- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2020

Communication problems came up Friday in separate criminal cases involving WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and a former CIA engineer suspected of being one of his sources.

Mr. Assange, who is jailed in London pending the outcome of a high-stakes extradition case, has not met in-person with his defense team since March, according to his WikiLeaks website.

Lawyers defending Mr. Assange against the U.S. extradition request had their “first and only” video meeting with their client before a pre-trial hearing on Friday, his fiancée added.

Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA engineer accused of leaking to the site, has similarly had issues staying in touch with his own legal team, his defense lawyers said separately.

Schulte has not received legal mail from his lawyers since March, they wrote in a court filing, adding the mail at the prison he is held “seems to have a trajectory of its own.”



Telephonic communications “remain a technical challenge” as well, they continued, explaining Schulte could not be seen during their last virtual meeting and was hardly audible.

Months since the novel coronavirus pandemic sidelined legal systems across the board, the Assange and Schulte cases are among countless criminal proceedings delayed to some degree.

They are unlike myriad other cases put on hold given their connection to WikiLeaks, however, and particularly some of the more damaging leaks published by the anti-secrecy site.

Mr. Assange, 48, has been charged in connection with WikiLeaks obtaining and then publishing classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents released in 2010. He was arrested in London in April 2019 and has been jailed ever since pending the outcome of an eventual trial that will be held to determine if he should be extradited to the U.S. and put on trial.

Schulte, 31, faces charges related to “Vault 7,” a massive collection of secret CIA hacking tools that WikiLeaks began releasing in 2017. He has been jailed since later that year.

WikiLeaks said in a news release that Mr. Assange participated for the first time in a short video meeting with his lawyers prior to a pre-trial management hearing Friday.

Public defenders representing Schulte mentioned their communication problems in a letter filed with his judge in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, meanwhile.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Crotty agreed last month to adjourn Schulte’s case until October 18, while Mr. Assange’s extradition trial is currently set for September.

Mr. Assange and Schulte each face counts of violating the U.S. Espionage Act, among other charges, and faces decades behind bars if convicted of all counts.

Schulte was put on trial earlier this year in Manhattan, but his jury deadlocked on most of the charges and the Justice Department subsequently requested a retrial.

Mr. Assange launched WikiLeaks in 2006. He is accused of illegally soliciting, receiving and publishing classified U.S. Department of Defense and State documents, including detailed reports about American military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan and thousands of diplomatic cables. Chelsea Manning, a former Army analyst who admittedly leaked that material, consequently served around seven years in military prison and was released early in 2017.

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