The inclusion of the information about Assange appears to be a mistake; the document, aside from two small references, has nothing to do with Assange. It is widely believed that a copy/paste failure was behind the blunder, as prosecutors frequently recycle motions to use as templates for new ones.
"Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged," one excerpt says.
"The complaint, supporting affidavit and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter," prosecutors said in the August 22 filing, which wasn't unsealed until November 8.
The Department of Justice investigation into Julian Assange dates back to 2010, when WikiLeaks was publishing video evidence of the extrajudicial killings of Iraqi citizens and two Reuters reporters by US troops provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning. That footage became known as "Collateral Murder" and made WikiLeaks a household name.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 16, 2018
Just hours prior to the charges against Assange making headlines after sitting around for a few days unnoticed, the Wall Street Journal reported that "people in Washington familiar with the matter" had informed them that the Department of Justice was preparing to prosecute Assange.
Within hours of the revelation, Carlos Poveda, a lawyer for Assange, told Sputnik News that he suspected US authorities were trying to throw the book at his client. "It will not be a death penalty, but he may get a life sentence," Poveda said.
"I'm not surprised. I think we've suspected for years, and certainly Assange himself has, that the US, if it hadn't formally charged him, certainly was interested in doing so and interested in apprehending him," human rights attorney and author Dan Kovalik told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear.
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) November 16, 2018
The eastern district of Virginia, which is packed with US government employees and contractors and their families, is where Assange is charged. The area is known as the "rocket docket" and "espionage court" and frequently tries such cases.
"No national security defendant has ever won a case there, so his chances of acquittal are slim to none," John Kiriakou, co-host of Loud & Clear, said. Kiriakou was tried in the same courthouse when he was charged for blowing the whistle on the CIA's torture program. The judge that handles cases like his, United States District Judge Leonie Brinkema, Kiriakou suggested, made his lawyer's job incredibly difficult, and now Kiriakou fears Assange will "go through the same kind of experience, where he's just simply not going to be allowed to defend himself."
Kovalik agrees that it would be "incredibly difficult" for Assange to defend himself. Since Assange has not personally taken any of the materials he has published, "his only crime is having put them on a website. Now, why is that a crime?" Kovalik asks.
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) November 16, 2018
"The irony, or the hypocrisy here, is that outlets like the New York Times, for example, tend to call for his head while at the same time, they cite WikiLeaks all the time for the stories," Kovalik said. The New York Times, the Washington Post and most other major media outlets frequently traffic in classified information.
"This is called prosecutorial discretion," Kovalik said. "They will go after low-hanging fruit, people that can't defend themselves or people that they think represent a threat to the system, and I think that's really what Assange represents to them."