Photo: Ricardo Patiño | CC-BY-SA

We Should All Care What’s Happening With Assange

By nivekbr | Policy, Not Politicians | 30 Oct 2020

It’s worrying that even the press doesn’t seem to care about press freedom.


Julian Assange is facing a possible 175 years in a U.S. super-max prison for exposing U.S. war crimes. The prison he would be sent to if convicted is ADX Florence in Colorado, which has been found to be in breach of international law due to its treatment of prisoners. Dr. Sondra Crosby, an expert on the psychological effects of torture, has described Assange as being “essentially dead,” and has warned that he is “at high risk of completing suicide if he were to be extradited.”

As if the human concern wasn’t enough, the Assange case presents a massive threat to press freedom in the U.S., and around the world. The Espionage Act under which Assange is being charged has been described as “extraordinarily broad” and “one of the most contentious laws in the United States” by human rights lawyer Carey Shenkman. Among the problems with this law is the fact that defendants are barred from using any “public interest defense,” which seems like a provision tailor-made to prevent government accountability. The initial attempt by the U.S. to smear Assange as somehow not a legitimate journalist was bad enough, but now, as Jonathan Cook reports for Consortium News: “they appear to accept that Assange did indeed do journalism, and that other journalists could suffer his fate.” This shift is especially troubling.

More than 160 world leaders have come out in defense of Assange, and there have been similar efforts from groups of lawyersjournalists, and others who recognize the importance of the human rights and free press issues the case represents. Conspicuously absent from the lists of supporters in these areas are U.S. politicians and mainstream news outlets. Considering the shift to openly prosecuting journalism mentioned above, this absence is every bit as worrying as the prosecution itself. As Craig Murray writes on his blog:

“The US government is now saying, completely explicitly, in court, those reporters could and should have gone to jail and that is how we will act in future. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and all the ‘great liberal media’ of the USA are not in court to hear it and do not report it, because of their active complicity in the ‘othering’ of Julian Assange as something sub-human whose fate can be ignored. Are they really so stupid as not to understand that they are next?”

Lest anyone be under the false impression that a Democratic administration would be any better about Assange specifically, or this issue in general, I remind you that Joe Biden called Assange a “high-tech terrorist,” and the only reason the Obama administration chose not to go after him is because, in the words of Justice Department officials at the time, “they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists,” which is apparently no longer an issue. While the Trump administration has certainly been terrible on press issues, I find it hard to trust the Democrats much more after the Obama administration prosecuted three times the number of whistleblowers as all previous administrations combined.

The silence of the media seems to be more than just a product of apathy or incompetence as well. A recent report by Max Blumenthal in The Grayzone exposes some troubling details about reporters from the U.S. not speaking up about being knowingly spied on by a CIA contractor. As the report states:

“For the past four years, the Washington press corps has howled about Trump’s angry browbeating of the White House press pool, treating his resentful outbursts as a grave threat to press freedom. At the same time, it has reacted with a collective shrug to revelations that a firm that was, by all indications, contracted by the Trump administration’s CIA to destroy Assange had spied on prominent American national security reporters.

More revealingly, some of the reporters who had their personal information and notes stolen by UC Global, the apparent CIA contractor, have not said a word about it.”

On a final note, it seems that some are still holding a grudge due to the perception of WikiLeaks having had a hand in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, and thus somehow having partisan bias against her. I would counter that such an attitude is not only shooting the messenger, but also, as Caitlin Johnstone points out:

“The criticism that WikiLeaks has never published incriminating information on Trump has always been baseless, and not just due to a scarcity of leakers coming to them. As journalist and WikiLeaks activist Suzie Dawson pointed out last year, there are thousands of documents relating to Trump in the WikiLeaks database consisting of opposition research and other unflattering information on the controversial figure.”

Ways you can help:

CrowdJustice Fund set up by Stella Moris

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Originally published on Medium.

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Mountain hermit turned rabble rouser. Maker of strange noises. Deeply disturbed, but not surprised. He/him.

Policy, Not Politicians
Policy, Not Politicians

Looking past the cults of personality that have come to dominate US politics.

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