In Defense of Julian Assange is the title of a collection just published by OR Books “to declare our solidarity with Julian Assange and the Wikileaks publishing organization.”
Read this book. It brings out all the reasons why you should be in the fight for the freedom of Julian Assange and why it is a fight for the freedom of all of us.
OR Books specializes in politically progressive e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. Among the authors it has published are Medea Benjamin, Norman Finkelstein, Doug Henwood, Bill McKibben, Vijay Prashad, Lula da Silva, and Julian Assange himself.
The 41 contributors to this collection include Tariq Ali, Pamela Anderson, Julian Assange, Noam Chomsky, Patrick Cockburn, Daniel Ellsberg, Charles Glass, Chris Hedges, Margaret Kimberly, Margaret Kunstler, Jesselyn Radack, Michael Ratner, and Matt Taibbi. It is a uniquely valuable collection because it brings together an international group of contributors, including journalists and lawyers who have worked directly with Assange and Wikileaks, that you will not find elsewhere.
Over the course of its 402 pages, the book ranges broadly from the details of the persecution of Assange and Wikileaks by the United States and its allies to the broader implications of this affair for an independent media, an open internet, privacy rights, state surveillance, civil liberties, due process, prison conditions, and corporate and state transparency. The intertwining of corporate and state power structures, relations between imperialist countries and the Global South, the Trump/Russia investigations, the “collateral damage” visited upon Chelsea Manning by the Assange prosecution, Assange’s deteriorating health under the cruel conditions of his imprisonment, and the philosophical tenets of Wikileaks and Assange are all examined.
The contributors have their differences on many of the issues swirling around Assange, including whether the DNC emails came from Russian hacking or insider leaking, the Swedish sexual assault allegations against Assange, how Wikileaks vets and curates its releases, Assange’s direct messaging with Donald Trump, Jr. during the 2016 campaign, and Assange’s overall political views. But all the contributors firmly agree that the indictments against Assange should be dropped and that he should freed from custody in the interests of justice for Assange and freedom of speech and the press for all of us.
These essays reveal the global reach of the U.S. persecution of Assange and the shameful complicity of the commercial media. The imperial reach of the U.S. National Security State in the Assange affair has entwined Australia, Ecuador, Sweden, and the U.K. as mere vassals in its efforts to deliver Assange into the clutches of the Trump administration. The silence of most other governments also says a lot about the reach of U.S. imperialism.
When Trump tries to discredit the press as “the enemy of the people,” what he really has a problem with is a press that is (sometimes) the enemy of state secrets and lies. Trump is not alone here. The persecution of Assange is bipartisan, as Kevin Gosztola recounts in his contribution about the Democrats’ role in this affair. After Wikileaks published the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, many leading Democrats vilified Wikileaks, Assange, and Chelsea Manning, who was the whistleblower who leaked the documents. Among these Democratic culprits were Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Eric Holder, Joe Lieberman, Diane Feinstein, Neera Tanden, Hakeem Jeffries, and Mark Warner. Due to the Democrats’ pressure, Amazon, PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard took Wikileaks off of their platforms to cut off its sources on income.
Many Democrats called for Assange to be charged under the Espionage Act, a law enacted in 1917 as the U.S. entered World War I to suppress antiwar activities. It was first used to imprison the Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs for an antiwar speech. The Espionage Act was repurposed under the Obama administration to prosecute whistleblowers even though it had failed in the first attempted whistleblower prosecution by the Nixon administration against Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo for leaking the Pentagon Papers. The Espionage Act expressly denies a public interest defense for whistleblowers who leak documents. Though that provision of the law appears on its face to be an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment speech and press freedoms, it has never been tested in the courts. The Ellsberg/Russo case was the only previous attempt to use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers until the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers, which charged eight under the Espionage Act. So far the Trump administration has charged four more, including Assange.
Upon arrest after Ecuador rescinded its asylum for Assange, he was held for six months on the minor violation of failing to attend a bail hearing. If the law had been followed, he would have been given a fine or short jail sentence and then released. But the U.K. continued to imprison him until the U.S. could bring its charges under the Espionage Act. After serving his bail hearing sentence, the U.K. has kept Assange in prison to this day for hearings and a ruling on the U.S. extradition request. This arbitrary abuse of the law by the U.S. and U.K. negates their credibility when they moralize against the authoritarian practices of other countries.
The U.S. commercial media’s role in this case is disgraceful. They used Wikileaks for news scoops on corporate and government malfeasance until it was targeted by the National Security State. Now they largely fail to cover the Assange case in their news sections and fail to defend Assange and press freedom in their editorial pages. If Assange is found guilty under Espionage Act, investigative journalism into government activities will be criminalized because it almost always involves leaks of information that government officials want kept secret. The First Amendment right to cite leaked documents to report on what governments are doing will be smashed. The commercial media will be reduced to being lapdogs of the National Security State instead of its watchdogs for the people.
The outcome of the Assange case will be seminal for the future of the freedom of the press to hold governments and corporations accountable. In Defense of Julian Assange will give you the knowledge you need to speak up for justice for Assange and a future where journalists and publishers can still report what governments and corporations are really up to.