Assange could run but he couldn’t hide from the long arm of the U.S. government.
Celebrities, politicians, and would-be politicians have defended him. Protestors and human rights activists have supported him, Amnesty International has begged for the U.S. to drop all charges against him, but in the end, none of it seems to have mattered.
Julian Assange, of Wikileaks fame, just lost his latest bid to stop extradition to the United States and may soon be facing serious espionage charges stateside.
“Julian Assange ‘dangerously close’ to US extradition after losing latest legal appeal,” wrote Ben Doherty for The Guardian on June 8, 2023.
For those who haven’t been following the case, Julian Assange is an Australian journalist, publisher, and activist who gained international prominence as the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, an organization that publishes classified information and leaks from anonymous sources.
Assange became well-known in 2010 when WikiLeaks released a series of highly controversial documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed a US military helicopter firing on and killing civilians in Iraq. WikiLeaks also published classified documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as thousands of diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world.
Following the release of these documents, Assange faced a series of legal challenges and investigations. In 2010, Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for Assange on allegations of sexual assault, which he denied. He sought asylum at the Embassy of Ecuador in London in June 2012 and lived there for nearly seven years.
During his time at the embassy, Assange continued to oversee WikiLeaks’ operations and published additional leaked materials, including documents related to the Democratic Party during the 2016 United States presidential election. In 2019, the Ecuadorian government withdrew Assange’s asylum, and he was arrested by British authorities for skipping bail.
Assange was subsequently charged by the United States with multiple counts, including violations of the Espionage Act, related to the publication of classified documents. His extradition to the United States was initially approved by a British court in 2021 but it has been delayed by Assange’s attempts to appeal the decision.
For over a decade now, Assange’s case has attracted significant attention and sparked debates regarding freedom of the press, government transparency, and whistleblowing.
Julian Assange has a number of defenders who argue that his work and actions have been important for government transparency and journalism.
Assange’s defenders argue that he has been targeted by governments, particularly the United States, because of his role in publishing damaging and sensitive information. They believe that his work with WikiLeaks falls under the umbrella of journalism and that prosecuting him would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom.
His defenders also assert that Assange has provided a platform for whistleblowers to expose wrongdoing and hold governments accountable. They argue that his actions have shed light on war crimes, government surveillance, and other abuses of power, and that he should be protected as a whistleblower advocate.
Some argue that Assange’s prosecution could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism. They contend that if Assange is successfully extradited and prosecuted, it would discourage journalists from reporting on sensitive topics and undermine the public’s right to know about government actions.
Assange’s defenders claim that the charges against him are politically motivated and that he is being targeted for his criticisms of powerful governments and institutions. They argue that his extradition to the United States is a form of retaliation for his publications and an attempt to silence him.
Opponents of Julian Assange hold differing views on his actions and the impact of WikiLeaks. His critics argue that Assange and WikiLeaks have been indiscriminate in their publication of classified material, potentially endangering lives and compromising national security. They contend that WikiLeaks has not adequately redacted sensitive information, putting individuals at risk and undermining legitimate intelligence operations.
Assange’s opponents claim that WikiLeaks has collaborated with adversarial governments, such as Russia, to achieve its objectives. They point to the release of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential election, which some intelligence agencies have attributed to Russian hacking. Critics argue that Assange’s actions have served the interests of foreign adversaries and raised concerns about his credibility and impartiality.
Some argue that while Assange claims to champion transparency, he has been unwilling to subject himself and WikiLeaks to the same level of scrutiny. Critics assert that WikiLeaks operates without sufficient checks and balances, and Assange has not been transparent about the organization’s funding sources and decision-making processes.
Opponents of Assange’s extradition argue that his legal battles have overshadowed legitimate concerns about his alleged sexual misconduct in Sweden. They contend that his efforts to avoid extradition have diverted attention from the serious allegations made against him and that his portrayal as a persecuted journalist is a distortion of the facts.
Critics claim that the release of classified diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks has strained international relations and harmed U.S. foreign policy efforts. They argue that the publication of sensitive communications undermines trust between nations and hampers diplomatic negotiations.
“Authorities in the USA must drop the espionage and all other charges against Julian Assange that relate to his publishing activities as part of his work with Wikileaks,” says Amnesty International of the case. “The US government’s unrelenting pursuit of Julian Assange for having published disclosed documents that included possible war crimes committed by the US military is nothing short of a full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression.”
Julian Assange may soon get his day in a U.S. court of law. What will such a legal proceeding reveal about one of the biggest media scandals in modern history?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)