April 20, 2021

Assange, Back in News, Never Left U.S. Radar

But when “eight or nine” F.B.I. agents arrived in August, Mr. Jonasson said, he found that they were not investigating an imminent attack, but gathering material on WikiLeaks, the activist group that has been responsible for publishing millions of confidential documents over the past three years, and that has many operatives in Iceland.

Mr. Jonasson asked the agents to leave, he said, because they had misrepresented the purpose of their visit.

The operation in Iceland was part of a wide-ranging investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, for their roles in the release of American military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The investigation has been quietly gathering material since at least October 2010, six months after the arrest of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the army enlistee who is accused of providing the bulk of the leaks.

Until he re-emerged this week as an ally for Edward J. Snowden, the former computer contractor who leaked details of National Security Agency surveillance, Mr. Assange looked like a forgotten man. WikiLeaks had not had a major release of information in several years, its funds had dwindled and several senior architects of its systems left, citing internal disputes. Mr. Assange himself is holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he fled to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual abuse.

But the United States government had not forgotten about him. Interviews with government agents, prosecutors and others familiar with the WikiLeaks investigation, as well as an examination of court documents, suggest that Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks are being investigated by several government agencies, along with a grand jury that has subpoenaed witnesses.

Tens of thousands of pages of evidence have been gathered. And at least four other former members of WikiLeaks have had contact with the United States authorities seeking information on Mr. Assange, the former members said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter they were informed was confidential.

In response to recent questions from The New York Times and others, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed that it “has an investigation into matters involving WikiLeaks, and that investigation remains ongoing,” but he declined to offer any details.

The prosecution of WikiLeaks would put the administration into tricky legal territory. WikiLeaks is an international organization, and, unlike Private Manning and Mr. Snowden, Mr. Assange and the other members did not work for the United States government or its contractors and could not be charged with espionage.

WikiLeaks maintains it was functioning as a publisher by enabling the release of information in the public interest, and it has frequently been a partner with traditional news organizations, including The New York Times and The Guardian. If the government charged WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange as co-conspirators, it would be arguing that, unlike their partners, they are not journalists.

“Given the government’s aggression in the Snowden case, I would expect that the government will continue to move forward with the Assange case on a conspiracy theory, even though WikiLeaks would seem eligible for First Amendment protections,” said James C. Goodale, a First Amendment lawyer who previously worked for The Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press.”

He added that no reporter had ever been successfully prosecuted on a conspiracy charge but that recent actions, like the investigation of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, was evidence that the  government was “moving toward criminalizing the reporting process.”

The Times has never been contacted as part of a WikiLeaks investigation said David E. McCraw, its assistant general counsel. “But I would note that the proposed shield law,” he said, describing new legislation that the administration says is an effort to shield journalists from prosecution, “tries to define Wiki-like publishers out of the definition of news organizations.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/world/europe/wikileaks-back-in-news-never-left-us-radar.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: The Breakfast Meeting: Assange Assails ‘Propaganda’ Film, and Netflix Surges

Netflix surprised Wall Street with a fourth-quarter profit of $8 million and a customer base of more than 27 million American households, causing one analyst to say the company has “risen from the ashes” of its disastrous 2011. Shares jumped 30 percent in after-hours trading. Apple reported a profit of $13.1 billion and a 28 percent increase in the sale of iPhones but that still wasn’t enough for investors, who pounded the stock down 11 percent in after-hours trading.

Appearing via link from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Julian Assange attacked a new Hollywood film about WikiLeaks in an address to the Oxford Union. “The Fifth Estate,” a film by Bill Condon about the early days of WikiLeaks, is a “massive propaganda attack” according to Mr. Assange, who also said the film depicted Iran on the verge of having a nuclear arsenal.

Rolling Stone has laid off two longtime employees of the magazine: Eric Bates, the executive editor who had been with the magazine for more than a decade, and Mark Neschis, who handled press for Wenner Media, which owns Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal and US Magazine. Wenner Media has been struggling with declining ad revenues and a negative credit rating issued by Standard Poor’s in December.

Fox announced it would put “Ben and Kate” on the shelf, another sign of a poor season for comedies. Ratings for “Ben and Kate,” “The Mindy Project” and “The New Girl,” all on Fox, have struggled this year, along with NBC’s “Go On” and “The New Normal,” both of which sank to new lows this past week.

A good time was had by all: more than 70 reporters and editors have responded to a casting call for a new reality series about a small-town newspaper, according to a report on Romenesko.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/the-breakfast-meeting-assange-assails-propaganda-film-and-netflix-surges/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Aaron Swartz, a Data Crusader and Now, a Cause

And he was recalled as something else, a hero of the free culture movement — a coalition as varied as Wikipedia contributors, Flickr photographers and online educators, and prominent figures like Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, and online vigilantes like Anonymous. They share a belief in using the Internet to provide easy, open access to the world’s knowledge.

“He’s something to aspire toward,” said Benjamin Hitov, a 23-year-old Web programmer from Cambridge, Mass., who said he had cried when he learned the news about Mr. Swartz. “I think all of us would like to be a bit more like him. Most of us aren’t quite as idealistic as he was. But we still definitely respect that.”

The United States government has a very different view of Mr. Swartz. In 2011, he was arrested and accused of using M.I.T.’s computers to gain illegal access to millions of scholarly papers kept by Jstor, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals.

At his trial, which was to begin in April, he faced the possibility of millions of dollars in fines and up to 35 years in prison, punishments that friends and family say haunted him for two years and led to his suicide.

Mr. Swartz was a flash point in the debate over whether information should be made widely available. On one side were activists like Mr. Swartz and advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Students for Free Culture. On the other were governments and corporations that argued that some information must be kept private for security or commercial reasons.

After his death, Mr. Swartz has come to symbolize a different debate over how aggressively governments should pursue criminal cases against people like Mr. Swartz who believe in “freeing” information.

In a statement, his family said in part: “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office and at M.I.T. contributed to his death.”

On Sunday evening, M.I.T.’s president, L. Rafael Reif, said he had appointed a prominent professor, Hal Abelson, to “lead a thorough analysis of M.I.T.’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present.” He promised to disclose the report, adding, “It pains me to think that M.I.T. played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”

Late Sunday, M.I.T.’s Web site was inaccessible. Officials did not respond to requests for comment.

While Mr. Swartz viewed his making copies of academic papers as an unadulterated good, spreading knowledge, the prosecutor compared Mr. Swartz’s actions to using a crowbar to break in and steal someone’s money under the mattress. On Sunday, she declined to comment on Mr. Swartz’s death out of respect for his family’s privacy.

The question of how to treat online crimes is still a vexing one, many years into the existence of the Internet.

Prosecutors have great discretion on what to charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law cited in Mr. Swartz’s case, and how to value the loss. “The question in any given case is whether the prosecutor asked for too much, and properly balanced the harm caused in a particular case with the defendant’s true culpability,” said Marc Zwillinger, a former federal cybercrimes prosecutor.

The belief that information is power and should be shared freely — which Mr. Swartz described in a treatise in 2008 — is under considerable legal assault. The immediate reaction among those sympathetic to Mr. Swartz has been anger and a vow to soldier on. Young people interviewed on Sunday spoke of the government’s power to intimidate.

Jess Bidgood and Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/14/technology/aaron-swartz-a-data-crusader-and-now-a-cause.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Megan Ellison and Annapurna Pictures Tackle Hollywood

Instead of a goddess, Annapurna Pictures has Megan Ellison, a 25-year-old scion of Silicon Valley, who over the last year or so has been feeding what may soon be hundreds of millions of dollars to the hungriest part of the movie business: the writers, producers, directors and stars who make sophisticated dramas and adventure films that are too risky for studios and their corporate owners.

At least six movies set for release in the coming months received substantial backing from Ms. Ellison and her company. They include “The Master,” a drama about a cult that resembles Scientology that stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and is being directed by Paul Thomas Anderson of “There Will Be Blood” fame. Another high-profile project, still untitled, tackles the killing of Osama bin Laden; it is being written and produced by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, both Oscar winners for “The Hurt Locker.”

Earlier this year, Ms. Ellison bought the rights to the well-worn “Terminator” franchise for a reported $20 million. She is developing a film based on “The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” an article about the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by the departing executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller.

In all, it is a remarkable surge for a young woman who earlier this year was such a minor player that her executive producer credit on Paramount’s “True Grit” almost escaped notice: One player on the eight-member producing team said he was unaware of her credit until last week.

But the jury is still very much out on Ms. Ellison, whose father, Lawrence J. Ellison, is the chief executive of Oracle. She is spending money in a particular corner of moviedom, and doing it with a spirit more akin to the freewheeling world of technology start-ups than a film industry entering its second century. But there have been plenty of outsiders — the Seagram heir Edgar Bronfman Jr., eBay’s Jeff Skoll and Microsoft’s Paul Allen — who have been frustrated when they tried to make waves in the movie business.

Ms. Ellison invested in “True Grit” with her 28-year-old brother, David, who last year raised about $350 million in equity and borrowed funds for his own film company, Skydance Productions.

Since then, she has grabbed the limelight by diving into complex — and sometimes expensive — films that might not exist without her backing. Meanwhile, David counts on an alliance with Paramount Pictures and hews closer to the mainstream, making bets on safer pictures like the forthcoming “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.”

“She has this grand vision; she wants to be the one-stop shop for filmmakers,” said Michael Benaroya, 30, a member of a Seattle real estate family who has joined Ms. Ellison in financing a thriller called “Catch .44” and “The Wettest County in the World,” a Prohibition-era crime drama, both of which still await release.

Ms. Ellison declined interview requests.

Friends and business associates describe her as shy, though not too shy to have reportedly posted on MySpace a photo of herself with the caption: “Drunk dialing Dad in Paris after 3 bottles of Dom.” Like her father and brother, Ms. Ellison is not a college graduate, though both she and David attended the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (David is enrolled there, and planning to graduate, according to the school.)

But she is not without focus. A competitive equestrian, she trained on jumpers at the Wild Turkey Farm in Woodside, Calif. Seven years ago, Ms. Ellison rode in the North American Young Rider Championships.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5cb8eff0ec9d1c628de56894f71fe388