NEW YORK — A lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York this week by U.S. journalists and attorneys who visited a key figure in the journalistic community.
The suit, filed Monday, alleges that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and then-director Mike Pompeo violated their Constitutional rights in their meetings with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. The suit also includes the Spanish security firm Undercover Global and former CEO David R. Morales Guillen.
The suit further alleges that Pompeo oversaw and gave direction to an extraordinary, yet illegal, spying campaign on Assange’s attorneys. In addition, others who were also inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London were also targeted. Assange was given sanctuary as a political asylee.
Furthermore, it details Pompeo’s effort with agents, the use of the security detail of Sheldon Adelson, and the recruitment of Morales Guillen to implement the violations.
Plaintiffs in the suit
The list of plaintiffs includes a wide scale of individuals, more than 100 in all. They include civil rights activists, media lawyers, journalists, and even doctors.
Among them are activist and attorney Margaret Ratner Kunstler, media lawyer Deborah Hrbek, and national security journalists Charles Glass and John Goetz. The group is represented by The Roth Law Firm.
The plaintiffs are suing to “protect their fundamental Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures,” further stipulating a blatant violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
Details on the lawsuit
The plaintiffs and other class members in the suit were forced to relinquish all electronic devices to employees of Undercover Global while at the embassy during their visits with Assange. This would include smartphones and laptop computers.
The firm’s whistleblowers reveal that during Assange’s forcible removal from the embassy in 2019 that Morales Guillen copied the information stored on those devices without their knowledge or consent. He would further provide that information to the CIA and then-director Pompeo.
In a similar fashion, British and European Union attorney-client conversations were targeted and recorded. The substance of those conversations — including private strategies and decisions relating to the defense — is in the hands of the U.S. government. That information has been actively shared with the U.K. Crown Prosecution Service.
Assange, who is fighting extradition, is facing a potential penalty of 175 years imprisonment for unprecedented charges relating to the publication of classified information. He is currently imprisoned at HMP Belmarsh in London since his arrest in April 2019.
Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, winning multiple journalism awards.
Over 40 human rights organizations — including Amnesty International, the ACLU, and PEN — have been calling for Assange’s release.
The Constitution shields Americans from U.S. governmental overreach
Lead counsel Richard A. Roth shared some damning remarks in response to the suit.
“The Constitution shields American citizens from U.S. governmental overreach, even when the activities take place in a foreign embassy in a foreign country,” Roth states. “Visitors who are lawyers, journalists, and doctors frequently carry confidential information in their devices.”
“They had a reasonable expectation that the security guards at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London would not be U.S. governmental spies,” Roth continued. “[Spies] charged with delivering copies of their electronic [information] to the CIA.”
CIA actions endanger journalists
Ratner Kunstler states that no journalist is safe if a foreign journalist can face prosecution for publishing factual information.
“Apparently, Mike Pompeo believes that attorneys representing journalists should not be safe either,” states Ratner Kunstler. “These actions are outrageous.”
CIA campaign to assassinate Assange — literally and figuratively
A September 2021 Yahoo! News series of articles from Zach Dorfman and Michael Isikoff reveals some damning details about the unfolding events.
Officials in the Donald Trump presidential administration spoke of its own campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks back in 2017.
“Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration discussed killing Assange,” states a former senior counterintelligence official. “They even went as far as requesting ‘sketches’ or ‘options’ on how to assassinate him. There seemed to be no boundaries.”
The conversations were part of an unprecedented, multi-level campaign at Assange and WikiLeaks. This would include extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among group members, and the theft of electronic devices.
“Assange remained in the embassy in London for 7 years, believing he would face extradition to the U.S. if he left the building,” said Hrbek. “He suffered character assassination for this belief. As it turns out, he was right.”
Assange and the enormous journalistic impact of WikiLeaks
The platform’s publications have had an enormous impact since its founding. It would change the viewpoints of their country’s leadership through the exposure of war crimes, corruption, and other acts of governmental malfeasance across the world.
Their practices changed journalism to its core, as debates rage over the ethics of secrecy, transparency, and reporting on so-called stolen documentation.
WikiLeaks has also gained the admiration of people and organizations alike worldwide. The prestigious journalism awards it has won are evidence enough.
They would also incur the wrath of several governments exposed in news releases, especially that of the U.S. government.
Assange’s wife Stella Moris Assange outlines the meaning in personal terms for her husband.
“Julian’s young boys miss their father,” Stella states. “Not in my worst nightmares could I have ever envisioned the ferocity of attacks against Julian and the entitled arrogance and ‘above the law’ actions that are being carried out against my husband.”
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.