Six Reasons Julian Assange Should Be Thanked, Not Punished, by David Swanson

Free Julian Assange

Image by duncan c via Flickr

by David Swanson
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Let’s Try Democracy
September 18, 2020

1. The effort to extradite and prosecute Julian Assange for journalism is a threat to future journalism that challenges power and violence, but a defense of the media practice of propagandizing for war. While the New York Times benefited from Assange’s work, its only reporting on his current hearing is an article about technical glitches in the court proceedings — utterly avoiding the content of those proceedings, even falsely suggesting that the content was inaudible and otherwise unobtainable. The corporate U.S. media silence is deafening. Not only does President Donald Trump’s effort to imprison Assange (or, as he has publicly advocated in the past, kill him) conflict with media fictions about Russia, and contradict fundamental pretenses about U.S. respect for freedom of the press, but it also serves an important function that is clearly in the interest of media outlets that promote wars. It punishes someone who dared to expose the malevolence, cynicism, and criminality of U.S. wars.

2. The Collateral Murder video and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs documented some of the greatest crimes of recent decades. Even the exposure of the misdeeds of a U.S. political party was a public service, not a crime — certainly not the crime of “treason” against the United States by a non-U.S. citizen, a concept of treason that would make the entire world subject to imperial dictates — and certainly not the crime of “espionage” which has to be committed on behalf of a government, not on behalf of the public interest. If U.S. courts were to prosecute the actual crimes exposed by Julian Assange and his colleagues and sources, they would have little time available for prosecuting journalism.

3. The idea that publishing government documents is something other than journalism, that real journalism requires hiding government documents while describing them to the public, is a recipe for misleading the public. Claims that Assange assisted a source in criminally (if morally and democratically) obtaining documents lack evidence and appear to be a smokescreen for the prosecution of basic journalistic practices. The same goes for claims that Assange’s journalism harmed people or risked harming people. Exposing war is the very opposite of harming people. Assange withheld documents and asked the U.S. government what to redact prior to publishing. That government chose not to redact anything, and now blames Assange — without evidence — for a small number of deaths in wars that have killed huge numbers of people. We have heard testimony this week that the Trump administration offered Assange a pardon if he would reveal a source. The offense of refusing to reveal a source is an act of journalism.

4. For years the United Kingdom maintained a pretense that it sought Assange for criminal accusations from Sweden. The idea that the United States sought to prosecute the act of reporting on its wars was mocked as paranoid fantasy. For global society to now accept this outrage would be a significant blow to press freedom globally and to the independence of any vassal state from U.S. demands. Those demands tend to be, first and foremost, to buy more weapons, and, secondarily, to participate in the use of those weapons.

5. The United Kingdom, even outside of the European Union, has laws and standards. The extradition treaty it has with the United States prohibits extradition for political purposes. The United States would punish Assange brutally pre-trial and subsequent to any trial. The proposal to isolate him in a cell in a prison in Colorado would amount to a continuation of the torture that UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer says Assange has already been subjected to for years. An “espionage” trial would deny Assange the right to put forward any case in his own defense that spoke to his motivations. A fair trial would also be impossible in a country whose top politicians have convicted Assange in the media for years. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Wikileaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” Presidential candidate Joe Biden has called Assange a “hi-tech terrorist.”

6. The legal process thus far has not been legal. The United States breached Assange’s right to client-lawyer confidentiality. During the last year at the Ecuadoran Embassy, a contractor spied on Assange 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including during his private meetings with his attorneys. Assange has been denied the ability to properly prepare for the current hearings. The court has displayed extreme bias in favor of the prosecution. Were corporate media outlets reporting on the details of this travesty, they would soon find themselves treated in a hostile manner by those in power; they would find themselves on the side of the serious journalists; they would find themselves on the side of Julian Assange.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include Leaving World War II Behind (2020), Curing Exceptionalism: What’s wrong with how we think about the United States? What can we do about it? (2018) and War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Support David’s work.

[DS added the videos.]

DAY 9 Joe Lauria’s Daily Report on Assange Extradition Hearing

Consortium News on Sep 18, 2020

Joe Lauria will report every weekday at 5pm BST on the Assange extradition hearing. Please support our show by becoming a patron of CNLive!

Today’s witnesses are Nicky Hager, Khaled El-Masri and Carey Shenkman

Julian Assange Extradition Hearing – September 17, 2020

Shadowproof on Sept. 17, 2020

Shadowproof managing editor Kevin Gosztola provides a report on Day 8 of court proceedings in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition trial.

See also:

Khaled El Masri, Survivor Of CIA Torture And Rendition, Supports Assange At Extradition Trial, by Kevin Gosztola

Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 12, by Craig Murray

From the archives:

Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg and James Goodale: Assange Extradition and the War on Journalism

Julian Assange and Charlatan Trump, by Finian Cunningham + Julian Assange Extradition Hearing – Sept. 9, 2020

The Trial Of Julian Assange: Whose Side Are You On? by John Pilger + The Assange Hearing by Craig Murray

Global Assange + Julian Assange’s Father, John Shipton Speaks Out

Chris Hedges: Collateral Murder Video and the US Military Cover Up

Chris Hedges: Ramifications For Press Freedom In Julian Assange Extradition

Chris Hedges and Joe Lauria: The Julian Assange Extradition Trial