Biden isn’t just upholding Trump’s assault on press freedoms, he’s rejecting Obama’s decision not to charge Assange due to First Amendment concerns, writes Caitlin Johnstone.
By Caitlin Johnstone
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.
Assange’s arrest and subsequent charges under the Espionage Act in 2019 for what amount to standard journalistic practices which exposed U.S. war crimes marked both a dramatic escalation in the U.S. empire’s war on critical national security journalism and a sharp divergence from the Obama administration’s decision not to pursue such charges in this case.
Biden is not just upholding Trump’s assault on press freedoms (far and away the single most egregious attack on journalism in the 45th president’s entire four years in office), he is rejecting the Obama administration’s decision not to charge Assange due to concerns that it would erode the First Amendment.
As The Washington Post reported during Barack Obama’s second term in 2013:
“The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials.”
“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”
Nothing about this has changed. The Trump administration did not have access to any evidence that the Obama administration did not also have in 2013, it just chose to squint at the law from a different angle and legally interpret Assange’s journalistic activities as a violation of the Espionage Act.
There is nothing whatsoever preventing other journalists around the world from facing the same fate under similarly dubious legal interpretations. The U.S. Department of Justice is not going to be using other people’s personal definitions of what constitutes legitimate journalistic activity going forward, it’s going to be using its own.
Biden’s divergence from the Obama administration’s less authoritarian position on the matter should not come as much of a surprise, since he took an absurdly hard line against WikiLeaks after the first publications of the earth-shattering Manning leaks in 2010.
“I would argue it is closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers,” Biden said of Assange at the time. “But, look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world.”
It should also come as no surprise because, all things considered, this administration has not been much different from the previous one in terms of actual policy.
The policy of regime change interventionism in Venezuela is the same. The policy of hawkishness toward China is the same. The policy of starvation sanctions against Iran is effectively the same.
In a recent CNN interview Secretary of State Tony Blinken could not speak highly enough of Trump’s more incendiary foreign policy decisions like moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the illegally occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
There are far, far more similarities between the Trump administration and the Biden administration than there are differences. As is consistently the case with U.S. presidents, the narratives are different, the campaign platforms are different, the political parties are different, but the actual policies and behaviors remain more or less the same.
None of this means we should stop fighting tooth and claw for Assange’s freedom: the fight is far from over. There is still time for the Biden administration to opt against appealing the UK court decision not to extradite, thereby leaving the entire embarrassing extradition attempt on Trump’s lap.
“The U.S. may submit its Assange appeal filing by Friday to meet its deadline, but one would expect a serious policy decision to be made by the new Attorney General who, once confirmed, can review the incredibly weak case against Assange in full before making a determination,” a statement by the Courage Foundation reads.
“Reports are circulating that an interim spokesperson says the Biden admin will continue the Assange case. The incoming DOJ, whose Attorney General is yet to be confirmed, can drop the charges against Assange at any time, including after this Friday’s appeal deadline.”
So we keep pushing. We cannot allow a corrupt and murderous globe-spanning empire to effectively outlaw inconvenient journalism around the world in the way it would by setting the legal precedent it is trying to set with the Assange case.
If journalists everywhere know they can be extradited and imprisoned for publishing inconvenient facts about the U.S.-centralized empire, they will largely refrain from doing so. And that is the whole idea.
Through WikiLeaks Julian Assange has revealed a lot of damning information about the most powerful entities on our planet, but by far the most damning revelation he provided was not a WikiLeaks release at all: it was the revelation that “free democracies” like the U.S. and the UK will openly imprison and torture a journalist for telling the truth.
This has been seen, and it cannot be unseen.
Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either Youtube, soundcloud, Apple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.
This article was re-published with permission.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Yes, Biden is not an unknown. Both his record, and his statements about Assange make it easy to anticipate what Biden will do.
This “justice” like the UK “justice” shows the “Western democracies” have no business trying to demonize the Russians the Chinese, Iran or anyone else for “violation of human rights”. Pretending to care about one ethnic group of Muslims in China, or one known fraudster pretending to be an”opposition leader” in Russia, or supporting a random dude in Venezuela against an elected president who actually, like his longtime and popular predecessor, governed to help the majority of his people, shows how weakly the alleged heroes of our democratic way of life value real freedom of speech and of life. Julian is ignored by most of the journalists of the “free media” including those who benefited from the Wikileaks revelations eg the Guardian’s shameless Luke Harding and David Leigh, whose errors allowed the secret code to be published,which was then blamed on Assange, even in the recent “trial” in London.
All too bloody true…Never does one hear a dicky bird about – Mr Assange’s imprisonment nor Nils Melzer’s condemnation (x 2) of the inhumane, torture conditions of it; nor of the British-American treatment of the Chagos Islanders and that human rights abuse (ongoing still since the mid 1970s); nor how the Windrush generation and their families got booted out of GB (the Maybot….); nor anything about Guantanamo, torture …….only about what Russia, China and Iran do…
Buden don’t dare cross Hillary
You said it, brother. Hillary would bite his nads off, if he showed even the slightest hint of mercy for Assange or concern for a free press.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…with rainbow flag.
Akin to the Two Faces of the Janus party: one Blue with pretty Pink lipstick, the other Red with a darker lipstick, but essentially these are a single (Janus) party…their affiliations (Biggie Money and bombing to smithereens, thereby fully supporting the murderous, barbaric Moloch worshipers at such as Raytheon, Boeing etc., and their comrades in the Pentagonal and the rest of the despicable “secret services”) are coincident with each other – all but totally… Until $$$ are removed completely from “politics” (ho ho) everything will stay the same and we shall continue to support genocidally ethnic cleansing regimes (OAP e.g.) and brutal dictatorships (Saudia, e.g.) because they cozy up to us…
We are deeply disapointed with Biden’s decision to support the case against Assange, if it his decision, and not just a decision of the Administration.
What it means to us is that he is an advocate for war crimes and their cover up.
The Australians have faced the music on matters such as this, why not it’s great allie, the USA.
All through the Trump affair that we saw that some Christians were supporting his adulterous false witness. It would appear, with this latest news, that they too have joined the cover up.