Few people have so fully devoted their lives to exposing abuses of power as WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.
As the newsstands, Internet columns and blogs have chronicled, Assange has been camping out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since Tuesday in an effort to gain political asylum and avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex crime allegations. If he loses that bid, he could eventually be extradited to the United States, where it’s a virtual certainty that officials would prosecute him for his work with WikiLeaks. Through that organization, Assange has published thousands of sensitive U.S. government documents.
On the basis of one such document, it is understood that the Justice Department already has a sealed indictment on Assange. Experts assume the government would prosecute him in accordance with the 1917 Espionage Act, which equates interference with government operations with support of America’s enemies. Over the past decade, U.S. officials have made it clear that anyone who can even be suspected of having a connection to terrorism is an enemy of the United States. In the eyes of the government, Assange may as well have ordered the deaths of American civilians or soldiers himself, even though no evidence has been produced to support the claim that the work WikiLeaks does has harmed Americans.
Given that the U.S. Justice Department has become what constitutional lawyer and Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald calls a travesty of law, Assange has every reason to fear extradition to the States. Assange’s attorney, Michael Ratner, confirms what seems obvious: The treatment given to accused WikiLeaks informant Bradley Manning—an extended, isolated imprisonment that a U.N. investigation deemed “cruel, inhuman and degrading”—is what Assange could expect as well. And as Greenwald writes: “The Obama administration’s unprecedented obsession with persecuting whistle-blowers and preventing transparency—what even generally supportive liberal magazines call ‘Obama’s war on whistle-blowers’—makes those concerns all the more valid.”
Even though Assange has broken no international law in seeking asylum from Ecuador, some, including New Statesman columnist David Allen Green, have portrayed him as a fugitive on the run. Assange has inspired the hatred of many since he first became internationally known in 2010. Much of that animosity has come from journalists and news organizations that have failed to do what Assange has done so spectacularly in the short time WikiLeaks has been operating: make people and organizations who do bad things in secret think twice about doing them at all, because someone devoted to truth and transparency might expose them.
The writers, editors and publishers at Truthdig are not among Assange’s detractors. We honor him for putting himself at great risk to reveal what governments and corporations are up to. Julian Assange is our Truthdigger of the Week.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly. Follow him on Twitter: @areedkelly.
Outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, an Assange supporter makes a sign that reads: “Ecuador: Country of Freedom”