Press Freedom Groups Urge Biden DOJ to Drop ‘Disastrous’ Charges Against Assange

The coalition says Trump abused U.S. prosecutorial powers and that Biden should back away from a dangerous precedent. 

Julia Assange in undated photo. (Espen Moe, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

A broad coalition of progressive organizations on Monday sent an open letter to the Justice Department urging it to undo a “grave threat to press freedom” by ending efforts to extradite jailed journalist Julian Assange from Britain to the U.S. and dropping the charges against him. 

The letter — organized by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and signed by two dozen groups including Amnesty International USA, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Knight First Amendment Institute and Reporters Without Borders — expresses “profound concern about the ongoing criminal and extradition proceedings relating to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” 

It continues:

“The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the [U.S. government’s] indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely — and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do. Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.

In addition, some of the charges included in the indictment turn entirely on Mr. Assange’s decision to publish classified information. News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public of matters of profound public significance.”

“The Trump administration positioned itself as an antagonist to the institution of a free and unfettered press in numerous ways,” the letter states. “Its abuse of its prosecutorial powers was among the most disturbing. We are deeply concerned about the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged — perhaps by a future administration —against publishers and journalists of all stripes.”

Noting that major news organizations as well as some senior Obama administration officials concurred — and that Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder declined to indict Assange — the letter asserts that “now more than ever, it is crucial that we protect a robust and adversarial press.” 

In a blog post accompanying the letter, Freedom of the Press Foundation Advocacy Director Parker Higgins calls the charges against Assange “among the most disastrous press freedom issues in the country.”

“The Biden administration’s Department of Justice now has an opportunity and an obligation to end this dangerous charade,” adds Higgins. “As we outline in the letter, the appropriate path forward is to stop pursuing the appeal of the extradition and to drop the charges.” 

Assange — who is in poor health — is currently languishing in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison after a British judge denied him bail last month, despite another judge’s rejection of the U.S. extradition request on Jan. 4. 

Following Britain’s refusal to extradite Assange, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his country would offer him political asylum. 

Assange was first arrested in December 2010. Since then he has been subjected to house arrest, imprisonment in London, and seven years in political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the British capital.

This article is from Common Dreams.

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12 comments for “Press Freedom Groups Urge Biden DOJ to Drop ‘Disastrous’ Charges Against Assange

  1. robert e williamson jr
    February 10, 2021 at 13:51

    Some advice for our new “Commander In Chief”.

    #1 When you are stuck in the bottom of a hole stop digging, pardoning Assange would mean nothing to the U.S. but good press around the world.

    #2 The last guy, a fake president has arguably done more damage to the country than anyone since 43 last graced the halls of the White House.

    #3 Start uniting the forces that got you elected and forget the hapless republicans. I’m telling you to cut your losses with these losers and Unite a strong base and plea for their dedication. Give them some hope and in true Washington D.C, fashion pay them for their loyalty buy cutting their taxes to the bone and tax the hell out of corporate trouble makers. Oil companies – see pipeline protests, chemical companies see poisoned land and water. And defense industry companies who are taking all of us to the cleaners.

    If you get stuck trying to do something with the corrupt CIA see #1. The intelligence communities death grip on Almerica must be broken.

    Now some advice for the rest of you start writing letters to President Biden and express yourself as you do here.



    Thanks to CN

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    February 10, 2021 at 10:45

    And Australia’s continued silence in this matter is ear-splitting…Stand up for your country but don’t expect your country to stand up for you, eh?

  3. James Simpson
    February 10, 2021 at 02:57

    “Just one day after a coalition of prominent civil rights groups made headlines with a letter urging the Biden administration to drop efforts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on espionage charges, the Biden administration has announced its intention to continue those efforts.

    “Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi on Tuesday said the U.S. government will continue to challenge a British judge’s ruling last month that Assange should not be extradited to the United States because of the risk he would commit suicide,” Reuters reports.

    “We continue to seek his extradition,” Raimondi said.”


    This presents the Left in the USA and UK with a dilemma: how do they continue their adoration of Joe Biden with his refusal to do the right thing with Mr Assange? I suspect we’ll see a lot less activism for Mr Assange as the Left lets Biden get away with a great deal of appalling acts for just not being Donald Trump.

    • February 10, 2021 at 12:42

      So true. Asking Biden to do the right thing is like asking a wolf not to kill a rabbit. I feel sad that there is so much delusion out there.

  4. February 10, 2021 at 01:09

    How far is the Tory Fat Boy Boris Johnson going to Bend Over for Biden ? Will he hand over Assange for an American Show Trial and Waterboarding.

    • Piotr Berman
      February 10, 2021 at 11:45

      UK elite detest those that spill secrets perhaps even more than the American overlords. And in Australia, they do not like it either — there was some criminal case against uncovering the underhanded way Australia used to steal from the poorest neighbor, East Timor. So the chance of extracting a pound of flesh from a detestable leaker is enjoyed on at least 3 continents.

  5. Jerry Markatos
    February 9, 2021 at 22:53

    This is a well atated appeal to forward and to quote, whether at the White House comment line 202 456-1111, on editorial pages, or on social media. Press freedom is limping along, already damaged from outside and inside,. It must not be further damaged by persecution of the sort that is crushing the life of Assange and the right of the people to know what government does in our name and without our consent.

  6. February 9, 2021 at 20:07

    I like that picture f Assange very much.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see him looking so free and thoughtful again?

    But truly, such pleas to Biden seem almost the stuff of fantasy to me.

    Biden is a fifty-year lifer political apparatchik. He has never done anything new or daring or brave in a that time.

    We cannot even imagine him doing anything new with China or Russia or Iran, how much less doing something that violates the primitive code of the kind of CIA creature featured in John Kiriakou’s piece?

  7. Em
    February 9, 2021 at 17:10

    The “grave threat to press freedom” that will show them for what they really are all about will never be permitted to see the light of day. That is precisely what the powers that be are attempting to quash, by relentlessly persecuting Julian Assange for what he brought to the surface. By any means necessary is the name of their game.
    The journalist who came closest to uncovering the deceit of their notion of ‘national security’ – theirs, not the country’s, or the world’s, for that matter, will not be permitted to walk free.
    It matters not which arm of the duopoly holds the reins

  8. alexandra moffat
    February 9, 2021 at 15:54

    Yes – stop the torture of a whistle blower- he deserves a medal. Democracy fails with out whistle- blowers – they must be cherished, not punished.

  9. Mark Thomason
    February 9, 2021 at 13:30

    The problem here is that Assange exposed Hillary’ State Dept lies, and thus was an attack on the Administration of which Biden was an important part. Biden was specifically important in the foreign policy areas about which the lies were exposed.

    Trump’s Administration may have brought the charges, but the charges are for offending the Obama Admin, and specifically for offending the two stars of the Democratic Party’s universe, Hillary and Biden (actually Biden less than Hillary among those who worship at the altar of the Democratic Party).

    Biden won’t give him a break, if even Trump was pushed to persecute him. Remember, Hillary wanted to assassinate him, and on UK soil. She was stopped, but she wrote about it in official memos, she wanted to do it.

    • TimN
      February 9, 2021 at 20:20

      Unfortunately, I think you’re right. I think Biden will just ignore this (and let’s not forget about Biden’s dementia– I wonder how much he’s even aware of what is going on), and there are plenty of authoritarian freaks like Neera Tanden–and Clinton–whp would just as soon like to see Assange dead.

Comments are closed.