On 30 January on the television show Fox & Friends lawyer for Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, made clear his views on Julian Assange and his prosecution. Basically he stated that Assange, through Wikileaks, played the role of a publisher, no different to the mainstream press, and that he did nothing wrong by publishing stolen information in the interests of the people. This is his discussion:
It’s a First Amendment issue, right? It isn’t stolen property. I mean, it is stolen property, but it has a different nature when it’s information. So, let’s take the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers were stolen property, weren’t they? They were stolen from the Pentagon — given to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Nobody went to jail in the New York Times and the Washington Post. We’ve had revelations during the [George W.] Bush administration — Abu Ghraib, all of that. It’s stolen property, taken from the government against the law. Once it gets to a media publication, they can publish it. They can publish it for the purpose of informing people. You can’t put Assange in a different position than that. He was a guy that communicated. We may not like what he communicates, but he was a media facility, he was putting that information out. Every newspaper, station grabbed it and published it.
On a rare occasion, I actually agree with the analysis of Giuliani. Giuliani mentioned only the Clinton disclosures, which were obtained through Russian hacking and has thereby implicated Assange and Wikileaks in the 2016 Presidential Race interference. But Assange and Wikileaks have been publishing information in the interest of corporate and government transparency since its founding in 2006. The site came to prominence after the 2010 publishing of documents leaked by Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning).
Julian Assange is an Australian-born (dual citizen of Ecuador) computer programmer and activist. He founded and operates the site Wikileaks. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. He originally sought asylum in the embassy to avoid extradition from the UK to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault. All charges in Sweden were dropped in May 2017, however Assange remains locked in the embassy under fear that the UK authorities will arrest him for extradition to the US to face life in prison on espionage charges. There are real suspicions that charges have been laid covertly against Assange already. The Trump administration and justice department has made clear that arresting Assange is on the cards, despite Trump’s praises of Wikileaks during his 2016 campaign and particularly in relation to its’ release of Democratic Party emails.
There are real worries that Assange’s political asylum may be nearing its end in the Ecuadorian embassy. This is due to a mixture of reasons but primarily because of US pressure on the Ecuadorian government in addition to domestic pressure from Ecuadorian citizens. The Guardian reported that Ecuador had spent millions on the stay of Assange, including at least $5 million in providing security and monitoring for his visitors. This kind of spending would seem at least a little offensive to a population where 25% remain living below the poverty line and average income sits at only $11,109. Pressure to evict also comes from Spain, who has been critical of Assange since his online support of the Catalonian independence movement and publicizing violence perpetrated by the central government in Madrid.
In the event that Ecuador decides to evict Assange or hand him over to the UK, the best assurance that has been offered to Assange is that he will not be extradited to a death penalty. It has been noted that this leaves open his extradition to face jail time.
Australian officials have made contact with Assange in the embassy, though it is not certain what the outcome of their meeting was.
Why does the USA government want Assange?
If you want a real grasp of why he would be wanted by the USA, you should take a glance around Wikileaks.org. There is a database of a wide variety of corporate and government information covering topics like arms deals, government surveillance, wartime operations, and intelligence operations amongst others.
There are many reasons, however I’m only going to discuss the main ones that Assange is wanted by the USA government. One big year of releases is the main cause for Assange’s well-founded paranoia. 2010. This is aside from the 2016 release of Democratic Party emails.
The first leak of note, from Chelsea Manning (ex US-army and Intelligence officer), was published on 5 April 2010 and was entitled Collateral Murder. The leak was a decrypted military video depicting an attack by two US AH-64 Apache Helicopters on Al-Amin al-Thaniyah, New Baghdad. The attack took place on July 12, 2007 and resulted in 12 deaths including those of 2 Reuters employees. Two children were also wounded. The video speaks for itself. The people being fired upon are shown milling about seemingly passively until they are fired upon. It is a grim depiction of US international aggression and the reality that nations in its grip are facing. The USA military has maintained that the video was of a battle between USA forces and insurgents.
On the 25th of July 2010, Wikileaks posted the database entitled ‘Afghan War Logs’. This is a database of approximately 90,000 documents relating to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan between 2004-2010. The documents were the largest single leak of US military information to date and revealed the details on thousands of civilian deaths in the course of the war. A cursory glance through the document classifications shows documents pertaining to attacks on civilians, friendly forces, enemies, host nation forces and local infrastructure. There are also extensive documents on propaganda.
Wikileaks added to the War Diaries on 22 October 2010 with a separate tranche of 391,000 documents, this time pertaining to the Iraq War. This became the new largest release of military documents in history. The documents revealed, again, startling realities about the nature of USA-led aggression internationally. They range from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2009. A cursory glance around the database reveals a shocking 5500 documents relating to civilian casualties, depicting a shocking 66,081 civilian deaths in the time period. These included deaths at checkpoints and during active operations. One of the leaked cables revealed at least one instance of summary execution by the US military (military forces handcuffing and shooting captives), covered up by an airstrike. Another document reveals an instance of brutal civilian execution by the Iraqi security forces. The documents reveal that the US military and NATO military establishments are aware of the abuses taking place but have deemed them unworthy of further investigation.
Democratic Party Emails
Rudy Giuliani makes specific reference to the 2016 Wikileaks leak of Democratic Party emails but not anything else (probably to avoid reminding the public of the existence of the other information). The leak is referring to approximately 30,000 emails hosted on a private email server, used by Hillary Clinton while she was serving as Secretary of State, a practice that is prohibited. Giuliani mentions the most egregious of the details in his interview on Fox, but most of the content simply depicts Clinton and her political team engaging in underhanded and calculating tactics typical of ‘normal’ politics. The emails do reveal that President Obama may have been aware of Clinton’s server usage along with details of how Clinton was conducting her position in several respects.
Again, I encourage you to visit Wikileaks to inspect these and other document troves. The work of Assange and the analysts, hackers and reviewers and Wikileaks has made the world a more transparent place. Like the leak of the Pentagon Papers in the 70s, Assange and Wikileaks have helped give momentum and evidence to the Anti-War movement worldwide. To prosecute Assange would be to invite a dangerous precedent, under which no government information could be disseminated without approval. A secretive state is plainly undemocratic, it hides information from its citizens and deliberately prevents and informed response from them. More whistleblowers being published more widely can only be a good thing for democracy.
By Nathan Booth