The British High Court has ruled that Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to stand trial for an indictment that includes 17 violations of the Espionage Act. Assange is expected to appeal to the British Supreme Court. Should that court concur in judgment, Assange’s decade-long flight will be over.
Assange is the founder of Wikileaks and was instrumental in publishing secret documents stolen by Edward Snowden and formerly-Bradley-now-Chelsea Manning.
It has always been more than a little unclear to me how Assange’s activities differ from those of any other journalistic organization that obtains stolen classified documents and publishes them. I’m not alone in this.
“Today’s win by the United States in the U.K. appellate court brings one step closer to justice a man who allegedly posted the names of individuals helping this country in a war zone, thereby putting them at serious risk,” said John Demers, who was assistant attorney general for national security in the Trump administration and whose prosecutors brought the case. “The Justice Department should be commended for seeing this case through. Those who defended his actions as journalism do a great disservice to a noble profession.”
Press freedom groups dismissed those distinctions as insufficient protection for journalists.
“We continue to have profound concerns about the press-freedom implications of this prosecution,” Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement Friday. “The Trump administration should never have filed this indictment, and we call on the Biden administration again to withdraw it.”
The group Reporters Without Borders also condemned the decision that Assange can be extradited, saying he would face possible life imprisonment “for publishing information in the public interest.”
The group called for the U.S. government “to drop its more than decade-long case against him once and for all,” in line with its commitment to protect media freedom.
If Assange is guilty of violating the Espionage Act, then most of the newsrooms of the New York Times and Washington Post should be perp-walked as well. Wikileaks certainly isn’t any more anti-American than anyone who pushed the Russia Hoax.
I suspect that the strategy here is to make the process the punishment. The indictment and law enforcement focus on Assange and his organization has made Wikileaks irrelevant for at least the past five years. If Assange is extradited, he’ll be kept in a federal gulag as prosecutors drag their feet in producing discoverable evidence to the defense. That’s why we have people in jail for nearly a year on what amounts to a misdemeanor trespass ticket that the feds are calling an “insurrection.”
In the end, Justice will probably decide that they aren’t willing to reveal classified information to prosecute him. By which time he will have been held in solitary confinement for two or three years and bankrupted.
Trust me; this is not a victory for the United States or for freedom.