WikiLeaks was how we found out that we weren’t ‘crazy conspiracy theorists’ when we suspected DNC wasn’t running a clean 2016 primary, that it was even worse than we thought, that DNC was actually cooperating with & strategizing with the Hillary campaign to defeat Bernie in the primary. In defiance of their own Charter. Three years later, the Clinton campaign & DNC have never denied any of what WikiLeaks exposed.
This morning, I am reading the cheers of Democrats who hold Assange responsible for Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump. They say he is not a journalist – just a crook, a “white nationalist” and a rapist. And I think Party loyalty, and vengeful glee, can easily get in the way of a story like this. Remember, the Obama administration decided the ‘First Amendment implications of charging Assange with a crime were too troubling, so they declined to do so’. Remember that a daily unstable Trump administration has much to gain here, especially if it can thread the needle, narrowly define journalism (which btw the First Amendment does not), and prosecute Assange for leaking documents while letting the New York Times and Washington Post go untouched for publishing same.
You may not like Assange; plenty of people do not. And you may suspect him. But I run a website that sometimes inflames very powerful people. And my solidarity is with press freedom. And the outing of hidden truths about what government does is and has been journalism, even when practiced with radical transparency.
If Assange is prosecuted, he will be the first journalist in modern history to be criminally charged by American courts for publishing classified information. The Freedom of the Press Foundation says: “You can hate WikiLeaks all you want, but if they’re prosecuted, that precedent can be turned around and used on all the reporters you do like.” They add, “Any prosecution would be incredibly dangerous for the First Amendment and pretty much every reporter in the United States.”
So says the ACLU, which has been protecting the First Amendment since 1920. ACLU’s Ben Wizner: “Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.”
United Nations: In 2016, a United Nations rights panel said Britain and Sweden had detained Assange “arbitrarily,” should restore his freedom of movement, and that he should be compensated. The U.N. pointed out Sweden had not charged him, had not made any evidence against him available to Assange, had not given him a chance to respond. More recently (Dec. 2018) the U.N. formally ruled his detention arbitrary and a violation of his human rights. That doc here. Reading Edward Snowden on Twitter this AM is illuminating.
This story is developing. And trials, even ones that are unwelcome and possibly illegal, tend to out information. I may see this differently then, or so might you. We may learn facts not already in evidence. But people like Assange, Snowden, Chelsea Manning have exposed government corruption at levels most Americans never imagined. I trust this trial will be clean, but I also hope for serious journalistic scrutiny of it.
All of this worries me, and should worry you. Don’t think only of your personal opinion of Assange; I don’t like him either. Or of your outrage that DNC was outed. Remember, this comes at a moment when the U.K. is roiling over Theresa May’s bollixed Brexit. And over here, where Julian Assange is headed for trial, we have a President who’d like it very much if you’d stop looking at his ties to Russia and get your britches in a knot over Assange’s.
If you’re just catching up to the news: This morning, a bearded Assange was removed from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London by British police on behalf of the United States. In an indictment then unsealed (here, the indictment), Assange is accused of conspiring in 2010 with Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning) to publish secret military & diplomatic documents about the Iraq & Afghanistan wars. Manning, who spent 7 years in prison until Pres. Obama commuted her sentence, was jailed again last month for refusing to testify to Grand Jury about Assange.
Photos : Ruptly (Assange arrest), Manning (Heidi Gutman), Snowdon (Wikipedia)