United States Attorney general Jeff Session said the country was stepping up its efforts against leaks and that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was now a “priority.” While U.S. policy toward Assange still has many guessing, reports are now circulating that the U.S. has already drawn up charges against the whistleblower.
“This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of,” Session said in a press conference on Thursday. “We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.”
“So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,” the attorney general added.
According to CNN, the U.S. has prepared charges with the aim of arresting Assange and is trying to navigate the difficult legal territory around freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
Sources close to CNN said that under the Obama administration, former Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice deemed that bringing charges against the Australian national would be too difficult.
Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack told CNN that the Department of Justice had not indicated to him that there were charges against Assange and were despite repeated ongoing requests were “unwilling to have any discussions at all.”
“There’s no reason why WikiLeaks should be treated differently from any other publisher,” Pollack said.
Session comments add to increasingly hostile rhetoric against WikiLeaks from the Trump administration. CIA director Mike Pompeo recently referred to the organization and its staff as “demons.”
“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” said Pompeo. “Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an Embassy in London. He’s not a US citizen.”
Assange embarrassed Washington by leaking 500,000 secret military files related to U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as revealing information about U.S. spy programs. He was also seen, though many say unfairly, as a factor that led to Hillary Clinton’s defeat to Trump in last year’s presidential election.
Weeks out from his shocking election win, Trump waved around a sheet of paper at a rally, boasting “this just came out, WikiLeaks! … I love WikiLeaks.” In 2010, however, Trump called Assange out for treason.
“I think it’s disgraceful, I think there should be like death penalty or something,” Trump said.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012 where he sought asylum in the fear that if he was extradited to Sweden over sexual assault charges — which he denies — he would then be extradited and charged in the U.S.
In February 2016, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that since being arrested in December 2010 as part the sexual assault charges in Sweden, Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the U.K., and has been subject to a “deprivation of liberty.”
If Assange was to be extradited to the U.S., his work with WikiLeaks could see prosecutors push for decades of jail time.
Trump Holds Secret Meeting With Right-Wing Colombian Leaders
The White House confirmed on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump met with former right-wing Colombian presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week.
The previously undisclosed meeting was dedicated to discussing Colombia’s ongoing peace negotiations between leftist guerrillas and President Juan Manuel Santos’ government.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claims the encounter “wasn’t anything beyond a quick hello” and that Uribe and Pastrana “briefly said hello when the president walked past them,” ABC News reports.
Pastrana, however, posted a tweet thanking Trump for having a “cordial and frank conversation about Colombia’s problems,” implying that the encounter was more than just a meet-and-greet.
When asked about the meeting during Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “I don’t have anything for you at this time.”
Trump’s meeting with Uribe and Pastrana may signal growing U.S. involvement in Colombia’s peace negotiations, which began in September 2012.
Uribe and Pastrana are outspoken representatives of the hardline faction opposing dialogue and reconciliation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, and the National Liberation Army, ELN. Frequently criticizing Santos for seeking rapprochement with both groups, Uribe and Pastrana favor head-on military confrontation with the Marxist-Leninist rebels.
Both former presidents oversaw mass killings of rebels and campesinos who they claimed were linked to the FARC and ELN.
Uribe’s term in office in particular was marked by record-level human rights abuses and numbers of people fleeing the country as refugees. He has also been accused of links to far-right paramilitary groups and also oversaw the “false positives” scandal.
The “false positives” scandal broke in 2008, revealing a concerted military strategy of murdering civilians, including homeless and mentally ill people, and dressing them in guerrilla fatigues to boost the government’s body count in the war on rebels.
More than 3,000 people were killed as “false positives” during Uribe’s two terms in office.
White House Hosts Hillbilly Hoedown as Kid Rock, Palin, Nugent Join Trump
An economic slowdown rears its head. Refugees desperately flee their ruined lands as instability fans out across the Middle East. Cold winds of war blow across East Asia. Poor approval ratings continue to fall.
By any indicator, the president of the United States is barely entering a term that will no doubt be mired in crisis. Any commander-in-chief would do well to seek the sagely input of trusted experts and advisers.
Who you gonna call?
Apparently, you call ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, otherwise known as “Caribou Barbie,” aging country nu-rock star Kid Rock and scumbag guitar virtuoso Ted “the Nuge” Nugent.
With such a learned panel of experts at your disposal, what do you discuss?
What don’t you discuss? According to Nugent, speaking to The New York Times, the impromptu council spent Wednesday night deliberating over “health, fitness, food, rock ’n’ roll, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, secure borders, the history of the United States, guns, bullets, bows and arrows, North Korea, Russia” and a half-dozen other issues.
The gathering was initiated by Donald Trump, whose invitation to Palin was a token of his gratitude for her help in the 2016 presidential campaign. She, in turn, invited her good friends Mr. Rock – known for the song “Bawitdaba” and his love of the Confederate flag – and Nugent, a virtuoso guitarist who once called Barack Obama a “mongrel” and has written hit songs like “Sexual Predator” and “Jailbait.”
The U.S. head of state, ever the charitable gentleman, chewed the fat with the group for several hours, enjoying a rare bit of respite respite between his busy schedule of signing executive orders, stroking out at the golf links and tweeting out ultimatums toward countries and TV personalities.
“We were there for four hours, man!” Nugent said. “It was like a family reunion.”
Likely speaking for all Americans, actor Jon Favreau may have summed up Wednesday’s meeting best:
“This is the day that Donald Trump became President.”