On Saturday, protests supporting Julian Assange will occur around the world. In London, Assange supporters will link arms around the parliament building. Protests will also occur outside the Justice Department headquarters in Washington (I’ll be one of the speakers), D.C., and in San Francisco, Tulsa, Denver, and Seattle, as well as in Australia.
Four years ago, I wrote a USA Today column calling for Assange to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom. My piece failed to sway the Trump White House and the Biden administration has taken up the prosecution of one of the most important truth tellers of this century. Assange has been locked away for years in a maximum-security prison in Britain. He is facing extradition to face 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information. If the Brits deliver Assange to the U.S. government, he has almost no chance for a fair trial because of how prosecutions are rigged in federal court.
The last four years have revealed why activists like Assange, who has been held for years in a maximum-security British prison, are vital to any hope of making rulers accountable to the citizenry. Attorney General Ramsey Clark warned in 1967, “Nothing so diminishes democracy as secrecy.” At this point, America is an Impunity Democracy in which government officials pay no price for their abuses.
Assange was targeted by the U.S. government after his organization, Wikileaks, disclosed tens of thousands of documents and some videos exposing crimes committed by the U.S. military against Afghan and Iraqi civilians. A 2010 Christian Science Monitor report on the leak noted that it was “unclear how Americans might react to revelations about apparent indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians” by American forces. But the Monitorheadline captured the verdict in Washington: “Congress’s response to WikiLeaks: shoot the messenger.” Vice President Joe Biden denounced Assange as a “high-tech terrorist.”
Federal agencies could not prove that any of the information that Wikileaks released was false. At the court martial of former Army Corporal Bradley Manning, who leaked the documents, prosecutors failed to show that any information Wikileaks disclosed had led to the death of a single person in Afghanistan or Iraq. That conclusion was re-confirmed by a 2017 investigation by PolitiFact. Even Biden admitted in 2010 that “I don’t think there’s any substantive damage” from the Wikileaks revelations.” But Assange was guilty of violating the U.S. government’s divine right to blindfold the American people.
Read more: Julian Assange and Our Impunity Democracy