Death Of Press Freedoms? Julian Assange Charged Under The Espionage Act On 17 Counts

By Aaron Kesel

WikiLeaks founder and former editor Julian Assange has been charged under The Espionage Act on 17 new counts in a superseding indictment for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents prior to his extradition hearing on May 30th, Reuters reported.

The charges carry a shocking sentence of 175 years in prison if found guilty by the secret Espionage court — a horrendous statement to send to journalists and truth tellers.

“The Department of Justice wants to imprison Assange for crimes allegedly committed outside of the United States. This extraterritorial application of US law is explicit throughout the indictment… thereby classifying any territory in the world as subject to US law,” WikiLeaks wrote in a statement, adding,

In response to the unprecedented espionage charges filed against Julian Assange today, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson declared:

This is the evil of lawlessness in its purest form. With the indictment, the ‘leader of the free world’ dismisses the First Amendment — hailed as a model of press freedom around the world — and launches a blatant extraterritorial assault outside its borders, attacking basic principles of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world.

WikiLeaks went on to write that the indictment carries “serious implications for WikiLeaks publishing partners, numbering over one hundred across the globe, including The New York Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian, who collaborated on the publications and may now face co-dependent charges.”

WikiLeaks concluded: “The final decision on Assange’s extradition rests with the UK Home Secretary, who is now under enormous pressure to protect the rights of the free press in the UK and elsewhere. Press rights advocates have unanimously argued that Assange’s prosecution under the Espionage Act is incompatible with basic democratic principles. This is the gravest attack on press freedoms of the century.”

A little over a month ago, Julian Assange was charged under the CFAA for helping crack a password without a single key stroke in an external computer, a charge that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted was weak, not fresh and has been known for nearly a decade as the Obama DOJ refused to charge him because it “endangered journalism,” Activist Post previously reported.

Now, Trump’s administration has taken that a step further, “endangering journalism” by charging Julian Assange under the outdated Espionage Act which will undoubtedly challenge the First Amendment, or the right to Freedom Of The Press.

The indictment accuses Assange of complicity in Chelsea Manning’s leaks, stating he solicited unauthorized disclosures of classified information and encouraged his source over several months (which basically describes journalism).

Something that, Barry J. Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, said shows the “gravity of the threat of prosecution” of his client.

“These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions that have taken by the U.S. government,” Pollack said.

“Assange, WikiLeaks affiliates and Manning shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it,” according to the indictment, the NYT wrote.

The NY Times noted that “in a briefing with reporters that most of the new charges against Mr. Assange were related to his obtaining of the archives of documents, as opposed to their publication.”

Julian Assange’s friends, former British ambassador Craig Murray and journalist John Pilger, stated that the indictment declares war on the Press.

Snowden once again chimed in via Twitter to echo much of the same, “The department of justice just declared war – not on Wikileaks but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media.”

After Julian Assange was sentenced in a Kangaroo Court in London for “skipping bail” for 50 weeks of a defunct bail warrant and fraudulent rape case, as well as having his first hearing on his extradition trial, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden expressed, “it is not just a man who stands in jeopardy, but the future of the free press.”

“Any government use of the Espionage Act to criminalize the receipt and publication of classified information poses a dire threat to journalists seeking to publish such information in the public interest, irrespective of the Justice Department’s assertion that Assange is not a journalist,” Bruce Brown, executive director Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said.

Politics aside, presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard noted the need for freedom of the press going on a historic rant on CNN, stating, “the purpose of arresting Assange is to send a message to the people, especially journalists, to be quiet and don’t get out of line. If we, the people, allow the government to control us through fear, we are no longer free, we are no longer America.”

Presidential candidate Mike Gravel (the Senator who read the infamous Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record) stated that the indictment was a disgrace under the outdated Espionage Act. Thus far no other presidential candidates have commented on the situation with Assange which could start a precedent against Press Freedoms.

Assange was first arrested on April 11th last month, dragged out the embassy in a shocking video. Interestingly enough, WikiLeaks announced one day prior of Assange’s arrest that its former Editor In Chief had all his meetings with doctors, lawyers, and visitors recorded in both audio and video. As well as videos and pictures of Assange walking around his living quarters inside the embassy.

WikiLeaks then held an emergency press conference, revealing the riveting information that Assange had been spied on and that unknown suspects at the time had tried to extort 3,000,000 million euro from the journalism organization for the destruction of the videos and pictures, which included videos of private situations such as doctors visits and lawyers meetings, Reuters reported.

Since then, police have made at least one arrest of the ring leader named Jose Martin Santos, previously convicted for fraud, arrested in Alicante for trying to bribe WikiLeaks for millions in exchange for private videos of Assange.

Further, Julian Assange’s belongings including two manuscripts from his time living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for 7 years was also handed over to U.S. prosecutors earlier in the week, ahead of the indictment issued today, The Guardian reported.

If the Trump administration gets its way, journalists could be treated as criminal conspirators by future governments.

Shockwaves were felt throughout the world when the frightening image of journalist Julian Assange was illegally removed from the Ecuadorian embassy, violating international law, as Ecuador illegally revoked Assange’s asylum and citizenship.

WikiLeaks has consistently highlighted that its founder and former editor Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained 8+ years without charge by the UK Govt (6+ years within the Ecuador Embassy in London where he was granted asylum from U.S. threats) and 2 years house arrest.

RT affiliate Ruptly captured his arrest as several UK police officers dragged him out of the embassy into a police van.

In the video, Julian Assange can be heard yelling, “The UK must resist this attempt by the Trump administration” as he was hauled into the van.

Assange was arrested on behalf of the United States authorities for an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act.

As both the current and former administrations continue forward with an ongoing nine-year investigation into WikiLeaks since their 2010 leak of almost 100,000 State and Defense Department secret documents dubbed Cablegate pertaining to U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither administration has been able to charge a single member of WikiLeaks with a criminal indictment. Nor has any of the documents in the cache of leaks ever been successfully disputed in an international court or court of public opinion.

In total WikiLeaks has leaked at least 10 million classified documents to date from various governments including the United States revealing corruption and war crimes — just like the Pentagon Papers embarrassed the Johnson and Nixon administration, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs embarrassed the Bush administration exposing war crimes.

In that case, only the alleged source of the leak was punished: former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who spent seven years in prison before former U.S. President Barack Obama commuted 28 years of her 35-year sentence on his way out of office, calling it “very disproportionate relative to what other leakers have received” and that “it makes sense to commute and not pardon her sentence.”

Now, Chelsea Manning is back in prison in solitary confinement for contempt of the court in the Eastern District of Virginia that indicted Assange for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks and its founder, a testimony which the DOJ is hoping will create a perjurious statement.

U.S. DOJ originally gave Chelsea Manning limited immunity over her Grand Jury testimony and confirmed she was not herself a target. To illustrate this point for the reader, Julian Assange’s extradition warrant/FBI affidavit dates from March 2018 — as such the DOJ does not need Chelsea’s testimony to indict Assange. In fact, it’s improper for them to try to use a Grand Jury to prepare for a pending trial once he is extradited. It should be stressed the DOJ are trying to trick Manning to perjure herself into giving a false statement over her original truthful trial testimony where she said her actions were not directed by Assange. This is to undermine Manning’s usefulness as a defense witness in Julian Assange’s trial.

WikiLeaks has literally shaped our history since its inception and arguably changed its direction by exposing the corrupt, bringing transparency to the darkness and opening governments worldwide. We owe Julian Assange for his brave historic revelations and contribution to our society. WikiLeaks has revealed everything from corruption, war crimes, spying to financial offshore tax havens.

Julian Assange deserves a Nobel Peace Prize and a Pulitzer for his incredible reporting as a journalist that has leaked countless documents that have had an impact on the world we live in without political bias criticizing all political parties and countries.

Assange doesn’t deserve the treatment that he has received from the Ecuadorian government and its staff at the embassy and assassination attempts on his life according to the WikiLeaks founder whose testimony about his treatment was made public a few days prior to his arrest.

It’s worth mentioning, since the mainstream press is pushing that Julian Assange isn’t a journalist, that WikiLeaks and Assange has received countless journalism awards. Further, WikiLeaks was found to be a media organization by a UK tribunal in 2017 as The Guardian reported.

WikiLeaks, its publisher, and its journalists have won many awards according to the website, including:

  • The Economist New Media Award (2008)
  • The Amnesty New Media Award (2009)
  • TIME Magazine Person of the Year, People’s Choice (highest global vote) (2010)
  • The Sam Adams Award for Integrity (2010)
  • The National Union of Journalists Journalist of the Year (Hrafnsson) (2011)
  • The Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal (2011)
  • The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (2011)
  • The Blanquerna Award for Best Communicator (2011)
  • The Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism (2011)
  • The Voltaire Award for Free Speech (2011)
  • The International Piero Passetti Journalism Prize of the National Union of Italian Journalists (2011)
  • The Jose Couso Press Freedom Award (2011)
  • The Privacy International Hero of Privacy (2012)
  • The Global Exchange Human Rights People’s Choice Award (2013)
  • The Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts (2013)
  • The Brazillian Press Association Human Rights Award (2013)
  • The Kazakstan Union of Journalists Top Prize (2014)

As well as nominations for the UN Mandela Prize (2015) and nominations in six consecutive years for the Nobel Peace Prize (2010-2015)

Assange added to that collection of awards when “for the award his longtime friend, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, accepted the joint GUE/NGL prize for ‘Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information. Assange was nominated by Courage Foundation, based on his contributions to journalism and whistleblower protections, his dire circumstances and need for public support, and what his case means for journalists and whistleblowers around the world,” the Courage Foundation wrote.

Maguire gave an incredible heart-wrenching speech in support of her friend Julian Assange stressing he exposed corruption and the war empire.

It certainly appears as if the attempted “takedown” of WikiLeaks stated in Stratfor documents is at a crossroads, and with it the possible death of adversarial journalism.

“This is possibly the beginning of the end of Press Freedoms” as historic antiwar activist Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst who worked for the RAND Corporation and the man that leaked the Pentagon Papers, has said.

The Trump administration is threatening to step over a never-crossed line – applying the secret documents provision of the Espionage Act to journalistic practices, according to the EFF, which in 2017 condemned the threats of prosecution against WikiLeaks and Assange.

Even Trump’s own lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks in favor of the WikiLeaks founder stating Assange should not be prosecuted for his journalism and revelations of corruption referencing the Pentagon Papers.

“Let’s take the Pentagon Papers,” Giuliani told Fox News. “The Pentagon Papers were stolen property, weren’t they?  It was in The New York Times and The Washington Post.  Nobody went to jail at The New York Times and The Washington Post.”

Trump campaigned on draining the swamp but has done anything but appointing John Bolton (an Iraq war hawk), Gina Haspel to the CIA director position (a former torturer at Americas first Blacksite), former CIA director Mike Pompeo (Iran war hawk) to Secretary of State and now bringing convicted Iran-Contra war criminal Elliot Abrams out of retirement as Venezuelan envoy in plans for regime change.

Trump who previously cheered on the leaks by WikiLeaks, mentioning WikiLeaks over 200 times in the 2016 campaign cycle and once stating “I love WikiLeaks” during a campaign rally, has now responded with “I know nothing about WikiLeaks.”

Numerous civil liberties and digital rights groups have previously condemned the arrest of Julian Assange and called to stop his extradition to the U.S. including – Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press FoundationBen Wizner, American Civil Liberties UnionRobert Mahoney, Committee to Protect JournalistsReporters Without Borders, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jameel Jaffer, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia UniversityCenter for Constitutional Rights, and the Center For Investigative Journalism.

“Leaks are a vital part of the free flow of information that is essential to our democracy. Reporting on leaked materials, including reporting on classified information, is an essential role of American journalism,” the EFF wrote.

Assange’s lawyers stated previously in an urgent application to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) to unseal the charges against Assange that the Trump administration has pressured Ecuador to hand over Assange. In December, The New York Times reported that Ecuador’s new president, Lenín Moreno, tried to negotiate handing over Assange to the U.S. in exchange for “debt relief.”

Let this author remind readers, that Julian Assange was sold out for a loan deal with the U.S. and a coincidental 4.2 billion loan by IMF, even when he’s arrested Assange is exposing corruption. In essence, these countries and the IMF central bank traded in freedom of the press and human rights,  this could set a monstrous precedent for journalism if the U.S. or any country is allowed to prosecute a foreign journalist reporting on its crimes.

Assange now faces a “nightmarish future” which in the short term for 50 weeks will so far be spent in Britain’s Guantanamo Bay – Belmarsh prison, as Elizabeth Vos expresses in an article written for Consortium News.

“The reputation of HM Prison Belmarsh raises natural concerns about the wellbeing of the WikiLeaks publisher there.” It’s worth noting as Vos detailed that the last time Assange was in a British prison he had an extra ingredient of metal added to his food.

Elizabeth Vos reports:

The last time Assange was held in a British prison, in 2010, he says that he was given food containing metal objects that severely damaged a tooth. This was at London’s HM Prison WandsworthThe incident caused serious injury and he did not receive proper medical treatment during the six and a half years of  his confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy. A medical report published by WikiLeaks in 2015 describes Assange’s version of the event.

For up-to-date accurate pertinent information on Julian Assange’s plight, see @Wikileaks, @AssangeMrs, and @Unity4J @couragefound and — @AssangeLegal the editor of Justice 4 Assange.

Supporters are asked to donate to the numerous defenses for WikiLeaks by visiting this link or purchasing merchandise from the WikiLeaks Shop, which goes towards Assange and other WikiLeaks volunteers’ defenses and future releases.

Grassroots movement Unity4J will be holding solidarity vigils for Julian Assange every Friday, from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m EST. Citizens interested in all views of the current case or present erosion of liberties can view the broadcast on YouTube or Periscope.

An organized up-to-date list of known street actions can be found on Unity4J’s Pinterest account which will be kept promptly up to date by volunteers. While there is a planned protest by Wise Up Action outside Westminster Magistrates Court starting at 9 a.m. on May 30th.

According to reports, May 30th begins Assange’s extradition hearing – however, the U.S. has till June 14th to bring all charges. So there may still be pending charges the U.S. has not yet revealed.

The question must be asked, who will rise to become the next WikiLeaks? At a time where a former CIA director, current Secretary Of State is admitting, “we, lied, we cheated and we stole” while describing the CIA and when a National Security head advisor is bluntly admitting to the American people that the U.S. wants to invade Venezuela for oil. Who will prevent the coming regime change war operations in Venezuela and Iran if WikiLeaks is pressured from not publishing potential information it receives that could save thousands or even millions of lives?

WikiLeaks gave transparency by allowing access to freedom of information in order to make better decisions for our children’s future, which undoubtedly doesn’t include endless wars feeding the military-industrial complex and its cronies’ retirement funds.

Assange now faces extradition to the U.S. and potential extradition to Sweden for the re-opened provably false rape allegations this writer exposed for Activate Now, as Assange is “moved from country to country to face various charges for the next 25 years” as a Stratfor doc once said.

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.

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