The Espionage Act

by Julie

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.

Chelsea Manning Still in Prison

Chelsea Manning is still incarcerated in Virginia, at the direction of a federal judge, for her failure to testify at a second grand jury investigating wikileaks and Julian Assange.

Chelsea, was originally charged in 2010 with various military violations for leaking information about the u.s. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. During her initial incarceration at Qantico, the harsh and inhumane conditions were so extreme that at her ultimate sentencing, the military court reduced her 35-year sentence by 112 days. During her incarceration, Chelsea fought for her right, and the rights of all incarcerated people, to gender appropriate treatment and care. On January 17, 2017, obama commuted her sentence to an additional 4 months, and she was released on May 17.

However, in February 2019, Chelsea was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury investigating wikileaks and Assange. She refused to testify, and on International Women’s Day, March 8, was held in contempt, and ordered to be incarcerated until she complied. She was released on May 9, when the grand jury expired. On May 16, she was ordered to appear before a new grand jury investigating Assange, and she was incarcerated again, this time for 18 months. In addition, she is being fined $1000/day, so that when released, she will owe the government over $400,000. As her twitter feed explained on new years eve, she will have been incarcerated for over 77% of her life in the past 10 years.

On December 30, 2019, Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur, released a letter, which accused the u.s. government of “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The letter called for her release and cancellation or reimbursement of fines.