New York Times: Let Assange Go Home

On April the 12th 2024, Serge Schmemann, Editorial Board Member, post this opinion article in support of Julian in he New York Times

Editors Note: The New York Times is one of the co-publishers of CableGate and a signatory of the ‘Publishing is Not a Crime‘ open letter published on 28th November 2022

Let Assange Go Home

He has been punished enough

The case of Julian Assange must rank among the most bizarre in the annals of legal wrangling. The founder of WikiLeaks, a site dedicated to publishing leaked information, Assange has spent five years in a high-security British prison and, before that, almost seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, all without ever going on trial. Basically, he has sacrificed those 12 years of his life to avoid having to face espionage charges in the United States.

With a ruling by a British high court on extraditing him to the United States finally imminent, the case has taken two turns. One was a request by Australia, where Assange is from, to drop the prosecution and let him go home. The other was President Biden saying, “We’re considering it.”

The president should grant Australia’s request.

Not because Assange is innocent or noble. He was originally wanted in Sweden in connection with a sexual assault investigation that was subsequently dropped, and he has demonstrated a distinct preference for authoritarian regimes over democracies. The deed for which the United States is after him, the publication of an enormous trove of classified documents supplied by a U.S. Army private, Chelsea Manning, was carried out without any of the precautions news organizations normally take to protect individuals or information that could imperil national security.

The case should be dropped, first of all, because the charge of espionage brought by the Trump administration poses a serious threat to the First Amendment and to the fundamental role of a free press in keeping tabs on government, via whistle-blowers and leakers, if need be. President Barack Obama decided against an espionage charge for that reason and charged Assange only with assisting Manning in breaking into government computer systems in 2010, a crime that falls outside the standards of journalism.

But Donald Trump, who famously branded the free press as “the enemy of the people,” had no such compunction and set the stage for a trial that could challenge the distinction between exposing abuse of power and helping foreign adversaries harm the United States.

This is not a case the Biden administration should be prosecuting. Given the time Assange has already been in effective detention — far more than the nearly seven years Manning served before her 35-year sentence was commuted by Obama as “very disproportionate relative to what other leakers have received” — the president can legitimately argue that Assange has been amply punished.

Read Original Article in the New York Times (need to login)