What we learnt from the Stratfor emails – part one: what sealed indictment?

by Eva Blum-Dumontet

In spite of the golden rule of secrecy, some of the 5 million emails from private global intelligence company Stratfor currently being released by Wikileaks, have suggested the grand jury and its decisions have not been kept secret for everyone.

In an email from January 26th 2011 Fred Burton – vice president of Stratfor for Counterterrorism and Corporate Security and a former Deputy Chief of the Department of State’s counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service – wrote:

Not for Pub —

We have a sealed indictment on Assange.

Pls protect

The timeline is particularly interesting: the grand jury hearings were said to have started in May 2011, when a witness from Massachusetts was subpoenaed, and the grand jury probably started a few months before around December 2010. Was Fred Burton referring to an indictment from a different court? Were the witnesses requested to testify although a decision had already been made?

The term “grand jury” is used in none of the 973 emails released so far, which forces us to wonder to what extent the whole procedure in Virginia is not a travesty of justice to provide a legal ground to Julian Assange’s potential future arrest.

Sealed indictments in grand juries are however a legal option mentioned in Rule 6(e)(G)(4) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedures to prevent the decision from being known before the defendant is in custody:

Sealed Indictment. The magistrate judge to whom an indictment is returned may direct that the indictment be kept secret until the defendant is in custody or has been released pending trial. The clerk must then seal the indictment, and no person may disclose the indictment’s existence except as necessary to issue or execute a warrant or summons.