WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could soon face criminal charges in the u.s. after a u.k. court ruled December 10 in favor of the u.s. government’s appeal to allow his extradition. Assange faces up to 175 years in prison in the u.s. under the Espionage Act for publishing classified documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was charged 10 years ago, he was also charged with rape by the Swedish government. Fighting those charges he was granted asylum in Ecuador. Unable to fly out of the u.k. he spent over 7 years in the Ecuadorian Embassy and now he’s in prison in England, held on the request of the u.s. His latest appeal hinged only on whether he would face “oppressive” conditions in the u.s and be a suicide risk. The justice department made all kinds of promises about Assange’s potential treatment and the court in the u.k. believed them. I do not and in fact, all the promises were conditional anyway. But all that misses the point: prosecuting a whistleblower for publishing true information about war crimes should not be a crime.
I don’t like Julian Assange. He is arrogant and a misogynist. He was accused of rape and although charges were dropped, the circumstances remain murky enough for me to believe his accuser. His statements while in the Embassy were consistently and disgustingly anti-feminist.
But it is necessary to defend Assange on any charges brought under the Espionage Act which was passed over 100 years ago during the Red Scare following WWI and the Russian Revolution. This would be the first time the Act is used to extradite and prosecute a foreign journalist who published truthful information. It is a significant legal issue for global press freedom. And important for all of us, particularly in the u.s. Prosecuting Assange would set a precedent that could affect every investigative journalist and every whistle blower.