Prosecuting Wikileaks: Attack on Free Speech or Justice for Helping Russia Manipulate 2016 Election?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the media that “it is a priority” of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to “seek to put some people in jail” for leaking government documents to Wikileaks.
Earlier this month, CIA Director Mike Pompeo categorized Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service” and accused Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, as trying to “make a name” for himself by publishing classified information.
Pompeo said: “As long as they make a splash, they care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security. It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors, like Russia.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald took exception to Sessions and Pompeo’s remarks about Wikileaks and Assange, saying: “The Trump administration obviously believes that they can now safely, politically, prosecute WikiLeaks. And the danger, of course, is that this is an administration that has already said, the President himself has said, the U.S. media is the enemy of the American people. And this is a prosecution that would enable them not only to prosecute and imprison Julian Assange, but a whole variety of other journalists and media outlets that also routinely publish classified information from the U.S. government.”
Greenwald likened this new stance against Wikileaks to governments attempting to “abridge core freedoms” such as free speech. And because “they know WikiLeaks is hated on all sides of the political spectrum” Assange is an easy target. However the bigger prize, according to Greenwald, is “this very dangerous precedent of allowing the CIA and the Trump Justice Department to decide who is and who is not a journalist, what types of journalism are protected by the First Amendment and what types aren’t, will be entrenched as precedent.”
Keeping with the freedom of speech theme, Journalist Andy Greenberg warns against prosecuting Assange for publishing classified documents because if the DoJ takes legal action against Wikileaks, it “could threaten the freedom of the press as a whole.”
The problem with defending Assange is that his infamous Wikileaks played a core role in the Russian manipulation of the 2016 election.
Last December, when Donald Trump was still president-elect, Assange hinted that he would ask Trump to drop any US criminal investigation into him as a way of dodging the jail time he would receive.
Jennifer Robinson, attorney for Assange, told the media that it is their hope Trump would reverse President Obama’s stance on classified information and materials. Robinson claims that the investigation into her client should be closed “on the grounds it violates the first amendment and places a chill on freedom of speech and reporting.”
This is no surprise consider that Assange was integral to the election win of Trump through documents provided to him by the Russian government. In fact, Moscow directly provided information and was “directly responsible for the leaks that cast a negative shadow over democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
And thanks to his help getting the emails Russia hacked out to the public, Trump will enjoy the benefits of being a US president. For his trouble, Assange is also hoping, not only for a pardon, but for assistance in getting out of charges of rape and molestation.
Since 2010, Assange has been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy, evading allegations of sexual deviancy and assault while maintaining his innocence.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
Assange’s problems do not stop with the Trump administration threatening to prosecute him. As of February of this year, Guillaume Long, foreign minister for the Ecuadorian government said that Assange has overstayed his welcome at their embassy in the UK.
Long told the press that Ecuador would like to evict Assange as soon as possible and asked the Swedish government to expedite their investigation into multiple rape accusations against Assange.
He added: “We hope they are as swift as possible because this has been going on for far too long.”
According to reports, Assange has become a nuisance and a liability to Ecuador since he was granted asylum in 2012. The Ecuadorian government had to take away his internet privileges after Wikileaks published emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, which Assange received from the Kremlin.
Prior to that incident, Assange was warned multiple times by Ecuador that their “sovereign space was not being used for interference in the election of another country.”
The damage Assange caused to Ecuador in helping Russia sway the US election became evident as Long pointed out that Wikileaks has placed Ecuador in “a very precarious position”.
In addition to Ecuador’s frustration with Assage, Guillermo Lasso, Ecuador’s right-wing presidential candidate, promised his potential constituents that he would rid their country of Assange.
Lasso’s campaign promise specified: “The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear. We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.”
Journalist Max Bearak explained that since Assange was granted asylum in 2012, Ecuadorian “oil prices have tanked and taken Ecuador’s economy with them”.