As the US prepares to try to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through extradition, the Justice Department has revealed a new series of charges against him. Assange would face 170 years in US prison if convicted.
The new allegations include 17 separate charges under the Espionage Act. According to the Justice Department, the charges are all related to leaking classified documents related to national security, which were part of the leaks from Chelsea Manning, who the US has already indefinitely jailed for refusing to testify against Assange.
This sets up a potentially very controversial case. Though also used to prosecute proper spies for foreign governments, the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used repeatedly to target journalists and those who provided information to journalists. Its use against the press has historically been deeply criticized.
The Trump Administration has tried to push a narrative in which, even though WikiLeaks behaves like a journalistic outlet, they are something distinct, almost certainly an argument that envisioned having to argue a case like this as being something other than rank censorship of the media.
If the conviction of Assange is successful, it would have a chilling effect on the American press, and indeed the international press since Assange wasn’t American nor in America during the “crimes” in question, establishing that the US government can jail journalists for reporting on their embarrassing secrets.
After observing the striking and shocking lack of public interest and support for Assange in recent weeks, I can’t help but wonder if the 2016 Wikileaks/election debacle was partly staged with the precise goal of discrediting Assange in the eyes of a huge swathe of the population that used to support him.
Since the election of Trump has caused significant mental derangement in a disturbingly high percentage of the population, it sadly stands to reason that this derangement would extend to hatred of anyone and anything tangentially involved in his election, and Assange fits the bill.
Regardless, the facts of the matter remain:
- Chelsea Manning (then Bradley) had access to all this information through clearance, aka the US government gave Manning access to this information. Nothing was HACKED.
- Assange the journalist allegedly tried to encourage Manning to get more information. He also allegedly attempted to help Manning hide his tracks by accessing the information anonymously (Remember: Manning already had access to this information). Assange was trying to protect his source from eventual imprisonment and psychological torture (didn’t work).
- Chelsea Manning served her time and had her sentence commuted by the Obama administration, which, despite a voracious appetite for attacking whistleblowers and journalists, determined that invoking the Espionage Act against Assange would establish a terrifyingly dangerous precedent (because it does).
The US military industrial complex does not take the exposure of its war crimes lightly, and the intelligence agencies like the CIA similarly were pissed at Wikileaks for continuing to reveal their dirty deeds.
According to journalist William Arkin, the final straw against Assange was when he released the entirety of the “Vault 7” documents, despite attempts from Comey’s FBI to negotiate.
The Vault 7 leak came at an incredibly inconvenient time for the elite, as it clearly demonstrated the CIA can engage in “false flag” hacking to pin cyber-warfare on other nations. Since this is almost certainly the origin of many of the “Russia hacker” fairy tales, which is a huge aspect of their delusional narrative, Arkin alleges that Assange is being punished specifically for this.
Regardless of your opinion of the man, and regardless of whether or not you think this is “4D chess”, this is a chilling moment in human history, largely because the silence over Assange’s plight is deafening.