Biden Under Mounting Pressure To Drop Charges Against Julian Assange

By Tyler Durden

While the Biden administration claims to champion a free and transparent press – with Attorney General Merrick Garland instituting expanded protections for journalists in October, during which he said “a free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy” – calls have been growing for Biden to release perhaps the most famous political prisoner in the world, Julian Assange.

According to The Guardian – which ironically has one of the worst records when it comes to pro-establishment / anti-Assange reporting – “the biggest test of Biden’s commitment remains imprisoned in a jail cell in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been held since 2019 while facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act.”

Assange notably exposed US war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, which included 400,000 field reports about the Iraq War; 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians; and systematic rape, torture and murder committed by Iraqi forces after the U.S. military “handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad,” according to TruthOut.

WikiLeaks also disclosed the Afghan War Logs, which are 90,000 reports of more civilian casualties by coalition forces than the U.S. military had admitted to. And its revelations additionally included the Guantánamo Files, 779 secret reports showing that 150 innocent people had been held there for years and documenting the torture and abuse of 800 men and boys in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

And while former President Barack Obama commuted the sentence to leaker Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, Assange has been left to rot in prison as he awaits extradition to the United States to stand trial under the Espionage Act.

Now, Biden is facing a push from both inside the US and internationally, to drop charges against Assange that were levied against him by the Trump DOJ in 2019 – when UK authorities arrested the WikiLeaks foundre and dragged him out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. As he was pulled from the building, Assange yelled “This is unlawful, I am not leaving.”

The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution by Nils Melzer

But the Biden administration immediately continued pursuing Assange. Within two weeks of his 2021 inauguration, the Biden DOJ repeatedly asked the UK courts to renew America’s request for Assange’s extradition – which was eventually approved by then-home secretary Priti Patel in June. Assange is appealing the decision, arguing that he is “being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions.”

Almost all of the 18 charges brought against Assange in the 2019 indictment center on the actual publication online of secret military and government material by WikiLeaks, much of it garnered from former US military whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Only one of the charges accuses Assange of actively working to help Manning secure the classified information. In that instance, prosecutors charged that Assange offered to help Manning to crack the password for one classified military system – an attempt that failed. -The Guardian

In late November, five major media outlets sent a letter to the Biden administration, including the NY Times and The Guardian, calling for the US government to end its prosecution of Assange.

This case is hugely significant,” said Columbia University law professor Jameel Jaffer, who runs the Knight First Amendment Institute at the university. “At the end of the day, I find it hard to believe that the Biden administration wants this case to be its press freedom legacy, and it will be its legacy if they continue to pursue it. That will overshadow everything else when it comes to press freedom.”

Justice department officials aren’t tipping their hand about where Assange’s prosecution might eventually lead, as he continues to challenge his extradition to the US before a British appeals court. The justice department declined to comment on all the outside calls to drop the case, but one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Garland “has made clear that he will follow the law wherever it leads”, as he has in other politically charged cases.

For all the outside pressure on the justice department to drop the case, a critical factor could turn out to be the internal regulations that Garland announced in October banning the use of records seizures and other investigative steps against “news media acting within the scope of news gathering” except in what the department said would be limited circumstances. -The Guardian

A central argument by the West has been whether Assange should be considered a journalist – which would entitle him to First Amendment protections in the US, or a ‘rogue operative,’ who GOP Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska once called “an outlet for foreign propaganda and … an enemy of the American people.”

According to Barry J Pollack, Assange’s lead lawyer in the US, “the new regulations certainly cry out for someone at the highest levels of the justice department to take a fresh look at this prosecution to see whether it is really consistent with the new policy,” and to determine “is this the type of case we want to be pursuing?”

“The timing is ripe for that,” he continued.

Source: ZeroHedge

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