Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

US CHARGES ASSANGE WITH COMPUTER HACKING: U.S. officials have filed charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for allegedly conspiring to hack into computers in connection with the organizations' release of classified government cables from former Army private and intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The Department of Justice announced early Thursday that Assange had been arrested in London in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion of a classified U.S. government computer, which carries a five-year maximum sentence.

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The seven-page indictment alleges that Assange conspired with others to "knowingly access a computer, without authorization and exceeding authorized access," to obtain classified information that "could be used to the injury of the United States."

The indictment, initially filed under seal in March 2018 in the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Assange helped Manning crack a password stored on a Defense Department computer that was connected to a U.S. government system used to store classified information.

"Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log onto the computers under a username that did not belong to her," the court document reads. "Such a measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information."

Manning, an intelligence analyst with top-secret clearance, allegedly downloaded four nearly complete databases from different U.S. departments and agencies that included sensitive information about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Guantanamo Bay operations and other State Department cables.

According to the court documents, Assange pushed Manning to provide additional leaked information, telling her, "curious eyes never run dry in my experience."

A dramatic day: The Justice Department announcement followed Assange's arrest earlier Thursday in London, where he had been holed up for nearly seven years at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

British police said that he was arrested on a U.S. extradition request for "computer-related charges" and for breaching U.K. bail conditions but offered no information about the charges.

U.S. officials had long had their eye on Assange, whose organization has leaked troves of sensitive files that have embarrassed the United States, including the files provided by Manning.

The indictment unsealed Thursday says Manning downloaded four databases from departments and agencies of the U.S. containing approximately 90,000 Afghanistan War–related reports, 400,000 Iraq War–related reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs and 250,000 State Department cables between January and May 2010, many of which were labeled classified.

"Manning provided the records to agents of WikiLeaks so that WikiLeaks could publicly disclose them on its website," the indictment says. "WikiLeaks publicly released the vast majority of the classified records on its website in 2010 and 2011."

Officials described it as one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.

Read more on the case against Assange here.

 

I DON'T KNOW HER: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE on Thursday sought to distance himself from WikiLeaks after founder Julian Assange's arrest in London, even though he praised the group during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if he still loves the organization.

The president said he has "been seeing what's happened with Assange" but added that what happens next is up to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrEx-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' Trump pushes back on impeachment talk: 'Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!' The Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? MORE.

Previously: Trump repeatedly professed his affinity for WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, when it published emails that were stolen from Democrats by Russian hackers as part of Moscow's effort to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE.

"I love WikiLeaks," Trump said at an October 2016 rally in Pennsylvania.

 

DOWN WITH ROBOCALLS: Lawmakers on Thursday reviewed regulators' efforts to cut down on illegal robocalls during a hearing of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on communications.

The hearing comes on the heels of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) first-ever report on robocalls and as lawmakers push bipartisan legislation to crack down on the problem.

Subcommittee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTelehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? GOP grows tired of being blindsided by Trump Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet MORE (R-S.D.) who has introduced legislation highlighted the challenge.

"Solving these issues is going to require a variety of stakeholders to get together," Thune said.

Robocalls have long frustrated lawmakers and consumers. The report that highlighted the number of complaints over illegal robocalls has been increasing, jumping from 172,000 complaints in 2015 to 232,000 complaints in 2018.

Senators heard from Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R), who discussed the legal challenges in bringing robocallers to justice.

"One of the challenges whether or not it is a civil penalty or criminal penalty is the ability to get our hands around these people... to actually get them in a headlock," he said.

What can be done: Lawmakers hope to take action this Congress.

Thune and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTlaib rallies in support of Green New Deal at Detroit town hall Ben & Jerry's backs Green New Deal: 'We have to act now' Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 MORE (D-Mass.) reintroduced bipartisan legislation this year to crack down on robocalls through the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Defense (TRACED) Act. The bill would improve enforcement policies and have agencies better coordinate on tackling robocalls.

Thune said the bill was needed to prevent telemarketers from preying on those who are most vulnerable, including seniors who are less technologically savvy.

"A credible threat of criminal prosecution is necessary and appropriate for those who knowingly flout laws to prey upon the elderly and other vulnerable populations," he said in opening remarks.

"These improvements will not stop every illegal robocall, but they will go a long way in making it safe to answer your phone again," Thune added.

Read more on the hearing here.

 

PUTIN AT THE CONTROLS: Russian lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday to bolster government control of the internet, sparking fears among detractors of increased censorship.

The bill would help implement equipment across the country to route internet traffic through servers, making it more difficult for users to skirt government restrictions, according to The Associated Press.

The legislation sparked widespread protests last month, attracting thousands of people who argued the government would be granted the power to control the flow of information and curtail messaging on platforms that do not give the government its data. Defenders of the bill in the Russian government have said it is intended to protect the country's internet access should it be curtailed by the U.S. or other foreign powers.

"It could be that in our limited, sovereign internet we will only be stronger," Nikolai Zemtsov, a lawmaker who backed the bill, told the AP on Thursday.

The bill passed by a 322-15 margin in the parliament's lower house.

Read more here.

 

HOT TAKE: Disney CEO Bob Iger on Wednesday night slammed social media companies, saying that Adolf Hitler would have loved to use social media as a marketing tool.

"Hitler would have loved social media," Iger said while receiving a humanitarian award, according to Variety. "It's the most powerful marketing tool an extremist could ever hope for because, by design, social media reflects a narrow world view, filtering out anything that challenges our beliefs while constantly validating our convictions and amplifying our deepest fears."

"Social media allows evil to prey on troubled minds and lost souls and we all know that social news feeds can contain more fiction than fact, propagating vile ideology that has no place in a civil society that values human life," he continued.

Iger, who is also scheduled to host a fundraiser for 2020 Senate Democrats, according to the magazine, told voters to "demand more" from politicians. Last year, there was speculation that Iger would jump into the 2020 presidential race, but he denied the rumor.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have recently faced criticism for allegedly not doing enough to stop extremist rhetoric on their sites.

Read more here.

 

ICE-D OUT: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) violated Facebook's policies by creating fake social media accounts in an effort to identify people committing immigration fraud, according to The Guardian.

The fake profiles were reportedly linked to the University of Farmington, a sham institution that was operated by ICE's Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) division. An indictment from earlier this year said about 600 people were caught up in a "pay to stay" scheme.

"Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing Law Enforcement Guidelines page," a Facebook representative told The Guardian. "Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts."

Khalid Walls, northeast regional communications director for ICE, declined to comment to The Guardian about the social media accounts but said 172 students have been arrested for civil immigration violations in connection to the case.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Read more here.

 

BEZ-OFF: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos encouraged the company's rivals to top its $15-an-hour minimum wage, arguing that the country's workers will benefit if retail companies compete on pay.

"Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage," Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders on Thursday. "Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It's a kind of competition that will benefit everyone."

Amazon raised its minimum wage last year, following a public campaign highlighting the company's pay and work conditions led by Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone GOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college MORE (I-Vt.).

Bezos wrote on Thursday that Amazon made the decision because it "seemed like the right thing to do."

But the company also faced blowback for simultaneously eliminating monthly bonuses and stock options while raising its minimum wage.

Read more here.

 

IT'S OFFICIAL: Uber has officially filed for an initial public offering (IPO), according to documents submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and released Thursday.

The ride-sharing giant did not say at what price it initially plans to list its shares, but said the IPO should be approved "as soon as practicable" after the registration's filing.

According to the prospectus documents, Uber will list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol UBER.

Uber's filing comes about two weeks after ride-sharing rival Lyft debuted on the public markets.

Uber in the documents said by the end of 2018, its revenue reached $11.3 billion, with 91 million users on its platforms and 1.5 billion trips taken.

But the company's operating losses last year totaled $1.8 billion.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Why an independent panel must investigate Boeing crashes.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Battle of the beards.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Archive.Org receives more than 500 incorrect take-down notices for extremist content. (Tech Dirt)

GoFundMe dips into charities. (TechCrunch)

Do you know what you've given up? (The New York Times, The Privacy Project)

Why the US still won't require SS7 fixes that could secure your phone. (Ars Technica)