A Dark Day For Truth & Press Freedom: Judge Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited To US

In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • The US appeal against a District Judge's decision to block Julian Assange's extradition was successful today.

    • It is now possible for Julian Assange to be extradited to the US

    • Whether he will be remains to be seen.

    • His legal team will appeal the decision.

  • Reflect On:
    • Why do we prosecute those who expose unethical and immoral actions of governments and major corporations?

    • What does this say about humanity?

    • How can we trust governments that want to punish people who tell the truth?

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The High Court in the United Kingdom has reversed its decision to not allow the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States where he is wanted for publishing classified documents. The earlier ruling that denied prosecutorial efforts was based on the inhumane conditions of the American prison system. The judge believed extradition to the US would severely increase his chances of suicide.

Today it was announced that the US won its appeal against that court ruling stating that he could not be extradited, so now it’s a possibility. The decision was made based on reassurance from the US that Assange will not face horrible prison conditions, and that the US promises to reduce his risk of suicide.

This is coming from a country that tried to assassinate him.

The US claims Assange’s actions put lives in danger. He is facing a 175-year prison sentence.

Despite this fact, Assange has already been subjected to extreme torture in prison in the UK, as explained by Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., a retired USAF lieutenant colonel. It’s both a scary and unsettling thought with regards to what Assange might experience in the US if he and his team are not successful in appealing the decision, which they are currently in the process of doing.

When the decision was made not to extradite Assange, it was a big win for press freedom. But now that things have taken a turn for the worse, it means that the US government will likely be able to obtain any precedent that would criminalize common news-gathering, reporting and publishing practices.

The war on information is already quite strong as it is, with COVID being a great example. Scientists, doctors, academics and journalists who present opinion, information and even strong evidence that calls into question and/or opposes government rhetoric are subjected to extreme censorship and ridicule. But how far will the war on information go?

Assange was charged under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, largely for actions rightfully recognized as protected news-gathering practices. He made public previously classified documents exposing various immoral and unethical actions taken by the US government and major corporations, like war crimes for example, among many others.

Assange’s partner Stella Morris explains,

If Julian is extradited he will be put on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where he stands no chance of a fair trial. It is where US intelligence agencies are headquartered. The court complex is 15 miles from CIA headquarters. The state is populated by employees of the very sector whose abuses and crimes Julian exposed. The Espionage Act prevents Julian from arguing why he published what he published, what he exposed, and the fact it didn’t result in any physical harm.

The Espionage Act was originally intended for use against spies. But it’s been used against journalists and whistleblowers in recent decades. These new charges against Assange threaten to criminalize reporting in the United States and around the world.

A favourite quote of mine when referring to what’s happening with Assange comes from Nils Melzer, Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of Int Humanitarian Law and has served as UN Rapporteur on Torture and Other Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

How far have we sunk if telling the truth becomes a crime? How far have we sunk if we prosecute people that expose war crimes for exposing war crimes? How far have we sunk when we no longer prosecute our own war criminals? Because we identify more with them, than we identify with the people that actually expose these crimes. What does that tell about us and about our governments? In a democracy, the power does not belong to the government, but to the people. But the people have to claim it. Secrecy disempowers the people because it prevents them from exercising democratic control, which is precisely why governments want secrecy.

The charges laid against Assange have been met with international condemnation from various civil liberties, human rights, and journalistic communities. More than two dozen organizations that include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and more have repeatedly urged the US Department of Justice to drop its prosecution of Assange.

For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information…It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it’s equally dangerous for U.S. journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations.

Ben Wizner, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, American Civil Liberties Union:

Proponents of Assange’s extradition would argue that he threatened national security. I would argue, as would many others, that national security has become an umbrella tool to censor information that exposes unethical and immoral actions of corporations and governments.

We’ve seen this more within the past few years. For example, Daniel Hale, a former U.S. intelligence analyst was arrested and sentenced to 45 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act. Hale leaked documents about the secretive U.S. drone program, showing 90% of people killed in Afghanistan were innocent bystanders.

What does this say about the government’s intentions to silence those who expose truth?

Truth that threatens the power & control governments and corporations continue to grow day by day. The most treacherous acts are always done in the name of the most noble cause. What we see today is the justification of immoral and unethical actions that are deemed by government to be justified for the good of the world. This requires massive propaganda campaigns to convince a large portion of the citizenry to obey, and stigmatize those who don’t.

The loss of freedom of speech and censorship continues to grow at an unprecedented level. A this rate, anybody who disobeys government mandates, orders or even questions it may, in the future, be deemed a terrorist and/or a threat. But we can change this. You can help out Julian and his team here.

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