Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Federal Grand Jury, Julian Assange, and Leaks about the Leaker

Yesterday, a criminal lawyer for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, announced to the news media that he had heard that his client is currently being investigated by a federal grand jury in Virginia.  Who or what is the source of this information about the grand jury and Mr. Assange?  In other words, who could be leaking about the leaker!?
As a former federal prosecutor, I can attest to the fact that government entities, (including federal agents and prosecutors), are generally very careful about avoiding leaks to the news media, particularly concerning the federal grand jury.  However, in a high profile case, such as this one, involving the internet disclosures of war secrets and diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, it could be difficult to keep things completely under wraps.  For example, while prosecutors and agents cannot disclose matters occurring before the grand jury, there are generally no prohibitions against witnesses, or witnesses' attorneys, telling others what has happened.  In addition, I have seen, or heard of, instances in which the grand jurors themselves may have disclosed what transpired before the grand jury.
Of course, no matter how you view Mr. Assange, whether or not someone has leaked information about a grand jury may be the least of Mr. Assange's problems right now, don't you agree? 
United States Attorney General Eric Holder has disclosed nothing about a grand jury investigation, but he has announced that he has authorized significant action in the matter.  It will be interesting to see what else unfolds in this case in the new year!

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