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Julian Assange and the Lack of Justice in Our Democracy

Saturday's world-wide demonstrations calling for the release of Julian Assange might go unheeded by American political elites, but that does not diminish this simple truth: Assange is being punished for exposing lies and lawbreaking by the U.S. Government.

On Saturday, there will be protests all over the world in support of Julian Assange. People who support Assange will link arms around the Parliament building in London. Protests will also happen outside the Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Tulsa, Denver, and Seattle, as well as in Australia. I'll be one of the speakers in Washington.

In a column I wrote for USA Today four years ago, I said that Assange should get the Presidential Medal of Freedom. My piece didn't change Trump's mind, and now the Biden administration is going after one of the most important people to tell the truth in this century. Assange has been locked up in a high-security prison in Britain for many years. He could be sent to prison for 17 counts of breaking the Espionage Act by giving out secret information. If the British give Assange to the U.S. government, he almost certainly won't get a fair trial because of how federal court cases are put together.
Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising First Amendment Issues - The  New York Times
The last four years have shown why activists like Assange, who has been held for years in a British prison with the highest level of security, are so important if people want to hold their leaders accountable to the people. In 1967, Attorney General Ramsey Clark said, "Nothing hurts democracy as much as keeping things a secret." At this point, the United States is an Impunity Democracy, which means that government officials who break the law don't get punished for it.

The U.S. government went after Assange after his group, Wikileaks, released tens of thousands of documents and some videos that showed how the U.S. military had hurt Afghan and Iraqi civilians. In a report from the Christian Science Monitor in 2010 about the leak, it was said that it was not clear how Americans would react to the news that American forces had killed Afghan civilians without any reason. But the verdict in Washington was clear from the headline of the Monitor: "Congress's answer to WikiLeaks: shoot the messenger." Vice President Joe Biden called Assange a "high-tech terrorist," which is a very bad thing.

There was no way for the government to show that any of the information Wikileaks released was false. At the trial of former Army Corporal Bradley Manning, who leaked the documents, prosecutors were unable to show that any information Wikileaks released had caused anyone to die in Afghanistan or Iraq. A 2017 investigation by PolitiFact showed that this was still the case. Even Biden admitted in 2010 that "I don't think the Wikileaks leaks have caused any real damage." But Assange was wrong because he broke the U.S. government's God-given right to keep the American people in the dark.

Washington officials said bad things about Assange and gave the U.S. military a bigger role in the Afghan war. As bad things kept happening, the Afghan people turned against the U.S. military and the Kabul government, which they saw as a puppet of Washington. When the Afghan army fell apart like a house of cards in 2021, policymakers in Washington were shocked by the Taliban's quick victory. But they were shocked because they hadn't paid attention to the truths Wikileaks had shown.

When the federal indictment against Assange was announced in 2019, a New York Times editorial said it was "aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment" and would have a "chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations." Unfortunately, both Americans and people from other countries continue to suffer because of the way U.S. foreign interventions are always hidden.

After Britain arrested Assange on behalf of the U.S. government in 2019, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) yelled that Assange "is our property and we can get the facts and the truth from him."

But Manchin didn't have any suggestions for how the federal government can help Americans "get the facts and the truth." Biden has increased the number of bombs that the U.S. drops on Somalia. Who are we killing? No one knows. Which terrorist groups in Syria are still getting money from the U.S. government? No one knows. Why does the U.S. keep helping Saudi Arabia do terrible things to civilians in Yemen? No one knows.

The U.S. getting involved in the war between Russia and Ukraine is the biggest and most dangerous secret operation happening right now. People can criticize Russia and support Ukraine without thinking that Washington policymakers should have a free pass to get the U.S. into a nuclear war. Are there warnings from CIA analysts or Pentagon officials that the U.S. government's actions in this conflict could set off a chain of events that end in disaster? Unfortunately, the American people won't find out about any of these memos until it's too late. And if something bad happens, we'll see the same trick that happened after the Iraq War: a Senate Committee will say that no one is to blame because everyone in Washington was a victim of "group think."

Federal prosecutors say that Assange leaked information that was "classified." But each year, government agencies make trillions of pages of new "classified" secrets. But classified information is treated like a political holy relic that can't be shared or the country will be cursed.

The loss of trust in Washington is partly due to the fact that there is so much secrecy. Americans today are more likely to believe in witches, ghosts, and astrology than they are to trust the federal government. Putting Assange's head on the Justice Department's trophy wall won't change the fact that people don't trust the political elite, which has led the country into so many disasters.

Assange is guilty of lese-majeste because he made the government look bad by pointing out their mistakes, frauds, and crimes. Assange said many years ago, "If lies can start wars, the truth can stop them." The best way for the Biden administration to show that it wants to end too much secrecy is to drop the charges against Assange.


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