With Hearing Set, Time For Biden to Drop Assange Charges

Ann Wright says Attorney General Garland must either drop the Trump-era case against the WikiLeaks publisher or move to indict The New York Times publisher on same charges.

Julian Assange at the Stop the War Coalition rally at Trafalgar Square, London, Oct. 8, 2011. (Haydn, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Ann Wright
Special to Consortium News

President Joe Biden, you defeated Donald Trump, yet your administration has not rolled back all of the evil caused by your predecessor. 

Take the case of journalist Julian Assange.  

Under the Obama administration in which you, Biden, were vice president for eight  years, journalist and publisher Julian Assange was NOT prosecuted for publishing the Collateral Murder video of the U.S. Army murder by hellfire missile of Reuters reporters nor the classified Afghanistan and the Iraq War files.  

However, you and the Obama administration did prosecute and won conviction of U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning for disclosing those classified materials.  

As you will know as former head of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, journalists and publishers are protected by the First Amendment which allows them to publish classified materials given to them by whistleblowers.  But, that amendment does not protect those such as Manning, whom you prosecuted, who released classified information to a journalist.  

Fifty years ago, no U.S. publisher, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times or any other newspaper in the U.S. or abroad was prosecuted for publishing the classified history of the U.S. war on Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers [although Nixon tried].  

Daniel Ellsberg, who released the 4,000-page sordid, classified tale of U.S. military involvement, fully expected to be prosecuted as he was the one who gave classified information to the media.  

The Nixon administration’s theft of Ellsberg’s medical records torpedoed President Richard Nixon’s attempt at prosecuting Ellsberg [and the Times].  Nixon continued to rail against Ellsberg as “the most dangerous man in America” because he, Nixon, was unable to put Ellsberg in jail.

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No publisher in the history of the United States had been prosecuted until the Trump administration came into power.

After WikiLeaks and other media published in 2017 “Vault 7,” a list and description of the mostly C.I.A. materials about C.I.A. hacking capabilities to ever come into the public domain, Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr and C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo decided to try a new legal theory, one that had never been used in U.S. history.  

Pompeo described WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and the Department of Justice charged non-U.S. citizen, Julian Assange, with espionage against the U.S. and demanded his extradition from England. 

Pompeo while C.I.A. director calling WikiLeaks a nonstate hostile actor. (Screenshot)

A conviction of U.S. charges of espionage could result in Assange being sentenced to 175 years in prison.

At the time of the U.S. charges, Assange had requested asylum from the Ecuadorian government and had been protected by living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for five years.

With a change in Ecuadorian government and under intense pressure from the British and U.S. governments, in April 2019, the new Ecuadorian administration allowed British police to break the embassy’s sovereignty and enter it.

London police carried Assange out of the embassy, put him into a police van and immediately locked him up in the highest security prison in the U.K., Belmarsh Prison. 

Prior to the police breaching the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange had been denied his razor for weeks.  His haggard appearance as he was carried out of the embassy was part of an orchestrated negative publicity campaign orchestrated by the British government and without a doubt, the U.S. government.

Imprisoned for Almost Five Years With No Conviction 

For the past four years and nine months, Assange has been in Belmarsh Prison, a high security prison for those convicted of violent crimes. He has been in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day, a violation of the right not to be tortured, according to former U.N. Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer.

Yet, Assange has not been convicted of any crime. Despite no conviction, he has been incarcerated by the British government on behalf of the U.S. government until extradition proceedings to the U.S. are successful.  

Belmarsh Prison flyover view. (dave patten, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Almost three years ago in January 2021, lower court Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Assange should be released from Belmarsh Prison. She denied the U.S. request for extradition based on Assange’s mental health, his propensity to commit suicide and conditions of U.S. prisons. 

The U.S. appealed her decision, issuing “diplomatic assurances” that Assange would not be mistreated in a U.S. prison.  The High Court, after a two-day hearing in March 2022, accepted those “assurances” and rejected Assange’s appeal.

His application to the U.K. Supreme Court to hear the case was then denied. Assange then applied for a new appeal of Baraitser’s legal decisions and the home secretary’s extradition order. His  150-page argument was rejected in a three-page ruling. The appeal of that decision will now take place on Feb. 20-21, 2024.

[See: Assange Appeal Hearing Set for February]

Don’t Trust US ‘Diplomatic Assurances’

Assange supporters in a weekly protest on behalf of the publisher on Sept. 16, outside Belmarsh Prison, where Assange is being held. (Alisdaire Hickson, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

As a former U.S. diplomat, I can guarantee Assange that U.S. “diplomatic assurances” mean absolutely nothing.  The U.S. breaks its word to individuals and countries frequently. And the U.S. Department of State has no jurisdiction over the Bureau of Prisons which makes decisions unilaterally of how prisoners are treated [with input from the C.I.A., which plotted to kill Assange.]  

At the Belmarsh Tribunal held in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 9, former C.I.A. officer John Kiriakou, who spent nearly two years in federal prison for talking about the C.I.A.’s waterboarding program, the existence of which had been in the public domain for years, said that the guarantees that the State Department had made in court documents were meaningless. 

He said that the Bureau of Prisons makes its own decisions on whether a person will be in solitary confinement and the recommendations of the State Department and Department of Justice are disregarded.  

The United States has more prisoners in solitary confinement than any other country.  In May 2023, the watchdog group Solitary Watch and the advocacy coalition Unlock the Box released a groundbreaking joint report showing that at least 122,840 people are locked daily in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails for 22 or more hours a day.

Pressure From Australia & US Congress

In October 2023, a group of bipartisan members of the Australian Parliament traveled to Washington and lobbied the U.S. government to drop the charges against Assange. 

At the end of October, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Washington where he raised the Assange issue in a meeting with Biden and repeated his call for  Biden to bring the matter to a close.

On Nov. 8, 16 Congressional representatives from across the political spectrum signed a letter to Biden, calling on him to drop all charges and withdraw the extradition request. 

In the letter, the U.S. lawmakers said:

“We believe the Department of Justice acted correctly in 2013, during your vice presidency, when it declined to pursue charges against Mr. Assange for publishing the classified documents because it recognized that the prosecution would set a dangerous precedent.” 

The letter continued to say that the signatories are “well aware that should the U.S. extradition and prosecution go forward, there is a significant risk that our bilateral relationship with Australia will be badly damaged.”

Why Aren’t Charges Dropped?

The Biden administration could immediately withdraw the request for extradition from the U.K.  It wasn’t Biden’s administration that cooked up the novel legal theory under which Assange is charged; it was the Trump administration. 

The Obama administration in which Biden served never charged Julian Assange with a crime.

Is it that Biden fears the right-wing Republican Party members will call him soft on the Trump-era cooked up “non-state actor” legal theory of espionage?  

Surely, the former chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee can see through that smear attempt.

It is long past time for U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to tell President Biden that the Trump charges against Assange that are the basis for the extradition request are without merit.

It’s long overdue for the United States to cancel its request for extradition of Julian Assange and for Assange to be able to be free from the bogus charges of the past decade.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a colonel.  She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. Diplomatic Corps 20 years ago in March 2003 in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq.

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

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19 comments for “With Hearing Set, Time For Biden to Drop Assange Charges

  1. LeoSun
    December 22, 2023 at 13:39

    W/o a doubt, Ann Wright’s letter to the U$ Atty. General w/an Attention line to, POTUS, is on point. I’m not @ 100% in agreement w/the semantics & who’s accountable for the years of persecution, w/an end goal to prosecute & imprison Julian Assange, for life, for espionage!!!

    Agreed,! “The Obama administration in which Biden served never charged Julian Assange with a crime.” B/c Julian Assange did NOT commit a crime or crimes against humanity! Au contraire! IMO, the Obama & Trump Administration’s epic failure: NOT protecting WikiLeaks, Publishers, Journalists & Whistleblowers. IMO, Coloring the “Owner$hip” Orange is the USG’s S.O.P!!! …imo, Their stay outta jail ticket. Greed makes ‘em do embarrassing things. Greed the root of all evil.

    In the words of Chris Hedges, JANUARY 29, 2018: “our national crisis is embodied not in Trump but the corporate state’s now unfettered pillage.”

    …… “Trump provides the daily entertainment; the elites handle the business of looting, exploiting and destroying.”

    IMO, the whole truth & nothing but, the truth, @ > “The Useful Idiocy of Donald Trump,” Chris Hedges hxxps://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/01/29/useful-idiocy-donald-trump

    Years later, the BEST favour, remains, Rescue the one, in most need, Julian Assange. The Universe, implores the Biden-Harris Administration to REPENT!!! Drop the bogus charges. End the persecution. Stop the extradition. Stop the prosecution.

    Agreed, “It’s long overdue for the United States,” to let Julian Assange “Live Free.”

    “Keep It Lit.”

  2. Mark John Oetting
    December 21, 2023 at 13:53

    The Biden Administration will never drop charges against Assange due mainly to pressure from the DNC and wealthy Democratic party donors. The DNC will never forgive Assange for revealing the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign tactics to marginalize Bernie Saunders and e-mails concerning her allegiance to wall street and the MIC which also precipitated the Russiagate hoax. I would be curious to know which democrats signed the letter asking the Justice department to drop the charges. They are probably putting their political futures at stake.

  3. Jenmarya
    December 21, 2023 at 01:54

    If we’d fixed what Assange exposed back then, war crimes wouldn’t have become biz as usual.
    When we put Manning in a cage, we started our slide toward Gaza.
    Now X is down (for me, and according to Forbes, all) sites like Consortium News and articles like this are crucial to free Julian Assange.
    Thank you Ann Wright and Consortium News.

  4. WillD
    December 20, 2023 at 20:19

    The only way I see Julian Assange being released is if the Biden administration finds a way to generate political capital out of their ‘benevolence’ (or whatever they decide to call it).

    Given that they desperately need a large boost of fresh political capital to shore up their dismal voter ratings, it is possible they might decide to either drop the extradition request, or to agree to send him back to Australia and get him off their hands.

    If the court decision is to extradite him, then the Biden administration is going to face a huge backlash of press and media anger. I doubt they want that at the start of an election year.

    • Mark John Oetting
      December 21, 2023 at 13:57

      Please read my comment above. MSN news media backlash will be minimal. All backlash will be on social media and independent news sites. Biden risks a lot more from the DNC and wealthy Democratic donors.

  5. John DeLunke
    December 20, 2023 at 14:00

    While the Obama administration never charged Assange with a crime, who do you think setup the fake rape charges in Sweden in 2010? Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 out of fear of being extradited to the United States. Trumps legal advisors may have come up with a unique way to charge Assange, but to simply ignore what happened for 7 years prior to Trump taking office seems disingenuous.

    • Nick Leslie
      December 20, 2023 at 18:39

      indeed, i am so tired of the soft Left referring to such things as “Trump-era”, when the grand jury also was set up under Obama and he is easily as culpable as anyone (and probably more so than Trump, who frankly didn’t really care) in the persecution of Assange and journalists in general (witness Obama’s disgraceful imprisonment of whistleblowers in general). Biden’s behaviour is less than surprising, especially given his own family’s appalling corruption.

  6. CaseyG
    December 20, 2023 at 13:59

    Oh Joe Biden—–shame on you! You let Israel get away with murder on so many Palestinians—-and yet Julian Assange—a TRUTH TELLER—a man important and necessary for We the People to know what is going on in “Our” name. And Yet, YOU–Joe Biden seem to support war and death. Wow—- the more you are doing for Israel, the less you are doing for your own nation and even the world.

  7. John Manning
    December 20, 2023 at 13:11

    The problem with this quite reasonable argument is that it pretends to speak to a government which believes in law and justice. Consider the parallel case of Edward Snowden, a whistle blower who revealed the criminal behaviour of James Clapper, his boss. Snowden became the second most wanted criminal in the USA and Clapper was promoted. Clapper has admitted his crime, saying he had to say the least untruthful thing he could. Clapper believed he was above the law and more important than the government he served. Apparently he was right. If you are looking for law and justice you will not find it in the USA.

  8. ray Peterson
    December 20, 2023 at 12:58

    What a model of faithfulness and wife loving loyalty
    Stella Assange is! She’s at prison with him, bringing
    his sons to cheer him up. She herself a joyful gift.
    What ever the corrupt system does to Julian,
    it’s powerless against her.

    • Valerie
      December 20, 2023 at 16:59

      Yes ray. Stella Assange is a force. I equate her to queen Nefertiti; the meaning of Nefertiti – a beautiful woman has arrived. Her faithfullness knows no bounds.

  9. S. Gurun
    December 20, 2023 at 11:55

    In America, truth-tellers like Assange and Snowden languish in legal limbo, while those who peddle lies and undermine democracy march free. This warped reality demands attention. We must challenge a system that celebrates obfuscation and punishes transparency.
    Is protecting the privacy of everyday citizens worth exposing government overreach? Should past transgressions disqualify someone from the highest office? These are not theoretical questions. We must confront them head-on in this election and demand answers.

  10. Richard Burrill
    December 20, 2023 at 11:20

    I certainly wish Biden would drop the Assange case. However, given his hard headed ness with supporting Israel’s awful killing attack on Gaza, I seriously doubt old Joe will drop the Assange case. Shame on Joe Biden for his old man ideas. I’m a year younger than him, but fortunately I can say that I’m not like what Neil Young sings in his song about old men: “Old man, look at my life/I’m a lot like you were.”

  11. Linda Edwards
    December 19, 2023 at 20:35

    Concise history of the Julian Assange Case.

    Thank you Consortium News and Ann Wright.

  12. robert e williamson jr
    December 19, 2023 at 19:24

    If Biden were actually intelligent and a bit more independent he would rule to release Assange. He needs as much of the youth vote as he can muster if he expects to win reelection and curry support for another term. Then there is this continuous war thing the younger generation is watching and not volunteering for.

    However at this point in time I don’t believe he has it in him. His neocon buddies, and right wing friends have been leading him around by the nose ever since Trump got him elected. Trump’s aid in his election is something I believe he is clueless about, too dogdamned arrogant and self righteous . The result is he has listened to his Zionist, right wing friends and blown a chance to be a president of serious change. Change the leadership the world desperately needed when he ran. Got a walk-off win that barely made it over the outfield fence and isn’t smart enough to read his win correctly.

    For the sake of Dog, he doesn’t even acknowledge the benefits his war presidency has provided by it stimulating the U.S. economy. Just wait until that bubble burst and the bottom falls out of the markets.

    Nobody seems to understand how thin a veneer we earthlings are surviving on. Best not put out the fire with gasoline which is exactly what he seems intent on doing.

    Thanks CN

    • Valerie
      December 20, 2023 at 13:23

      “Nobody seems to understand how thin a veneer we earthlings are surviving on.”

      I certainly do robert. And also how thin a veneer the rest of the flora and fauna are surviving on.

  13. Graeme
    December 19, 2023 at 18:24

    Australian PM Albanese’s proclamation that the pursuit of Julian Assange has ‘gone on long enough’ (a statement open to various interpretations) has grown wearisome, especially in light of the PM’s recent face-to-face with ‘the leader of the free world.’

    In a recent interview regarding Albanese’s face-to-face with Biden the PM was asked about his ‘advocacy’ for Assange:
    “Time that Joe Biden stepped in and ordered that the case be dropped?”

    Albanese replied, emphatically:
    “No. Joe Biden doesn’t interfere with the Department of Justice. Joe Biden is a president who understands the separation of the judicial system from the political system. That’s an important principle.We just had an important discussion about democracy and the nature of it.”

    Anyone who believes that Biden is not actively involved in the persecution of Julian easily hoodwinked; Albanese is not that naive, so he’s merely parroting what he’s been instructed to say.

    The notion that in a democracy it is acceptable to try and hide potential war-crimes from the public, is fair indication of how tenuous the public’s links to any notions of democracy really are.

    ABC-TV Insiders, October 29, 2023. At 10:00 mins:

    • Mikael Andersson
      December 20, 2023 at 07:17

      Graeme, everything about the Albanese regime has become “wearisome”. The craven, cowardly submission to the US Empire began on Day 1, when Albanese and Wong were sworn into office in special circumstances in order to instantly fly to Japan to kiss the Imperial Ring. There is no chance that they will rescue Julian. He must defend himself with our support, and damn Albanese.

      • Graeme
        December 20, 2023 at 17:49

        Mikael – sad but true. Since the ousting of Whitlam successive Labor PMs have always sought the embrace of US presidents.

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