As free and open journalism remains under attack, a lawyer for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has confirmed that it’s the Pentagon, and not the White House or any other government agency whose secrets he has leaked, that has been pushing for years to smear and bring down Julian Assange.
Assange lawyer Geoffrey Robertson was granted a meeting with Obama administration insiders and had asked if they “really wanted” the publisher so they could access his whistleblowers and because he warned that “there are dangerous precedents here,” Robertson said they responded simply:
We don’t want him, but the Pentagon does, and the Pentagon may eventually get its way.
Robertson spoke to Obama administration insiders after he learned of a secret grand jury they had convened against Assange in 2010, he explained to Phillip Adams on ABC’s Radio National on Thursday. Robertson reminded them that charging a journalist under national security laws had serious First Amendment implications, but the Obama team was already aware of the kind of precedent it would set. If this goes through, journalists will essentially be silenced from exposing government secrets – not only systemically, but through fear of life in prison.
Interestingly, the Obama administration charged more leakers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined, but it never sought to go after a journalist or publisher. This is something new, and dangerous, all together. It reveals the true nature of how far government agencies will go to protect their secrets.
According to award-winning journalist John Pilger, the Pentagon’s campaign enacted the media to destroy Assange’s reputation as “threats of exposure [and] criminal prosecution” were used to rid the public “feeling of trust” towards the core of WikiLeaks’ operations. In many cases, this worked. Look how many mainstream media outlets who long profited off of Assange’s work early on but have now turned on him. Was this at the call of ‘higher powers?’ or are they simply following up with natural responses to a heavy smear and disinformation campaign?
Assange is currently in jail for 50 weeks for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He was recently too ill to appear at a hearing at Westminster magistrates court in relation to the US request. More recently, the British home secretary Sajid Javid signed the extradition order to send Julian Assange to the US. This now leaves the final decision to the courts. It’s likely that the extradition decision process will take many months to decide in court.
In late May Assange was hit with 17 criminal charges under the espionage act when a federal grand jury in Virginia returned a brand new indictment. All are in connection with the alleged leaks publicly released in conspiracy with Chelsea Manning. All charges combined could land him in prison for 170 years, all for doing what many are arguing are responsible and important acts of journalism. WikiLeaks has never had to make a retraction on their journalistic work.
Of course, Assange’s arrest has been controversial since it happened. Garnering opinions from many directions including that he is a hero and that he is a villain that must be prosecuted for revealing government secrets. Demers responded to supporters of Assange who feel the WikiLeaks founder was being targeted for work as a journalist. Demers stated this information put the sources at risk, and that no “responsible” journalist would publish it.
If he is found guilty of his charges, which is highly unlikely considering no “national security” defendant has ever won a case in the Eastern District of Virginia court where he will be tried, it’s also unlikely they will acquit him. Thus, Assange facing 170 years in prison is a very real thought.
Some still believe Assange is being brought back to the US to be a witness in bringing to light the crimes of people like Hillary Clinton and her cronies. I still do not see solid evidence of this and instead see a situation developing that has very serious implications on journalistic work and truth, not to mention destroying the life of an innocent man.
Regardless, this presents an opportunity for questioning. Why does our government’s work so hard to protect secrets related to wrongdoing that no one supports? Why do we spend more time arguing over if Assange is right or wrong when we already know the actions of our governments are dreadful? Are we not simply being distracted by them? Good ol’ bait and switch?