazeera (which YouTube intrusively reminds me is owned by the Qatari Government which is another one of those Sunni oppressive Shia majority Gulf of Persia countries, one where the U.S. has a huge Naval Base and was blockaded last year by The House of Saud at the behest of Jared Kushner who wanted to extort the Qataris into bailing him out of his Billion Dollar Boondoggle at 666 Fifth Av) of the actual 38 minute video passed by Chelsea Manning to Wikileaks. That video too is hosted on YouTube by Al Jazeera but it’s age restricted because of its brutality and I’m not willing to sign into Google just to watch it, which you can here.

Anyway that’s why Assange ended up in the Ecuadorian Embassy and… he wasn’t exactly a good neighbor. He let his cat crap in the hall, stole the freaking wireless AND the Netflix password, didn’t trim his beard, probably left the toilet seat up too.

What he is charged with now is that he actually actively helped Chelsea Manning steal the files, which, if true, is exactly the same as the Versailles Villagers suggest- a case of actually breaking and entering as opposed to merely distributing the stolen goods which is something The New York Times and Washington Post do all day, every day, 24/7/365.

It is a totally legitimate business practice they share with the National Enquirer which is by the way available if you have some Millions lying around. C’mon, don’t you want to see what’s in the vault?

Some reports (see below) suggest the overt act was simply the suggestion that Manning set up anonymous accounts, recorded in e-mails.

Folks: If you are active on the Internet and are not famous (or Certified and “well respected” in your field) and looking to trade on that to make an argumentum ad verecundiam, set up an anonymous avatar so you don’t get doxxed and trolled. Don’t invest too much time in it and don’t dwell on identifying personal details. I find this a fundamentally harmless piece of advice that everybody knows, or should.

Me? Been the same since April 1, 2005. Obnoxious.

Benedict Arnold

Benedict was born in Norwich and moved to New Haven where he established himself as a rather minor but still relatively well off merchant shipper, pharmacist, and bookseller. Immediately after Lexington and Concord he raised a Company (mostly paid and equipped out of his own pocket) to take part in the Siege of Boston. The problem with that is they didn’t have any cannon capable of taking on the British ships so Arnold took his Company and some other forces, headed north, hooked up with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, captured Fort Ticonderoga and sent its cannons back (courtesy also a bookseller- Henry Knox from Derby, the smallest town in Connecticut) so that when they were placed on Breed’s Hill Boston Harbor was under fire and after a battle where the British could not take the emplacements they withdrew from Boston to Halifax (you shoot the ships which will fall apart and burn and they shoot at a big pile of rocks and dirt).

The next thing he did was gather up Dan Morgan and his Virginia Sharpshooters and head from Arundel (Kennebunkport, Maine) and slog up to Quebec (it was horrible, read Arundel by Kenneth Roberts), meet up with Richard Montgomery (who had already taken Montreal and forced the Canadian Government to retreat to Quebec) and try and cut off Canada.

It was a huge failure that might have worked. Montgomery was killed, Arnold badly wounded, and Morgan captured.

With about 600 men left Arnold laid seige and was later relieved by David Wooster (also from Connecticut). He was terrible and his anti-Catholic bigotry soon made the mostly French population turn against him. By the time he was replaced with John Thomas (Massachusetts) their position was hopeless (an army must swim in the people as a fish swims in the sea) and they had to retreat.

There was also smallpox which claimed Thomas.

Benedict Arnold, somewhat recovered, fought a surprisingly successful retreat down Lake Champlain in little more than rafts of green timber. Ticonderoga was abandoned after a token defense because, well, it didn’t have any cannons left and the British laboriously dragged a Battery or two up an over topping peak so the fortress was under fire.

In 1777 (that didn’t take long, did it?) the grand British Plan was to divide the Colonies along the Hudson and so Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne went dutifully down to capture the headwaters while William Howe, Commander In Chief, sent his forces in New York City…

To Philadelphia.

Now to be fair it was the Colonial Capital and when you capture the Capital you win, right? Not so much. The Continental Congress moved to Lancaster (forgive me, nowhere) and York (also nowhere). Howe had no forces left to send North up the Hudson and so we come to Saratoga.

I’ll not delve too much into details. The Continental forces were under the command of Horatio “Run Away” Gates. Why the “Run Away”? Halfway through the rout at Camden South Carolina in 1780, despite having a superior force numerically, he abandoned his troops and fled the field to Hillsborough, 180 miles away in North Carolina.

Also, before being totally discredited by that debacle, he incessantly schemed against Washington who he thought poorly qualified and wished to replace.

Anyway, at Saratoga 3 years earlier, he was his usual incompetent self and the position was only saved by the independent actions of Arnold, Morgan, and Benjamin Lincoln who was forced to surrender Charleston but later accepted the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

After Burgoyne was defeated Benjamin Franklin was able to leverage that momentum to form active alliances with France and Spain and ultimately the Dutch that made the United States Revolution the Anglo-French War of 1778 and shifted the focus to more lucrative colonial battles in the West and East Indies and the Indian Subcontinent while sucking away resources like ships and troops from America del Norte.

You could call it World War 0 but unless you have broad minded teachers you don’t get that in school.

At this point I think it’s fair to say that Benedict Arnold is as responsible for United States independence as George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, and Dan Morgan.

Arnold was horribly injured again, in the same leg, and was basically a disfigured cripple. His wife died, he was broke, and Washington out of gratitude wangled him a position as Quartermaster. It was a thankless task as Congress would rarely allocate sufficient funds and constantly complained about the disposition of those they did. Arnold was no more inclined to graft than average (Nathaniel Greene was a Saint) but endured constant criticism, which he resented.

He was also flattered by the attentions of his future wife, Peggy Shippen, who was a flat out British spy and cheated on him with Major John André who was the head of the English espionage network in the United States, kind of like Bill Hayden and Anna if you Le Carré.

Benedict engineered an appointment as Commander of the fortress of West Point, not really a flashpoint of conflict but of great strategic significance.

You look at it today and you think it’s not much, a fort on top of a hill, and not a big hill at that, but the business end was the lines and lines of artillery batteries sloping down to the Hudson River protecting the great log boom that prevented British ships from sailing farther without dismantling it under fire or landing assault parties to defeat the defenders. If in British hands it would be 1777 all over again, but done right.

So that’s what Benedict turned over to André for 40 pieces of silver (hah, £20,000 Sterling) and he would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for that meddling Washington who decided to pay a sympathy visit and blew the plot. André hung and Arnold got his money and Peggy and a commission in the British Army where he served indifferently in India.

He is my favorite traitor. I use Quisling as an insult because Vidkun was a weakling bully who was always a coward and never a patriot. If Arnold had died of his wounds at Saratoga he would have been proclaimed a great hero.

Why do I know all this? Connecticut, duh. We do State History here. Oh, and he was able to work and act as a Mason, not that any of this is secret.

So it is with Assange (well, I don’t know about the Masonic part). During his time in Landsberg he developed a severe case of Hillary hate and either under Russian influence or on his own decided to do what he could to prevent her from winning the 2016 election. For me the dispositive proof is that he suppressed equally embarrassing revelations about the Russians and Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio, but Thumb On The Scale doesn’t make you less of a Journalist, National Enquirer.

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits— a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage. It is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as Journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.

The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of Political Journalism in America (is that it) has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between Politicians and Journalists. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms. Objective Journalism is one of the main reasons that American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long.

I am a Journalist. I write a Journal about Politics and stuff and while you may think I’m scum and disagree it’s hard to argue with my assertion since I’ve taken classes and worked for print publications which is better qualification than most. I have transferred to ephemeral photons which is equally protected.

Assange may have a lot to answer for, especially the things they’re not charging him with which is direct conspiracy with the GRU to damage the Clinton Campaign. Unless they amend their indictment to include that they may lose their opportunity to do so and thus any leverage to compel his testimony.

I think overall that this whole sordid affair is indeed a blow both to Press Freedom and Government Credibility. I’m more concerned about the Press Freedom part.

The U.S. Government’s Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom
by Glenn Greenwald, Micah Lee, The Intercept
April 11 2019

The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The charging document and accompanying extradition request from the U.S. government, used by the U.K. police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.

So much of what has been reported today about this indictment has been false. Two facts in particular have been utterly distorted by the DOJ and then misreported by numerous media organizations.

The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation — that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks — is not new. It was long known by the Obama DOJ and was explicitly part of Manning’s trial, yet the Obama DOJ — not exactly renowned for being stalwart guardians of press freedoms — concluded that it could not and should not prosecute Assange because indicting him would pose serious threats to press freedom. In sum, today’s indictment contains no new evidence or facts about Assange’s actions; all of it has been known for years.

The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish.

In other words, the indictment seeks to criminalize what journalists are not only permitted but ethically required to do: take steps to help their sources maintain their anonymity. As longtime Assange lawyer Barry Pollack put it: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

That’s why the indictment poses such a grave threat to press freedom. It characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take in order to conduct sensitive reporting in the digital age.

The U.S. government has been determined to indict Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010, when the group published hundreds of thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables revealing numerous war crimes and other acts of corruption by the U.S., the U.K., and other governments around the world. To achieve that goal, the Obama DOJ empaneled a grand jury in 2011 and conducted a sweeping investigation into WikiLeaks, Assange, and Manning.

But in 2013, the Obama DOJ concluded that it could not prosecute Assange in connection with the publication of those documents because there was no way to distinguish what WikiLeaks did from what the New York Times, The Guardian, and numerous media outlets around the world routinely do: namely, work with sources to publish classified documents.

The Obama DOJ tried for years to find evidence to justify a claim that Assange did more than act as a journalist — that he, for instance, illegally worked with Manning to steal the documents — but found nothing to justify that accusation and thus, never indicted Assange (as noted, the Obama DOJ since at least 2011 was well-aware of the core allegation of today’s indictment — that Assange tried to help Manning circumvent a password wall so she could use a different username — because that was all part of Manning’s charges).

As the New York Times reported late last year, “Soon after he took over as C.I.A. director, [current Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo privately told lawmakers about a new target for American spies: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.” The Times added that “Mr. Pompeo and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions unleashed an aggressive campaign against Mr. Assange, reversing an Obama-era view of WikiLeaks as a journalistic entity.”

In April, 2017, Pompeo, while still CIA chief, delivered a deranged speech proclaiming that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” He punctuated his speech with this threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”

From the start, the Trump DOJ has made no secret of its desire to criminalize journalism generally. Early in the Trump administration, Sessions explicitly discussed the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information. Trump and his key aides were open about how eager they were to build on, and escalate, the Obama administration’s progress in enabling journalism in the U.S. to be criminalized.

Today’s arrest of Assange is clearly the culmination of a two-year effort by the U.S. government to coerce Ecuador — under its new and submissive president, Lenín Moreno — to withdraw the asylum protection it extended to Assange in 2012. Rescinding Assange’s asylum would enable the U.K. to arrest Assange on minor bail-jumping charges pending in London and, far more significantly, to rely on an extradition request from the U.S. government to send him to a country to which he has no connection (the U.S.) to stand trial relating to leaked documents.

Indeed, the Trump administration’s motive here is clear. With Ecuador withdrawing its asylum protection and subserviently allowing the U.K. to enter its own embassy to arrest Assange, Assange faced no charges other than a minor bail-jumping charge in the U.K. (Sweden closed its sexual assault investigation not because they concluded Assange was innocent, but because they spent years unsuccessfully trying to extradite him). By indicting Assange and demanding his extradition, it ensures that Assange — once he serves his time in a London jail for bail-jumping — will be kept in a British prison for the full year or longer that it takes for the U.S. extradition request, which Assange will certainly contest, to wind its way through the British courts.

The indictment tries to cast itself as charging Assange not with journalistic activities but with criminal hacking. But it is a thinly disguised pretext for prosecuting Assange for publishing the U.S. government’s secret documents while pretending to make it about something else.

Whatever else is true about the indictment, substantial parts of the document explicitly characterize as criminal exactly the actions that journalists routinely engage in with their sources and thus, constitutes a dangerous attempt to criminalize investigative journalism.

The indictment, for instance, places great emphasis on Assange’s alleged encouragement that Manning — after she already turned over hundreds of thousands of classified documents — try to get more documents for WikiLeaks to publish. The indictment claims that “discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’”

But encouraging sources to obtain more information is something journalists do routinely. Indeed, it would be a breach of one’s journalistic duties not to ask vital sources with access to classified information if they could provide even more information so as to allow more complete reporting. If a source comes to a journalist with information, it is entirely common and expected that the journalist would reply: Can you also get me X, Y, and Z to complete the story or to make it better? As Edward Snowden said this morning, “Bob Woodward stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.”

Investigative journalism in many, if not most, cases, entails a constant back and forth between journalist and source in which the journalist tries to induce the source to provide more classified information, even if doing so is illegal. To include such “encouragement” as part of a criminal indictment — as the Trump DOJ did today — is to criminalize the crux of investigative journalism itself, even if the indictment includes other activities you believe fall outside the scope of journalism.

Most of the reports about the Assange indictment today have falsely suggested that the Trump DOJ discovered some sort of new evidence that proved Assange tried to help Manning hack through a password in order to use a different username to download documents. Aside from the fact that those attempts failed, none of this is new: As the last five paragraphs of this 2011 Politico story demonstrate, that Assange talked to Manning about ways to use a different username so as to avoid detection was part of Manning’s trial and was long known to the Obama DOJ when they decided not to prosecute.

There are only two new events that explain today’s indictment of Assange: 1) The Trump administration from the start included authoritarian extremists such as Sessions and Pompeo who do not care in the slightest about press freedom and were determined to criminalize journalism against the U.S., and 2) With Ecuador about to withdraw its asylum protection, the U.S. government needed an excuse to prevent Assange from walking free.

A technical analysis of the indictment’s claims similarly proves the charge against Assange to be a serious threat to First Amendment press liberties, primarily because it seeks to criminalize what is actually a journalist’s core duty: helping one’s source avoid detection. The indictment deceitfully seeks to cast Assange’s efforts to help Manning maintain her anonymity as some sort of sinister hacking attack.

The Defense Department computer that Manning used to download the documents which she then furnished to WikiLeaks was likely running the Windows operating system. It had multiple user accounts on it, including an account to which Manning had legitimate access. Each account is protected by a password, and Windows computers store a file that contains a list of usernames and password “hashes,” or scrambled versions of the passwords. Only accounts designated as “administrator,” a designation Manning’s account lacked, have permission to access this file.

The indictment suggests that Manning, in order to access this password file, powered off her computer and then powered it back on, this time booting to a CD running the Linux operating system. From within Linux, she allegedly accessed this file full of password hashes. The indictment alleges that Assange agreed to try to crack one of these password hashes, which, if successful, would recover the original password. With the original password, Manning would be able to log directly into that other user’s account, which — as the indictment puts it — “would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information.”

Assange appears to have been unsuccessful in cracking the password. The indictment alleges that “Assange indicated that he had been trying to crack the password by stating that he had ‘no luck so far.’”

Thus, even if one accepts all of the indictment’s claims as true, Assange was not trying to hack into new document files to which Manning had no access, but rather trying to help Manning avoid detection as a source. For that reason, the precedent that this case would set would be a devastating blow to investigative journalists and press freedom everywhere.

Journalists have an ethical obligation to take steps to protect their sources from retaliation, which sometimes includes granting them anonymity and employing technical measures to help ensure that their identity is not discovered. When journalists take source protection seriously, they strip metadata and redact information from documents before publishing them if that information could have been used to identify their source; they host cloud-based systems such as SecureDrop, now employed by dozens of major newsrooms around the world, that make it easier and safer for whistleblowers, who may be under surveillance, to send messages and classified documents to journalists without their employers knowing; and they use secure communication tools like Signal and set them to automatically delete messages.

But today’s indictment of Assange seeks to criminalize exactly these types of source-protection efforts, as it states that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks to transmit classified records containing information related to the national defense of the United States.”

The indictment, in numerous other passages, plainly conflates standard newsroom best practices with a criminal conspiracy. It states, for instance, that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used the ‘Jabber’ online chat service to collaborate on the acquisition and dissemination of the classified records, and to enter into the agreement to crack the password […].” There is no question that using Jabber, or any other encrypted messaging system, to communicate with sources and acquire documents with the intent to publish them, is a completely lawful and standard part of modern investigative journalism. Newsrooms across the world now use similar technologies to communicate securely with their sources and to help their sources avoid detection by the government.

The indictment similarly alleges that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks, including by removing usernames from the disclosed information and deleting chat logs between Assange and Manning.”

Assange is a deeply polarizing figure. That’s almost certainly why the Trump DOJ believes that it could get away with indicting him based on a theory that would clearly endanger core journalistic functions: because it hopes that the intense animosity for Assange personally will blind people to the dangers this indictment poses.

But far more important than one’s personal feelings about Assange is the huge step this indictment represents in the Trump administration’s explicitly stated goal to criminalize journalism that involves reporting on classified information. Opposition to that menacing goal does not require admiration or affection for Assange. It simply requires a belief in the critical importance of a free press in a democracy.

Yeah, inserting a boot device that loads another OS almost always works provided it supports the target file system. Is this a flaw? Without the ability it is rarely possible to recover data from a damaged drive and that happens all the time, it’s my second most frequent task as a technician.

Having a day gig doesn’t make me less of a Journalist either. Artists need food on the table like everyone else, otherwise we starve and play music on street corners and paint horrible pictures of Elvis on black velvet.