On Monday, a judge in the UK ruled that Wikileaks‘ founder Julian Assange was not going to be extradited to the United States to face charges for what the US Department of Justice said was spying and conspiring to get secret US documents by hacking government computers.
I know that many people have accused Assange of hacking for WikiLeaks, but he vehemently maintains that Wikileaks doesn’t hack for its information. People, mostly whistleblowers, upload their documents the Wikileaks website. There is no hacking involved concerning Wikileaks. If someone hacks a computer server to get documents and then uploads them to Wikileaks, that is not Wikileaks hacking. There is a distinct difference.
Courts have maintained that journalists from outlets like the New York Times or the Washington Post cannot be held liable for government documents that are given to them. So then how come WikiLeaks is treated differently? I remember when the Washington Post, under the George W Bush administration, published classified information on black sites overseas where they were interrogating terrorists, causing serious diplomatic relations problems with other countries for letting that cat out of the bag. Nothing happened to the Washington post.
American officials have accused Assange, 49, of 18 counts relating to Wikileaks’ release of a large number of confidential US military records, along with diplomatic cables that the government argued put lives in danger.
Assange’s lawyers argued that the prosecution was politically-motivated, powered by US President Donald Trump, even though it was started by under the Obama administration, and that his extradition posed a severe threat to the work of journalists.
US prosecutors indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and a single charge of computer misuse over the publication of the leaked military and diplomatic documents in 2010. Again, other news outlets do not get into trouble when government documents are leaked to them, so why is this any difference?
The 49-year-old Australian activist was arrested again back in September over the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
In the indictment, Assange is charged with conspiring with Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to decrypt a password to a classified US Defense Department computer.
Assange denies all accounts of scheming with Manning to crack the encrypted password on the DOD computers, and he points out that there isn’t any evidence that anyone’s safety was ever put at risk.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected almost all of Assange’s legal team’s arguments during a heaing at London’s Old Bailey, but she said she would not extradite him to the Unite States because there was a real risk he could commit suicide, and she ordered his discharge.
“Faced with conditions of near total isolation, I am satisfied that the procedures (outline by US authorities) will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide,” she said.
Assange’s legal team made the argument that Julian was acting as a journalist, and is therefore entitled to First Amendment protections of Freedom of Speech for publishing the leaked documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe they should have argue Freedom of the Press?
The judge rejected their claims, saying his conduct “would therefore amount to offences in this jurisdiction that would not be protected by his right to freedom of speech.”
The judge then added that Assange, who has suffered from clinical depression, would be further harmed by the isolation of sitting in a prison cell in the US should he face the American Justice System, saying that he has the “intellect and determination”
The judge added that Assange suffered from clinical depression that would be exacerbated by the isolation he would likely face in US prison, adding he had the “intellect and determination” to bypass any suicide prevention measures the American authorities would take. Just think about what happened to Jeffrey Epstein.
Assange’s many supporters were thrilled with the decision not to extradite him, but at the same time they were not happy that the ruling was made on health grounds.
Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée, who is the mother of his two young sons, was there are the Old Bailey for the hearing.
After the ruling, Moris said in a statement, “Today is a victory for Julian. Today’s victory is a first step towards justice in this case.”