by WorldTribune Staff, June 26, 2018
A limited immunity deal the Department of Justice was considering for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was killed when then-FBI Director James Comey intervened, a report said.
The deal, which could have temporarily freed Assange from a London embassy where he has been in exile for years, was derailed by Comey with help from Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, The Hill’s John Solomon reported on June 25.
“Assange eventually unleashed a series of leaks that U.S. officials say damaged their cyber warfare capabilities for a long time to come,” the report said.
Assange’s legal team in January 2017 approached former Clinton DOJ official Adam Waldman “to see if the new Trump administration would negotiate with the WikiLeaks founder, holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy,” the report said. “They hoped Waldman might navigate the U.S. law enforcement bureaucracy and find the right people to engage.”
Assange’s “bargaining chip” was a massive trove of documents from classified CIA computers which identified “sensitive assets and chronicling the agency’s offensive cyber warfare weapons,” the report said.
The WikiLeaks founder had said he would not compromise his sources, or stop publishing information, but was willing to consider concessions like redactions, the report said.
Assange was also “willing to discuss technical evidence ruling out certain parties in the controversial leak of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election,” the report said.
The U.S. government believes the emails were hacked by Russia. Assange insists they did not come from the Kremlin.
“Mr. Assange offered to provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases,” Waldman told Solomon. “Finally, he offered his technical expertise to the U.S. government to help address what he perceived as clear flaws in security systems that led to the loss of the U.S. cyber weapons program.”
Waldman then contacted Warner to see if Senate Intelligence Committee staff wanted any contact with Assange, to ask about Russia or other issues, the report said.
Waldman told The Hill that Warner contacted him and “He told me he had just talked with Comey and that, while the government was appreciative of my efforts, my instructions were to stand down, to end the discussions with Assange.”
According to Solomon’s report: “While the negotiations survived the Warner-Comey intervention, the episode sowed distrust” in Assange’s camp.
“The constructive, principled discussions with DOJ that occurred over nearly two months were complicated by the confusing ‘stand down’ message,” Waldman said.
On April 7, 2017, Assange released documents with the specifics of some of the CIA malware used for cyber attacks. The U.S. government then backed out of the negotiations with Assange, and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo slammed WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service.”
Solomon noted that soon after, “the rare opportunity to engage Assange in a dialogue over redactions, a more responsible way to release information, and how the infamous DNC hacks occurred was lost – likely forever.”