The secret Assange indictment was (ahem) "accidentally" cut and pasted by prosecutors on an unrelated court filing where it sat ever so passive-aggressively until some roving reportorial eye finally spotted it. Or, more likely, was tipped off by an official who was not allowed to speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the matter. Oops.
Here's my suspicion: prosecutors and the spy/police agencies have been itching for years to get their anxious claws on the most famous whistleblower of all time, but could not do so for a number of reasons.
First, they were loath to set a precedent by going after someone who, for all intents and purposes, is a publisher, and not a hacker or a thief. If embarrassed officials in the Bush and Obama administrations had charged or seized Assange, they would rightly have been seen as the enemies of the First Amendment that they were, and still are. And then there was the pesky little matter of Ecuador then being led by a socialist government who took the concept of democracy more seriously than the US hegemon.
Second, they would have been put in the awkward position of appearing hypocritical if they did not also indict the New York Times, the Washington Post, and all the other quasi-official house organs upon whom they traditionally rely to sell their wars and to selectively leak their self-serving secrets and "narratives" explaining why, for instance, we cannot have non-profit single payer health insurance.
Such a messy court case against the free press would have dirtied the hands of all manner of corporatists working both within and without the government and the military-industrial-media complex.
But with the advent of Trump, the aromatic bloom on Assange's rose has sufficiently faded in the sensitive eyes and mental nostrils of the public. The man once lauded by liberals as a hero for his exposure of the war crimes of the Bush administration is now anathema because of x degrees of separation from the Trump victory over Hillary Clinton. And once the Wikileaks documents (from SONY and other Hollywood bigwigs, the Democratic Party, and the sordid Clinton campaign) began to surface during the Obama years, Assange quickly morphed from the most important and successful journalistic muckraker in modern history to a Russian stooge, a traitor, and worst of all, a good pal of the Donald Trump machine.
Therefore, the punishing surveillance and carceral state will bite while the biting is still good, realizing that the public will not only not make a stink about his arrest and extradition, they will be cheering it on like the good little authoritarian subjects that they are. London, moreover, is currently in a state of chaotic disarray because of the Brexit finale, so complicit British officials can thus be held harmless in the event of a midnight raid on the embassy. It helps that Ecuador, whose embassy currently shelters Assange, itself is now controlled by an authoritarian right-wing regime anxious for US dollars and protection at the expense of its own citizens.
And last but not least, the increasingly cornered and legally jeopardized Trump can be made to appear "serious" about going after Putin by seriously going after Wikileaks, which he once sarcastically urged to release more of Hillary's emails in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.
The only problem is that the US government seems to have zero proof that Assange acted in concert with either Russian operatives or Trump to publish the DNC and Clinton (via her adviser John Podesta's account) emails. Even the sycophantic press can only say, with the usual obfuscatory language, that the usual anonymous officials have "a high degree of certainty" that Assange and Trump and the Russians were all in cahoots to subvert our non-existing democracy. It's nothing but a vain and dogged attempt to translate mere suspicion into absolute proof in the minds of the audience.
The government has no case.
But I see this as a glass half-full scenario for a number of reasons.
First, prosecutors will now be pressured to outline whatever case they do have against Assange sooner rather than later. Second, the "accidental" filing brings his plight back to the forefront of public discourse, where it belongs. While Assange has been holed up in the Ecuador Embassy in London for many years, both his mental and his physical health have reportedly deteriorated. If he is extradited back to the US, he will at least (presumably) have his teeth seen to. And should he be treated as cruelly as his Bush-era source, Chelsea Manning, was, and locked up in solitary for a lengthy period without a trial, the liberal class will be forced to confront its own hypocrisy as it pertains to its outrage over Trump's own serial assaults on the rule of law.
This will be especially true if Assange is charged as a terrorist or an enemy combatant and sent to the Guantanamo gulag, a military prison and even perhaps "renditioned" to a secret CIA black site.
The liberal class will rightly be made to feel uncomfortable making a stink about CNN's Jim Acosta being barred from the White House, and not making a similar stink about Julian Assange being prosecuted - or persecuted - for simply telling the truth about corrupt government and corporate officials.
Finally, the failure of prosecutors to bring an imprisoned Assange to trial in a timely, constitutional manner might even force them to admit that #Russiagate itself has always been nothing but a big fat propaganda campaign dreamed up by Clinton operatives as a tool to absolve her of any responsibility for her own loss.
The New York Times, in its own account of the secret indictment filing, twisted itself into a pretzel by parroting the evidence-free propaganda that it was "Russian intelligence officers" - and not another inside or outside source - who stole the DNC emails and handed them over to Assange - while at the same time tacitly acknowledging that Assange himself was merely acting as a publisher and a journalist. If it can happen to him, it can happen to them as well.
WikiLeaks published thousands of emailsthat year from Democrats during the presidential race that were stolen by Russian intelligence officers. The hackings were a major part of Moscow’s campaign of disruption.If Assange does go on trial, the American media and the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights will go on trial right along with him. Publishers and reporters will be called as witnesses by both the prosecution and defense and asked to explain why they chose to disseminate stolen information. The Fourth Estate, whose traditional mantra is to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" will be plopped center-stage in a legal and ethical drama which, for a refreshing change, might finally force them to play themselves rather than the trite group-thinking #Resistance against Donald Trump, fighters-for-hire in the service of the corrupt neoliberal system that produced Trump in the first place.
Though the legal move against Mr. Assange remained a mystery on Thursday, charges centering on the publication of information of public interest — even if it was obtained from Russian government hackers — would create a precedent with profound implications for press freedoms.
Of course, the biggest spanner in the works of justice for Julian Assange could be Donald Trump himself, tweeting loud and tweeting often about how unfairly he thinks the Wikileaks founder is being treated and casting him as a major player on the same victimized-by-Mueller team. That might be the ultimate kiss of death for Assange in the court of liberal public opinion, which has already turned so hypocritically against him.
The best thing that could happen to Assange would be for the ever-contradictory and unpredictable Trump to suddenly begin bellowing "Lock Him Up!" at his Nuremberg-style rallies. And presto-change-o, the new enemy of their enemy would morph right back into being the best friend a liberal ever had.
Liberals are a fickle bunch. And stranger things have happened. Just look at their recent miraculous rehabilitation, if not downright beatification, of George W Bush.