Assange’s Plea Deal Establishes a Dangerous Precedent

When the news broke on June 24, 2024, that Julian Assange was just released from Belmarsh Prison after accepting a plea deal, I was overjoyed. Assange boarded an international flight where his first stop was Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific, to attend a scheduled hearing in a US court. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of Espionage for mishandling and disclosing top secret US national security information in exchange for his release from prison and a sentence of time served. In a US territorial court, Judge Ramona N. Manglosa followed the instructions of the US Department of Justice and was not allowed to make her own determination on whether Assange’s First Amendment rights were violated by the DOJ prosecution. Contained within the 23 page plea agreement document are details about the 2010 Bradley Manning leaks that Wikileaks published and how this information harmed US national security. Assange was required to agree with the entire text of the plea deal document. The US government agreed to waive any claims of restitution. Assange has agreed to destroy any unpublished classified US documents in his possession pertaining to the 2010 Chelsea Manning leaks and instruct Wikileaks to do the same.

After the plea deal was finalized, Julian Assange became a free man. He then flew to Australia to be reunited with his family and hopefully live happily ever after. For the immediate future, Julian, Stella along with their two children, his brother, Gabriel and father, John Shipton have a great deal to celebrate! Julian celebrated his birthday on July 3rd, out of captivity for the first time in 14 years. Stella, Gabriel and John had spent years traveling to the UK and around the US to attend protests, public speaking events, interviews and fundraisers. Their tireless work has finally paid off.

Assange’s legal defense team deserve huge credit for their perseverance. All the individuals and organizations who fought to free Assange over the past 14 years should take a victory lap. Activists and media outlets across the political spectrum have all vigorously defended Julian Assange and called his persecution totally unjustified. Roger Waters, Pamela Anderson, Randy Credico, Chris Hedges, Max Blumenthal, Daniel Ellsberg, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, UN rapporteur Nils Melzer, Craig Murray, John Pilger and many others spent countless hours at protests, televised interviews and fundraisers. People around the world attended protests and wrote letters to Congress, President Biden or the DOJ. Many of us wore T-Shirts saying “Free Assange”, “Free Assange – No US Extradition”, “Assange’s Free Speech is Our Free Speech” or “If Wars Can Be Started By Lies, Peace Can Be Started By Truth – Julian Assange”.

Around the world, Assange became a hero for being a truthteller who exposed government corruption and war crimes. Some saw him as a prophet who exposed the tyranny that governments and institutions attempted to hide. For many of us, he changed our lives in the way we viewed the world, the US government and the DNC.

His 14 year persecution by the US and UK governments has certainly exposed their ruthlessness and unwillingness to follow their own laws. The Department of Justice did not care about the First Amendment or the fact that Assange was a foreign publisher who had never lived or worked in America. They cared only about the fact that Assange had published pristine, unredacted documents that exposed US war crimes and corruption. Unlike all other media outlets and news agencies, Wikileaks didn’t write stories that could be challenged for their accuracy. The unedited information from its origin (US classified documents, emails and spy programs) was impossible for the US government to deny. Wikileaks has never successfully been accused of publishing forged or altered documents and therefore achieved a 100% accuracy record.

While it is a huge victory that Assange is now free, his guilty plea establishes a dangerous precedent for US law. This can’t be understated. Now, the US government can prosecute any journalist and news outlet who publishes leaked classified documents. If the New York TImes or the Washington Post were to publish the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers today, they could be charged and convicted of espionage.

His guilty plea also establishes a very dangerous international precedent. The US government has clearly demonstrated it can’t respect its own foundational principles of the First Amendment. What is stopping a foreign government from prosecuting American journalists and publishers who publish their classified information? Certainly the US won’t extradite an American journalist or publisher to Russia, Iran, China or any adversarial nation, but those individuals could potentially be arrested and jailed in a foreign country.

What is most likely to stop a government from persecuting a foreign journalist is the stigma attached to it. In the court of public opinion, the US government has lost and it can no longer claim to defend press freedom. The facade of US democracy has been shattered. The 14 year persecution of Assange has exposed the US government as a tyrannical imperialist State. It was only under tremendous international pressure to drop the charges that the US backed down and sought a greatly reduced sentence for Assange. The US possibly had concerns about trying to save its own reputation as a defender of human rights. If Assange had died in prison it would have done severe harm to the reputation of the US government.

At the same time, Assange’s persecution sends a chilling message to anyone daring to step into his shoes. The DOJ settled for a much smaller piece of pie, hoping to diffuse a toxic situation in an election year with a flailing incumbent. Now that Assange is free, the US empire has one less major thorn in its side. The Biden Administration is still facilitating Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, while continuing to fuel a dangerous proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and ratcheting up tensions with China. It is unfortunate not to have leaked classified documents exposing the secrets of the Biden Administration.

In June 2024, Russia charged Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich with espionage. The US government has demanded his release. Evan Gershkovich has been accused of collecting classified information for the CIA about Uralvagonzavod, a Russian producer of tanks and armored vehicles, in Ekaterinburg in March 2023.
Gershkovich is in jail awaiting trial. His employer has denied the allegations, but Russian officials appear to have a sound case since he was arrested in Uralvagonzavod near the defense plant. US and Russian officials have been communicating about the possibility of a prisoner swap, but Moscow won’t release him simply on goodwill.

The persecution of Assange vs. Gershkovich are like night and day. Assange was never arrested near a military facility while attempting to collect military secrets. He was never the source of classified information that he published. On the other hand, Gershkovich has been caught spying at a military facility while the US continues to escalate its dangerous proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. While Biden cried foul over the imprisonment of Gershkovich, the US continued to wage its 5 year attempt to extradite Assange to the US for trial. What the US government has demonstrated to the world is while it may care about an American mainstream media journalist operating on foreign soil, it doesn’t care about press freedoms or international law when its own State secrets have been exposed.

The US empire thinks it can dominate the world, because there was a time after the fall of the Soviet Union when it was the world’s only imperial power. Those days are long gone. It’s now a multipolar world and the US empire is beginning to crumble. Assange has exposed the fraud of US democracy and the tyranny of US imperialism! He has given the world a huge gift.

Julian Assange should never have been charged and convicted of Espionage. His guilty plea must be expunged and he must be acquitted. His exoneration is what Julian Assange deserves and what is essential to protect the First amendment. We must remember this fight isn’t over. It’s just begun. Stay vigilant and stay strong!

Please Donate to help Julian Assange pay $520,000 for his charter flight home. “Julian will owe USD 520,000 which he is obligated to pay back to the Australian government for the charter flight to Saipan and onward to Australia.”

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