American Ideals at Heart of Assange Extradition Case

The WikiLeaks publisher saw his free software project as a powerful tool for democracy, writes Nozomi Hayase.

By Nozomi Hayase
Common Dreams

On Monday, Jan. 13, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court in his fight against extradition to the U.S. The administrative hearing concerned Assange’s lack of access to legal counsel, making it difficult for him to adequately prepare for his case. His lawyer, Gareth Peirce, told the judge that U.K. prison is blocking her client from reviewing key evidence. She has only had two hours with him since his last hearing in December.

Injustice is woven into the U.K. legal system. This procedural hearing, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday of that week, was moved earlier by a day at the last minute. This gave Assange’s defense team only one hour with him, rather than the full day they had expected.

Assange has been charged with 17 counts of espionage for publishing the government’s documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and torture in Guantanamo Bay. The indictment of Assange is recognized by many free- speech groups as the most important press0freedom case of our time. Yet, with mainstream media blackout and utter silence of political leaders on this important issue, criminalization of journalism goes on without much of the public being aware of it.

America Betrays Its Own Ideals

What is this prosecution of Assange really about? Why do Americans need to be concerned about this Australian journalist who is charged with espionage by our government? WikiLeaks has radically changed the media landscape. By publishing truthful information about the United States, the organization came head-to-head with the Pentagon and the CIA. Yet, the effectiveness of his fearless journalism is not the only reason Assange became a political prisoner; designated as an enemy of the state and psychologically tortured inside Belmarsh prison (once known as the U.K.’s Guantanamo Bay).

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WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of the Collateral Murder video shed light on a hidden history of the United States. Raw footage of a U.S. Army attack in the suburb of Iraq, carried out under the banner of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” recovered lost pages of history. The unfolding imagery seen from the view of an Apache helicopter reached back to a time before the invasion of Iraq, before 9/11, and even before the nation’s addiction to oil began; to the genocide of the natives in the warfare led by American guns and cannons.

Memories retrieved let people see America’s betrayal of its own ideals, manifested in the exclusion of some from the premise of equality of all people, which was stated as self-evident truth in its founding document.

Carrying on the Struggles of the Past 

Gareth Peirce, a lawyer for Julian Assange, in 2016. (YouTube)

Assange, through his work with WikiLeaks, not only informed the public about America’s troubled beginning, but also provided a mechanism for people to redeem an unaccounted past.Throughout history, from the defiance of abolitionists to the women’s suffrage movement, demands for equality came from below. Ordinary people pushed boundaries of the Constitution to make ideals in the Declaration of Independence legally binding.

The ’60s brought political upheaval, and resistance came full force. Individuals like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X, through their united words and actions, inspired black people to mobilize in their fight to achieve civil rights. Mario Savio, the spokesperson for the free speech movement, instigated the nation-wide student protests against government censorship and restriction of free speech on campus.

In this digital age, Assange, who has won numerous awards for journalism, found a way to help a new generation of Americans carry on this struggle of the past. He did this by innovating a new form of journalism online that is run on free software.

Open Experiment of Democracy

Jérémie Zimmermann, a French computer science engineer and co-founder of the most prominent organization in Europe that defends online freedoms, described free software as a social contract and noted that it is a way to organize a public sphere.

Zimmermann delved deeper to reveal that the drive behind free software is love. He described how, “love is about understanding, understanding of flaws of others and of ourselves.” He then spoke how free software is, “a joyful practice with a role for everyone where we learn collectively about our flaws, where we learn to fail and love our failures, and learn about our failures.”

With WikiLeaks as a project of free software, Assange brought love to the Internet that could transform it into becoming a powerful tool for democracy. This love shared among the youth who grew up on the Internet fueled acts of civil disobedience. The former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, lit the spark of conscience, by releasing the largest trove of state secrets in U.S. history. This source behind WikiLeaks disclosure of the George W. Bush Era’s war crimes remains incarcerated for refusing to cooperate at a grand jury targeting the publisher.

From Manning, to Jeremy Hammond, to Edward Snowden, waves of whistleblowers created an insurgency of contagious courage. People from inside institutions, who want change, came forward to defy the unjust laws, in order to uphold the high ideals. This kick-started an open experiment of democracy, creating a network that seeks to understand flaws, collaborates to amend them, and invites all to participate in envisioning a new society.

Claiming Our History

With this platform of democracy that Assange helped to launch, what did he try to do? Assange came to see how ordinary people are made passive; being tossed around and excluded from vital decision-making processes. He decided to side with those who are oppressed, wanting to help people recognize their own significance.

While being held in solitary confinement in a maximum high security prison in London, Assange was awarded the 2019 Dignity Prize for his support of the Catalan peoples’ struggle for independence and their fight against Spanish police brutality. Just as he aspired to walk alongside Catalans on their path for self-determination, from behind the computer screen inside a tiny room in the Ecuadorian embassy, where his every move was monitored by the CIA, he also cared about the destiny of America and what it was becoming.

After Monday’s hearing, while being transported from Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange looked out into a crowd from inside a police van and acknowledged their support. A man shouted loudly, “Stay strong, you will be free.” Assange sacrificed his liberty so that we could all be free. By releasing documents, WikiLeaks set a frozen history in motion. History is now happening, and Assange’s plight is our story, in which each person has a significant role to play.

Only through each of us choosing freely to respond to this love for the world that Assange has demonstrated, may we be able to claim our own history. Only through love for one another that allows us to see perfection in our flaws, and find beauty in messes and our failures, can we begin to work to correct errors of our leaders — and together to end this egregious miscarriage of justice.

Nozomi Hayase, Ph.D., is an essayist and the author of WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening.” Follow her on Twitter: @nozomimagine

This article is from Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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11 comments for “American Ideals at Heart of Assange Extradition Case

  1. Sally Mitcheell
    January 25, 2020 at 15:55

    I like when the jargon disappears and the things that gather us as people come out in simple ways for all to understand and take notice so we feel free to take part in and speak up even through our differences to show acceptance tolerance of each other in a world that is fast becoming secretive and silent about the issues of humanity. Its’s a fine media that supports these stories and welcomes the average people to participate.

  2. January 24, 2020 at 22:47

    As a young person I was brain washed into thinking that the British justice system was the best in the world.I now know that it is on about the same level as any other totalitarian justice system, backed by government interference, political expediency, censorship by subterfuge and cruelty.

  3. January 24, 2020 at 18:47

    “America Betrays Its Own Ideals”

    The people doing the betraying and the people holding ideals are not the same. America is a highly divided or polarized society and has been so a long time.

    What ideals has anyone with power in America held regarding the Neocon Wars? They are the plainest international lawlessness. The plainest bullying. THe only principle is “might makes right.”

  4. DW Bartoo
    January 24, 2020 at 15:23

    Nozomi, your work is always much appreciated.

    We should all bear in mind that the Trump administration is pursuing Assange because, the administration argues, Assange, as a foreign national, is not protected by the First Amendment Right of free speech, either as an individual or as a publisher.

    It has always been my understanding that the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights applies to ALL (human) persons, not just U$ citizens.

    Perhaps that is a mistaken “ideal” on my part, yet I think the weight of genuine Constitutional scholarship would accord with my understanding.

    It might be that here, at Consortium News, we might discuss this among ourselves and see if we might determine a common understanding among ourselves regarding the protections and rights of the people, of all persons, with the clear awareness that the Constitution does not grant government expansive and limitless power but, in fact, very clearly limits the power of any government reserving those rights and powers not expressly enumerated to the people and NOT to the government.

    I guess my real concern, my question, in these times, is whether the people have the courage and imagination to grasp what that means and the fortitude and common purpose to insist that the government does not own the people that, in fact, the people own the government.

    In other words, the government serves the interests of the people, which includes, must include, unfettered and unrestricted access to knowledge of what that government is doing in the name of the people.

    Now, I realize there are those, perhaps even many who will claim that the government must have secrets FROM the people for what are termed “national security reasons”.

    Those who make such claims, which right now included, apparently, hiding war crimes and crimes against humanity, have to make very coherent, specific, and justifiable arguments to support those claims.

    Frankly, I can imagine none that are not, essentially, simply disingenuous efforts to cover up or excuse criminal behavior perpetrated by individuals, be they high government officers or simply
    “underlings” carrying out obnoxious orders.

    IF there is to secrecy around such policies or behaviors, including torture and othe crimes against humanity, then those making use of such secrecy ought be required to provide the rest of us jargon-free, reasons in plain language understandable to all in what very specific instances such secrecy is to be used and why it is too be used.

    I am rather certain that most who have read this comment to this point will be likely to agree that the use of national security claims are both over used and over abused.

    Frankly, there should neither trial nor tribulation for Assange for the real criminal behavior was, and is, perpetrated by those in numerous administrations, perhaps even all administrations in this nation’s history, but especially by the last three.

    The scrutiny should not be upon Assange, it should be upon those whose policies have brought this nation into low repute and placed it upon the course of perpetual war and murderous official behavior, based upon lies, fear mongering, and complicit media propaganda in support of wars of convenience, pillage, unjustified aggression.

    Clearly, the U$ government is guilty of war crimes, of ignoring and trashing international law, including very specific Conventions to which it is a signatory.

    Again, my question; with whom do we align?

    With those who seek Full Spectrum Dominance, militarily and economically, regardless of the unquestionable harm those behaviors cause, or with those who have the courage and conscience to expose those behaviors for the crimes that they are?

  5. C.Parker
    January 24, 2020 at 11:18

    The most troubling aspect of the entire imprisonment and silencing of Julian Assange is the overwhelming lack of support for Assange by the American people. All journalists, even those who’ve chosen to ignore Assange’s suffering, should be frightened for they, too, may find themselves incarcerated. Journalists and Americans should hang their heads in shame. Meanwhile, the U.K. does the dirty work for the imperial USA. Australians, where are you? Has the whole world gone mad?

    • Harry
      January 25, 2020 at 01:23

      “First they came for the Communists
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Communist

      Then they came for the Socialists
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Socialist

      Then they came for the trade unionists
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a trade unionist

      Then they came for the Jews
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Jew

      Then they came for me
      And there was no one left
      To speak out for me”

      Martin Niemöller

  6. michael
    January 24, 2020 at 05:57

    While this is a nice essay emphasizing the positive impact of Assange and wikileaks, that is not what he is up against. Ask John Kiriakou what it is like to be charged with espionage. There is no real trial, just a kangaroo court to make an example out of Assange. His crime was not publishing or even working with Russians, his crime was exposing and embarrassing Hillary Clinton’s corruption. Exposing and embarrassing our Elite may get him life in prison.

  7. Eugenie Basile
    January 24, 2020 at 04:11

    Not one European politician in government or any leader of the EU institutions has the guts to even mention the name of Assange.
    Assange’s terrible ordeal is proof of the rot in our western so-called democracies.
    I hope Assange has a vault with secrets that will vindicate his enormous sacrifice.
    Free Assange.

  8. geeyp
    January 24, 2020 at 01:59

    Another TV show I used to watch when I watched TV was Julian Assange’s RT show. One episode had Jeremie on with two others (Jake and the other gentleman’s name escapes me at present). Anywho, Jeremie was very thoughtful even then and is the real deal when he talks love. Ms. Hayase’s article also serves as a primer on Assange for anyone getting up to speed on him. I do feel there are people who are just now finding out.

    • jmg
      January 25, 2020 at 17:51

      geeyp wrote:
      > Another TV show I used to watch when I watched TV was Julian Assange’s RT show.

      All episodes are online under the title:

      “WATCH: Julian Assange’s ‘The World Tomorrow’ show on RT”

  9. ML
    January 23, 2020 at 22:48

    Thank you, Nozomi. Beautifully said.

Comments are closed.