Editor’s note: as an independent critic, I am often hesitant to write about issues involving controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange because it’s essentially impossible to do so without pissing some percentage of my readers off. I personally feel comfortable with acknowledging and appreciating the invaluable service Wikileaks and Assange have provided the public without endorsing the founder’s personal biases, at times bizarre behavior or account of what happened that night in a Swedish hotel; but that stance is often unpopular with both centrist and radical lefty readers. As such, it’s entirely possible that today’s Brief Thought will once again flood my inbox with angry hate-mail from a variety of ideological directions.
Frankly, I don’t know if Julian Assange is antisemitic or just paranoid, I find some aspects of his seemingly vaguely libertarian politics extremely distasteful and while I do in fact have some problems with details in the sexual assault case against him, I’m unprepared to disbelieve his accuser simply because I value the work Wikileaks does. By that same token however, I certainly can’t put it past western intelligence agencies to drum up a pretense to get their hands on a guy like Assange and frankly, I wouldn’t leave the bloody embassy either if I thought I’d end up at a CIA black site with a goddamn hood over my face in a matter of hours.
The simple truth is that how you or I feel about Julian Assange doesn’t change the authenticity, relevance or critical importance of the work Wikileaks does. It doesn’t change the fact that the US government would stop at almost nothing to prevent you from reading the information released by whistleblowers through Wikileaks and other media outlets; including violating the freedom of a press the current President holds in open contempt. Finally, it doesn’t change the fact that the American security state’s never ending war on both the First Amendment and privacy rights threatens all of us eventually.
Note: Please be reminded that if you’re having trouble reading this info graphic, you can right click on the picture and select “view this image” to pop out a larger version. Additionally, don’t forget to check out my comments after the sources section of this article.
Some observers will naturally be inclined to assume I’m overreacting to “tough talk” by ghouls like Pompeo and Sessions; likely while clinging to the fact that the Obama administration decided against charging Wikileaks precisely because it could open media outlets up to prosecution for publishing stories based on classified leaks.
Unfortunately for all of us however, I’m afraid that position may be quite naive; while it is still unclear if the Department of Justice has new evidence against Assange, I suspect the government intends to argue that Wikileaks violated the espionage act because they knew the information was classified when the received, then published it. If I’m right about that part, this automatically opens up a full blown assault on the First Amendment that powerful people on both sides of the political divide in America probably wouldn’t mind all that much. Did the New York Times know that information Wikileaks gave them was classified when they received it and wrote stories about it? You bet they did. Did you know that the last Wikileaks post you shared contained classified information? I sure did, and a quick examination of my social media feeds could easily prove it in a court of law.
Can anyone truly say how far the Trump administration is prepared to take this when the Director of the CIA is arguing that Assange isn’t protected under the First Amendment because he’s not a US Citizen while the Attorney General is openly declaring his arrest a top priority? Is the US government willing to storm the Ecuadorian embassy and arrest Assange? Would the British government let them, or even help them? What about people who helped publish leaks provided by Edward Snowden, a man Trump once strongly implied should be executed for exposing classified information about mass government surveillance; should they be worried too? When the President wants to sue the media for printing the truth and the Attorney General won’t rule out arresting them for reporting the truth – what exactly is going “too far” and how sure are we that appellate courts in the United States will be able to stop this?
Whether you like him or not, Julian Assange has now become the proverbial canary in the coalmine of the free press in the United States; what happens next is bigger than any election and if you have half a goddamn brain in your skull, you should be praying that Trump, Pompeo and Sessions fail – because if they don’t, nothing about America will ever be the same again.
- Nina Illingworth
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