Saturday, January 19, 2013


[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

So where does this leave Hartmann’s claim that Eisenhower was the last legitimately elected Republican president? Hartmann does not make any claims of illegality with regards to Reagan’s reelection. So it seems that he is claiming that no Republican president since Eisenhower took the White House at least once without doing so through fraud or treason.

Hartmann doesn’t mention Nixon’s reelection, but that was when Watergate occurred. Ford was never elected. Hartmann didn’t mention George H.W. Bush’s election, but he was alleged to have been involved in the October Surprise conspiracy. George H.W. Bush was not reelected.

Here are my conclusions on the five conspiracies alleged by Hartmann.

1968: True

1980: Substantial evidence, Possibly True

2000: Texas felon list likely fraudulently won the election for Bush, True

2004: Reasonable suspicion, No clear proof

2012: Nothing more than an unsubstantiated claim from Anonymous




Nixon: Sabotaged the peace process

Reagan: Possibly made a deal to keep American hostages in Iran until the election was over

H.W. Bush: Possibly aided Reagan in doing so

George W. Bush: Most likely was elected due to Texas felon list illegally keeping eligible voters from voting in Florida


If the October Surprise conspiracy is true than Hartmann is correct.


How accurate were Hartmann’s claims as a whole? He was completely wrong in saying what the result of the Florida Supreme Court ordered recount would have been. He failed to explain that the outcome of the 2000 election in Florida depended on what counted as a legitimate vote. His near certainty that the 2004 election was stolen relies upon a false certainty in the credibility of that year’s exit polls. He fails to explain that Anonymous has yet to provide any proof of their claim of a Republican attempt to steal the 2012 election. His claims surrounding the 1968 and 1980 elections are reasonable; I just am waiting for more evidence before I can believe the October Surprise story.

Nonetheless, Hartmann did point out a lot of important stories in recent American political history I had been unaware of. However, it took me quite a while to determine which parts of those stories were untrue.


POST SCRIPT: Here are two articles debunking the false claim that 9/11 was perpetrated by the US government. Here are two articles debunking the false claim that Obama was not born in the United States.

October Surprise (1980)

[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

Hartmann’s next conspiracy concerned the 1980 election. Hartmann alleged that Regan made a deal with the Iranians that they would not release the American hostages in Iran until after the election. In exchange for this Reagan allegedly agreed to give the Iranians weapons. The hostage crisis was a major blow to Carter’s reelection campaign.

There is quite a bit of evidence for this conspiracy. Journalist Robert Parry and his colleges at have also described the evidence for the October Surprise conspiracy in multiple articles. Israeli intelligence agent Ari Ben-Menashe supports the claim. A Russian intelligence report reached the same conclusion. Former Iranian president Bani-Sadr supported the allegation in a letter to the US Congress. David Andelman, the biographer of French intelligence chief Alexandre deMarenches, testified that de Marenches had told him that the Regan reelection campaign met with Iranians in Paris. Jamshid Hashemi, an Iranian arms trader, says that he arranged meetings between the Iranians and the Regan reelection campaign. Hashemi also alleges that George H.W. Bush met with Iranian representatives in Paris, a charge Bush has repeatedly denied.

Newsweek, the New Republic, and Congress all launched investigations into the October Surprise conspiracy theory and concluded that it didn’t occur. However, each relied on creating an alibi for William Casey such that he could not have attended a meeting in Madrid as Jamshid Hashemi had described. Robert Parry was able to discredit those alibis and in 2011 he found a memo from the George H.W. Bush Library that said that “a cable from the Madrid embassy indicated that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown.”

So is the conspiracy true? Possibly, but I am going to hold off my conclusion until more classified documents from the George H.W. Bush Library that the library describes as relating to the allegation are declassified. However, there is enough evidence that I do not fault Hartmann for believing it is true.

Paris Peace Talks (1968)

[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

Hartmann’s next tale of intrigue was that Nixon sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 Peace talks between North and South Vietnam to end the Vietnam War. Hartmann said that Nixon did this by telling the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal if he was elected president. The failure of the peace process hurt the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and helped Nixon win the election. Hartmann used audio soundbites from President Johnson’s phone conversations discussing what he believed was Nixon’s “Treason” with Senator Dirksen and with Nixon himself. These audio tapes were released by the Johnson presidential library in 2008.

On this conspiracy, Hartmann is entirely correct. Journalist Robert Parry, who helped uncover the Iran-Contra scandal, has written extensively about Nixon’s sabotage of the peace talks. Parry has compiled the evidence for Nixon’s sabotage at the news site

Johnson knew about the operation partially as a result of wiretaps on the South Vietnamese embassy and on individuals in contact with them.

The ambassador for South Vietnam in the United States in 1968 was Dui Diem. In his memoir In the Jaws of History Diem described a meeting he had with Nixon along with his campaign advisor John Mitchell and Anna Chennault, who would act as a messenger between the Nixon campaign and South Vietnamese officials, including Diem. Diem also published two messages he had sent to South Vietnam.

“Many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand firm. They were alarmed by press reports to the effect that you had already softened your position.”

“I am regularly in touch with the Nixon entourage.”

Nguyen Tien Hung, an advisor to South Vietnamese President Thieu, was coauthor of “The Palace File.” The book includes detailed interviews with Thieu and Chennault. The Palace File reported that Chennault was in contact with Thieu and his brother.

Chennault confirmed that she had been a courier between the Nixon Campaign and South Vietnam in her own Memoir, “The Education of Anna.” She also said that Mitchell had told her, “Anna, I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made that clear to them.” [Source: Robert Parry’s book America’s Stolen Narrative (page 52)]

This incident does confirm Hartmann’s point that a major scandal involving a presidential campaign (and future president) can go unknown by the press and the public.

Exit Polls and SMARTech (2004)

[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

Hartmann’s next conspiracy concerned the 2004 presidential election. The election came down to Ohio. The private company SMARTech had been given the contract by Ohio’s Secretary of State to back up the vote calculations on election night. SMARTech had significant ties to the national Republican Party. Ohio’s servers crashed and the vote totals were rerouted through SMARTech. Hartmann then strongly implied that SMARTech stole Ohio, and thus the election, for Bush.

 “The vote totals that poured into the system from SMARTech’s computers in Chattanooga flipped the exit polls on their head. The lead that John Kerry had in the exit polls had magically reversed by more than 6 percent, something unheard of in any other nation in the developed world.”

Hartmann’s main source was Craig Unger’s book, Boss Rove. I admit that I have not read Unger’s book. However, Unger did discuss the book on Democracy Now. Unger was asked if he thought Ohio was stolen in 2004.

“CRAIG UNGER: Well, there was no question there was massive fraud. If you want to actually count the votes, unfortunately it’s impossible because so much evidence was destroyed.”

Unger confirmed almost all of Hartmann’s claims in the interview, everything except his conclusion the election was most likely stolen. However, neither Hartmann nor Unger addressed concerns with the exit polls in the 2004 election.

 Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International were the two companies responsible for creating the National Election Poll, the organization that conducted the 2004 presidential exit polls. The two organizations released a report to explain the problems with the exit polls in 2004. The polls were different from the results in many states, not just Ohio. 

”There were 26 states in which the estimates produced by the exit poll data overstated the vote for John Kerry by more than one standard error, and there were four states in which the exit poll estimates overstated the vote for George W. Bush by more than one standard error.”

The report concluded that the error in the exit polls was the result of Kerry voters being more likely to talk to exit poll researchers than Bush voters.

“Our investigation of the differences between the exit poll estimates and the actual vote count point to one primary reason: in a number of precincts a higher than average Within Precinct Error most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters.  There have been partisan overstatements in previous elections, more often overstating the Democrat, but occasionally overstating the Republican.  While the size of the average exit poll error has varied, it was higher in 2004 than in previous years for which we have data.”

Mark Blumenthal wrote extensively on the controversy at Mystery Pollster.

Summarize: [If you want to explain the exit poll discrepancy] Absent further data from NEP, you can choose to believe that an existing problem with exit polls got worse this year in the face of declining response rates and rising distrust of big media, that a slightly higher number of Bush voters than Kerry voters declined to be interviewed. Or, you can believe that a massive secret conspiracy somehow shifted  roughly 2% of the vote from Kerry to Bush in every battleground state, a conspiracy that fooled everyone but the exit pollsters – and then only for a few hours – after which they deliberately suppressed evidence of the fraud and damaged their own reputations by blaming the discrepancies on the weakness in their data.


Don’t get me wrong. I am disturbed by the notion of electronic voting machines with no paper record, and I totally support the efforts of those pushing for a genuine audit trail. If Ralph Nader or the Libertarians want to pay for recounts to press this point, I am all for it. I know vote fraud can happen, and I support efforts to pursue real evidence of such misdeeds. I am also frustrated by the lack of transparency and disclosure from NEP, even on such simple issues as reporting the sampling error for each state exit poll. Given the growing controversy, I hope they release as much data as possible on their investigation as soon as possible. The discrepancy also has very important implications for survey research generally, and pollsters everywhere will benefit by learning more about it.  

While there is no doubt that there was Florida-like problems in Ohio in 2004, the evidence that the election was stolen is inadequate. Hartmann did not explain that the exit polls disproportionally favored Kerry compared to the final vote tallies in 26 states, not just in Ohio. This missing fact throws his near certainty that the election was stolen into a much different light.

Bush v. Gore (2000)

[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

Hartmann began his discussion of the 2000 election by discussing the Texas felon list that was used to take Florida voters off the roles. The stated purpose of the list, which was used in Florida, was to prevent individuals who had their voting rights taken away from voting illegally. However, Salon did an extensive investigation into the list and found its implementation was riddled with errors. Some voters who were prevented from voting were guilty of misdemeanors rather than felonies, others were felons who had their voting rights restored, and some were cases of mistaken identity. While the exact number of individuals who were improperly taken off the list is unknown, Salon estimated that 7,000 voters could have been improperly taken off the roles based on the error ratio found in one Florida county.

“Hillsborough County’s elections supervisor, Pam Iorio, tried to make sure that that the bugs in the system didn’t keep anyone from voting. All 3,258 county residents who were identified as possible felons on the central voter file sent by the state in June were sent a certified letter informing them that their voting rights were in jeopardy. Of that number, 551 appealed their status, and 245 of those appeals were successful. Some had been convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony, others were felons who had had their rights restored and others were simply cases of mistaken identity.

An additional 279 were not close matches with names on the county’s own voter rolls and were not notified. Of the 3,258 names on the original list, therefore, the county concluded that more than 15 percent were in error. If that ratio held statewide, no fewer than 7,000 voters were incorrectly targeted for removal from voting rosters.”

As many as 7,000 Florida voters had their voting rights illegally taken away from them in 2000.  Salon pointed out that the improper disenfranchisement by the list disproportionally affected ethnic minorities, who were more likely to be Gore voters. The margin of victory in Florida was 537 votes. Therefore, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ policy of improperly removing voters based on a Texas felon list very likely won the election for Bush.


Thousands of Gore votes were lost due to the confusing Butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County. Thousands more of Gore votes were lost in Duval County as a result of confusing ballot instructions. In both of these scenarios voters ended up voting for multiple candidates for president and thus invalidated their votes. Had there been a revote in Florida without these confusing ballots, Gore would have likely won the election.


However, Hartmann errs when he describes the results of a media consortium investigation into the disputed ballots involved in the Florida recount.

So the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush and it wasn’t until a year later in November 2001 that a consortium of Florida newspapers completed a count of Florida ballots. And when the New York Times reported on it they buried in the seventeenth paragraph of the story the bombshell that had the Supreme Court not intervened and had all the ballots been counted in Florida as the Florida Supreme Court had ordered Al Gore would have won no matter how you counted the ballots.

As the Times reports, “If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin.”

The truth is that the Florida Supreme Court only ordered a statewide recount of undervotes (dimpled and hanging chads) and that a recount of undervotes alone would not have given Gore enough extra votes to win Florida. The first paragraph of the New York Times article Hartmann quotes from contradicts his claim.

A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.

The votes that would have been necessary for Gore to win the election were those where voters marked the oval for Gore but also wrote his name in on the write in spot. From the Washington Post:

The overvotes that could have provided the margin for Gore were on ballots where voters tried to be extra-clear in their choice and ended up nullifying the vote. They filled in the oval next to a candidate and then filled in the oval for "write-in" and wrote the same candidate's name again.

In many of the scenarios where voters who voted for Gore and also did a write in for Gore were counted, Gore would have won the election. However, disputes among whether a chad was dimpled in scenarios where dimpled chads would count as legitimate votes were numerous enough that the election would have been different whether the standard was 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 3 counters agreeing to whether a chad was dimpled. From the New York Times:

If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin. For example, using the most permissive "dimpled chad" standard, nearly 25,000 additional votes would have been reaped, yielding 644 net new votes for Mr. Gore and giving him a 107-vote victory margin.

But the dimple standard was also the subject of the most disagreement among coders, and Mr. Bush fought the use of this standard in recounts in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami- Dade Counties. Many dimples were so light that only one coder saw them, and hundreds that were seen by two were not seen by three. In fact, counting dimples that three people saw would have given Mr. Gore a net of just 318 additional votes and kept Mr. Bush in the lead by 219.

The 2000 election in Florida was so close that different results could be obtained by changing which undervotes and overvotes counted as legitimate votes. This is shown quite well by the Washington Post’s interactive applet that displays the results of the consortium recount. Hartmann’s declaration that Gore won the 2000 election did not adequately explain that the winner of Florida depended on what qualified as a legitimate vote.

Anonymous and Karl Rove (2012)

[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

Hartmann presented a video statement from Anonymous released before the election as well as a letter they had written to the election transparency nonprofit Velvet Revolution after the election. In the letter, Anonymous claims that Karl Rove attempted to use ORCA, a digital get out the vote system, to rig vote totals in multiple states, including Ohio. Anonymous went on to claim that they erected a password protected firewall to prevent Rove’s operatives from doing so. Hartmann always presented this as Anonymous’ claim, not as a confirmed fact. The title of the video of the first segment was titled, “Did Anonymous Save the Election from Karl Rove?” The video and letter from Anonymous were the only two pieces of evidence Hartmann presented.

Salon’s reporter Natasha Lennard wrote an article on Anonymous’ claim and reached the following conclusion.

“The onus is on Anonymous to provide further proof before we can believe these (albeit delicious) claims.”

I agree. There isn’t anywhere near enough evidence to conclude that Karl Rove attempted to steal the 2012 presidential election.

[Read more about Anonymous from Radio Free Europe’s Luke Allnutt]

Conspiracy Check

[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

Thomas Hartmann is a liberal commentator who I praised on this blog in May. Hartmann hosts his own talk radio show. He also has a TV program on RT America. On November 20 and 21, the two days before thanksgiving, Hartmann devoted two segments to the claim by Anonymous, an online political hacker organization, that they had prevented Karl Rove from stealing the 2012 presidential election. In those two segments, Hartmann also described 4 other conspiracy theories surrounding previous presidential elections.

The two segments were titled, “Did Anonymous Save the Election from Karl Rove?” and “Why it’s not crazy to think that Anonymous stopped Karl Roving from Stealing the Election.” Both segments are available on YouTube.

In the second segment Hartmann said, “I believe Eisenhower was the last legitimately elected Republican President.” He concluded that segment by saying, “So here we have all the Republican administrations of the last half of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Nixon, Reagan, Bush one and Bush two and every one of them took the White House by fraud and or treason.”

I emailed Politifact to ask them to check the claims in these segments. Politifact never responded to my request. However, I do not fault them for it; they likely receive so many emails a day that they cannot respond to each one. So I decided to check the claims myself.

Friday, January 11, 2013

H+ Chart Answer Key

H+ is a science fiction web-series created by Bryan Singer and Warner Brothers. They release videos each week to create a complex story about a world where implants allow people to access the internet through their minds. When a virus is uploaded to the system, it kills a third of humanity. For each episode they release a clue about the complex plot on their website The clue for episode 46 is a complex chart showing the relationships between the characters in the series. Each character is abbreviated by their initials. My friend Braden and I deciphered most of the chart and its secrets are listed below.

Grey boxes are companies

HpNt = H Plus Nano Teoranta
LoPeWa = Lord Pearce Wachter
MoSy= Mortle Systems

Green Circles are major characters

cS = Conall Sheehan (genetic father of the baby)
bPS = Breanna Sheehan (genetic mother of the baby)
lP = Leena Param (surrogate for the baby)
yG = Y Gurveer (the doctor)
kL = Kenneth Lubahn (programmer who developed H Plus)
sR = Simona Rossi (H Plus test subject, sees the future, in parking garage with Kenneth)
joB = Jason O’Brien (leader of the Luddites)
tK = Topi Kuusela (Finnish cyber cop who falls in love with Manta)
sW = Manta (Member of the group that developed wrist implant who falls in love with Tobi)
mS = Matteo Spina (the priest)
fP = Francis Peters (leader of the group that developed the wrist implant)

Blue Circles are minor characters

pR = Patricio Raiz (Scientist Kenneth talks to in the episode Meta Data)
fR = Francesca Rossi (daughter of Simona Rossi)
lM = Lee Martin (husband of parking garage family, dies)
jM = Julie Martin (wife of parking garage family)
bM = Brian Martin (son of parking garage family)
rB = Rob (guy Kenneth fights to keep from leaving the parking garage)
Pink Circles are minor characters who appear in one episode and only interact with a single major character
i = Ichiro (helped develop wrist implant)
a = Andy (helped develop wrist implant)
eR =Enzo (father who dies in Voci Dal Sud)
cR =Carlo (Enzo’s younger son)
lR = Enzo’s older son


H Plus Nano Teo mutually plots Patricio Raiz
H Plus Nano Teo mutually lapses Lord Pearce Wachter
Lord Pearce Wachter mutually plots Francis Peters
Lord Pearce Wachter rules Tobi Kuusela
Lord Pearch Wachter rules Manta
Tobi Kuusela mutually bonds Manta
Manta mutually plots Francis Peters
Manta mutually plots Matteo Spina
Tobi Kuusela mutually plots Matteo Spina
Patricio Raiz rules Simona Rossi
Simona Rossi rules Matteo Spina
Simona Rossi hires Enzo
Enzo spawns Carlo
Enzo spawns Enzo’s older son
Carlo mutually plots with Matteo Spina
Enzo’s older son mutually plots with Matteo Spina
Enzo mutually plots with Matteo Spina
Simona Rossi spawns Francesca Rossi
Simona Rossi mutually plots Kenneth Lubahn
Francesca Rossi mutually plots Kenneth Lubahn
Kenneth Lubahn mutually plots Brian
Kenneth Lubahn mutually plots Julie
Kenneth Lubahn mutually fights Rob
Julie spawns Brian
Lee spawns Brian
Julie mutually bonds Lee
Mortle Systems hires Kenneth Lubahn
Kenneth Lubahn mutually lapses Jason O’Brian
Jason O’Brian fights H Plus Nano Teo
H Plus Nano Teo mutually plots Mortle Systems
Kenneth Lubahn mutually bonds Breanna Sheehan

Francis Peters mutually plots Ichiro
Francis Peters mutually plots Andy
Francis Peters mutually plots Y Gurveer
Y Gurveer rules Breanna Sheehan
Y Gurveer rules Conall Sheehan
Y Gurveer rules Leena Param 
Breanna Sheehan mutually bonds Conall Sheehan
Conall mutually bonds Leena Param
Breanna Sheehan spawns the baby
Conall Sheehan spawns the baby
Lenna Param spawns the baby
Francis Peters spawns the baby
Y Gurveer rules the baby

dP is Breanna’s father and sFP is her mother. They both spawn her and they mutually bond each other.

dP, Breanna’s father, also spawned Francis Peters. This implies that Breanna and Peters are step -siblings.

Both of Breanna’s parents also spawn H Plus Nano Teo
Francis Peters fights H Plus Nano Teo
Mortle Systems mutually plots Breanna

Patricio Raiz mutually plots Kenneth Lubbahn

(unknowns = t, T, b, aO)


b is the African soldier who helps Topi find Dunbarra
t is one of the members of Peter’s team that developed the wrist implants
T is Topi’s boss that he talks to in the Snow Viper episode
I have no clue who aO is. 

Update (1/16/13): The entire series has been released. I have solved a bit more of the chart. By watching the episode Snow Viper again, I confirmed that T is Topi’s boss Tolonen. James (a fellow fan of the series) explained in a comment below that aO is Anthony, the character that helps Kenneth find parts in the episode Makeshift Engineering. I also misspelled Mortle, I didn’t see it spelled until I saw a locked commercial from them.

T= Tolonen (Topi’s boss)

aO= Anthony

Jason O’Brien mutually rules Anthony

Anthony mutually plots Kenneth Lubahn

Tolonen hires Topi Kuusela

UPDATE (2/2/13): Paul Parenko has solved the rest of the chart. He has also put the character names in the bubbles on the chart. Go check it out.

t = Trevor (member of the team that develops the wrist implants)
b = Babu (African soldier who helps Topi find Dunbarra)

Lord Pearce Wachter rules Babu
Babu mutually plots Topi
Trevor mutually plots Francis Peters

Breanna’s parents are named Dixon Peters and Slaine Fizgibbon Peters. The child’s name is Vadish. The last name of the Italian family in Voci Dal Sud is Roma and Rob’s last name is Boston.

It appears that I am the only person on the H Plus Google+ page who doesn’t believe that Manta’s real name is Samantha Wachter. Samantha sounds link Manta and Wachter is the name of a company in the story.

In the episode Two of Them (episode 40) Manta begins to air her conscience with Matteo. She begins her story by saying,

“Twelve years ago I believed I was everyone and everything, black hat reckless hacker living on my terms. Then I met a man, his name was Francis Peters.” (episode 40, 4:06)

We don’t get to hear what she says next, but she begins her story by describing herself as a black hat hacker, not as someone with a biological relationship with Lord Pearce Wachter.

Lord Pearce Wachter comes in to “clean up” Dunbarra (website extra for episode 39) and there isn’t any information to indicate that the company was involved before then.

I think that sW merely means that Manta is not her real name, which would make sense for a hacker working on a team developing real cyborgs. I suppose it is possible that Manta’s name is Samantha Wachter and that she has a biological relationship to the company, but I don’t think we have enough evidence to conclude that yet.

This blog post has become the most read post in Truth Matters history.
I have corrected the spelling of Topi and Mortle throughout this post.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Evidence for Assange's Potential Prosecution in the US

[Author’s note: This is the third post in a three part series on Julian Assange.]

It is highly likely that the US government is secretly preparing charges against Julian Assange for the disclosure of classified US documents.

On December 5, 2010 on Meet the Press, Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, called Julian Assange, "a high-tech terrorist" who should be, "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The New York Times reported on December 7, 2010 that, "The Justice Department, in considering whether and how it might indict Julian Assange, is looking beyond the Espionage Act of 1917 to other possible offenses, including conspiracy or trafficking in stolen property, according to officials familiar with the investigation."  

On December 19, 2010 on Meet the Press, David Gregory asked Vice President Joe Biden whether he saw Assange as a high-tech terrorist, as McConnell had said, or if he thought the situation was more similar to the Pentagon Papers. Biden replied, "I would argue that it's closer to being a high-tech terrorist than, than the Pentagon Papers."

In February 2012, Wikileaks released emails from Stratfor, a private intelligence company. These emails showed, among other things, that a member of Stratfor management had written to his colleges, "We have a sealed indictment on Assange." The email was described as being written in January 2011.

David House, a friend of Bradley Manning, says that on June 15, 2011 he testified before a secrete grand jury that he claims was deciding whether Assange would be charged for his release of classified US government documents through Wikileaks. 

Three individuals associated with Assange and Wikileaks, Smari McCarthy, Jeremie Zimmerman, and Jacob Appelbaum, claim that they have been detained and interrogated by US authorities at airports. Jennifer Robinson, a British lawyer representing Assange, claims she was temporarily prevented from boarding a plane. 

An Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, reported in September 2012 that US documents they obtained through Freedom of Information requests show that the US government has designated Assange and Wikileaks as "enemies of the state."

Michael Ratner, a US lawyer for Julian Assange, believes that a grand jury is investigating whether to charge Assange with "conspiracy to commit espionage” due to his interpretation of a legal document obtained by an Australian news program.

An important question that would arise in any such prosecution would be, "Is Wikileaks a news organization?"

Wikileaks releases classified documents from governments all over the world as well as from private companies. These releases are meant to highlight wrongdoing committed by those in positions of power. Wikileaks issues press releases and summaries on the groups of documents it releases. For the most part, however, turning these documents into news stories that can be digested by the general public is done by traditional news agencies (New York Times, The Guardian, etc.). Therefore, I would not classify Wikileaks as a news organization. However, Wikileaks has a purpose similar to that which we hope our news organizations aspire: to expose injustice and official misconduct.

There can be no doubt that Wikileaks is a publisher and a media organization, and Espionage Act prosecutions of media organizations, or their editors, are incredibly rare. If charged, Assange would have a very powerful first amendment defense.

If Assange is prosecuted in the US for his work with Wikileaks, perhaps his fate would be similar to those who were prosecuted through the Espionage Act for leaking information to the press. The charges against Danielle Ellsberg and Anthony Russo were dropped due to government misconduct. Samuel Loring Morison was sentenced to two years. All major charges against Thomas Drake were dropped and he was sentenced to a year's probation and community service. Shamai Leibowitz pled guilty and recieved 1 year and 8 months. John Kiriaku agreed to a plea deal to serve 2 and a half years in prison. Based on these precedents, the odds seem relatively good for Assange.

However, the treatment of Bradley Manning, the source for many of Wikileaks disclosures, is a cautionary tale for Assange. Manning was kept in solitary confinement for a substantial part of his pre-trial detention. Manning is still awaiting his trial 2 years and 7 months after his arrest, the duration of which he has spent behind bars.

The volume of the disclosures by Wikileaks of classified US documents is much larger than was the case in previous Espionage Act cases. Floyd Abrams, who defended the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, believes that Wikileaks is in a dangerous position in relation to the Espionage Act.

The prosecution of Wikileaks and Assange in the US could have a chilling impact on national security journalism. If Assange is prosecuted in the US, he would offer an elegant defense of the need for a free press and the importance of holding the powerful accountable. Nevertheless, his failure to redact the names of US informants in Iraq and Afghanistan would undoubtedly hurt his case. I have no doubt that the trial would be fascinating to follow. However, if he loses, he could face decades behind bars.