Release and imprisonment of Julian Assange in London is a big deal. So is imprisonment of Chelsea Manning on March 8, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia. A federal district court judge holds her in contempt, as she refused to testify before a grand jury. The jury must determine whether to file criminal charges against WikiLeaks.
At the end of 2012, I compared the government’s case against Chelsea Manning to that of Alfred Dreyfus in France during the 1890s. We are not done with it yet. Both Manning and Assange are in prison now, and we know the U. S. government wants to keep them there.
We have had many indications that free speech and First Amendment rights are in trouble, as government tries to corral digital information the same way it tried to corral paper documents. It won’t work, but meantime, the prosecutions can do a lot of damage. France did not recover from divisions deepened in the Dreyfus case. If the U. S. government prosecutes Julian Assange, it will not recover from that, either.
If Assange can be prosecuted merely for publishing leaked classified documents, every single media outlet is at risk of prosecution for doing the exact same thing. There would be no way to differentiate a traditional media outlet such as The New York Times or The Atlantic from an entity like WikiLeaks without involving the government and the courts… ~ Bradley Moss in The Atlantic
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald is also criticizing the Trump administration for its willingness to prosecute Assange. “The Obama [Department of Justice] concluded that prosecuting WikiLeaks and Assange for publishing documents would pose a grave threat to press freedom,” he wrote. “Dems who spent 2 years feigning concerns over press freedom but who now cheer the Trump DOJ for this are beneath contempt.” ~ Quoted by Robby Soave in Reason
At issue is not Julian Assange’s character, personality, beliefs, motives, actions, or ties to other countries. At issue is how the United States government reacts to him. We can go with Senator Manchin’s happy outlook: “He is our property and we can get the facts and the truth from him.” Or we can go with nearly every wise journalist who has written on the matter, and say that prosecution of Assange is a matter of press freedom?
Chelsea Manning alerted people to disturbing information about U. S. war making and diplomacy. That is what whistle blowers do: rely on publishers to alert the rest of us to things we ought to know. Government officials who want to act in secret, also want to arrest and imprison whistle blowers and publishers. The rest of us would like a little more transparency.