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We Must Defend Assange to Save Free Press from American Despotism

We Must Defend Assange to Save Free Press from American Despotism

Nozomi Hayase

On Thursday, the Department of Justice made an unprecedented move to file 17 Espionage Act charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This indictment was what Assange and his legal team have been warning about since 2010 and the risk of extradition was the sole reason why Assange sought and was granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012.

We are all Julian Assange. We all want the truth about our government to be revealed even if we are divided into two camps of thought about it.

Any denial to that fact, is simply a denial.

We are all "Julian Assange."


Yes, we all need to defend Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning; otherwise, who knows? We progressives may be next!


I agree we must protect our press. That’s as far as I can go. Julian Assange is not a good person to start with. So I would like to see that our freedom of speech is protected. But, this dude is not by any means innocent. So we need to get our priorities straight before we go protecting scum. I am as American as we can get. Julian Assange gets no love from me.

“Julian Assange is not a good person.” That’s how they do it. You’ve fallen into their trap. If the National Enquirer qualifies for protection under the First Amendment, everyone does. This stuff about “hygiene” and “Russians” is all crafted to demonize exposure of Imperial Secrets. CIA propaganda always sounds so reasonable.


The author writes: ‘We must stop Assange’s extradition to the US to save free press and democracy from American despotism.’ But let’s not march in the streets with posters of Assange’s image. To do so will hand Trump a public relations bonanza, exposing progressives to charges of coddling someone highly disliked, as Glenn Greenwald points out on these pages, by both the right and the left, the latter for his murky ties to Trump.

Unsurprisingly, Trump chooses to prosecute Assange for publishing secret government information obtained by others, seeking to re-define that as ‘espionage’, as opposed to the very press freedom our Framers intended the Constitution to protect.

What to do? When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld press freedom in the Pentagon Papers case, it made the decision crystal clear. Let the yahoos at the Trump Justice Department argue the Assange case in the courts. Chances are they will fail, unless they are canned by a Bernie/Warren house cleaning first.

You know, if the character of the man were relevant to the legal case or the First Amendment, it might make sense to actually make your case instead of repeating insults that remain vague after years of repetition.

Since it is not, however, I suppose it makes more sense in some way that you just repeat this and do not defend it or explain it or even altogether express it.

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‘…coddling someone highly disliked…’

I hope some very close by farts in your general direction.

Really dude. Really ok then. LOL

To Trump’s DOJ, Assange must look like the poster child of vulnerable prosecutoral targets. He is foreign. He has a history of not fighting charges (albeit trumped up and booby trapped ones) in open court. He gives the impression (undoubtedly unwarranted) of coordinating the timing of the publication of government secrets with Russians thieves. Not surprisingly, the DOJ decides to capitalize on Assange’s negative PR, and use him to mount an attack on our press freedom.

Assange has published information deemed secret by the government. But unless the DOJ can show substantial damage was sustained by the U.S. - a high bar - he is protected by the First Amendment. This very issue was raised by the Nixon administration in its attempt to keep the NYTimes amd the Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers. A quintissential First Amendment constitutional issue, it was decided by the Supreme Court unequivocably in favor of the freedom to publish: “The press is to serve the governed, not the governors.”

Instead, the DOJ claims that Assange instigated, assisted, or coordinated with the Russians in the theft of classified secrets, in essence saying that Assange is more a whistle blower or foreign agent than publisher. The First Amendment does not protect whistle blowers, which makes them doubly noble. Obama in particular jailed a record number of courageous ones. Every journalist knows that he risks jail time if he steals official secrets, or cause serious harm to the country, but also that he can publish them in the public interest and be protected by the First Amendment. So, did Assange instigate, assist, or coordinate in the Russian theft? We will never know for sure unlil Assange answers the charges in open court.

Ironically, Assange’s case has the potential to advance our freedoms. For example, this case might establish that the sharing of computer encryption tools between the publisher and the whistle blower is not a conspiracy but part of the press’ First Amendment right to protect a source. The case could also expand the much disputed legal credentials of the on-line press. Also, the DOJ must prove that Assange was actively involved in the theft of official secrets, and in doing so, the proof must be legally and narrowly defined, thereby providing a useful legal guide for on-line journalists. We might say that arguing the facts in the Suprime Court is not only beneficial to press freedom, it is how a country of laws should act.

If in the off chance that Assange did collude with the Russians, and is found guilty of espionage, this aspect of the First Amendment, which is particularly important to on-line journalism, will tempt future administrations to use the same ‘silence Assange playbook’ to drive out unfriendly on-line journalists. A great deal hinges on this trail blazer’s journalistic integrity which, at this point, we can only hope he had.