During the Trump administration, the CIA planned to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange in London according to an explosive exposé from Yahoo!News, but the U.S. justice system promises to abide by due process in the case if the WikiLeaks founder is tried in this country.
A spokesperson for Assange’s legal team, lawyer Carlos Poveda, has expressed doubt that the U.S. justice system will abide by due process in the case if Assange is tried in this country.
More than 30 former officials say former CIA Director Mike Pompeo was apparently motivated to get even with WikiLeaks following its publication of the spy agency’s sensitive hacking tools, which the agency considered “the largest data loss in CIA history.”
“There are already precedents in which the U.S. has not respected the guarantees and its commitments,” said Poveda.
On June 17, 2022, the United Kingdom approved Assange’s extradition to the United States to face charges, primarily under the nation’s Espionage Act, for releasing US government records that revealed the US military committed war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists.
If found guilty, Assange faces a jail term of up to 175 years in what would be the first prosecution of a journalist under the Espionage Act.
The case sets a dangerous precedent that members of the media, in any country, can now be targeted by governments, anywhere in the world, to answer for publishing information in the public interest.
While Assange remains in prison and under threat of extradition and trial in the U.S., the threat to journalists, publishers and activists continues to grow, according to former CIA analyst and field agent John Kiriakou.
Kiriakou became a whistleblower when he exposed the CIA’s official torture program—and then became the only person jailed for it.
Kiriakou shared his own story and those of other whistleblowers such as Daniel Hale, who as a former drone operator and National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst, exposed the rampant killing of innocent civilians by the U.S. drone program. Hale is currently serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. His projected release date is July 5th, 2024.
Wikileaks was awarded the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism in 2011, an annual prize to reward excellence in Australian journalism, in recognition of the impact of the team’s actions on public interest journalism by assisting whistle-blowers to tell their stories.
Whistle-blowers have since been utilized by other media outlets to expose global tax avoidance schemes, among other stories.
The sentence of Chelsea Manning, who collaborated with Assange to release the contentious material, was commuted by President Barack Obama.
None of WikiLeaks’ media partners have been charged in any US government legal proceeding because of their collaboration with Assange.
Aside from the dire implications for press freedom, critics say there is no legitimate legal criterion for Assange’s extradition or his criminal charges.
“When you denounce a crime and you are called a criminal, it means the government itself is a criminal”, says Dominique Pradalié, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
The IFJ is calling on the United States government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home to be with his wife and children.
The IFJ has also called on all media unions, press freedom organizations and journalists to urge governments to actively work to secure Assange’s release. #FreeAssangeNOW
Washington accuses the cyber-activist of an alleged crime of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” and 17 other charges for accessing, obtaining and disclosing secret military and diplomatic documents related to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Guantánamo prisoners and diplomatic cables released by the digital platform Wikileaks.
Critics argue that this is the very definition of journalism that is protected by the First Amendment, revealing the secrets government tries to keep from its citizens and they say there is no evidence that Assange did anything wrong in collecting that information, which Manning voluntarily turned over to Wikileaks.