Julian Assange apparently is prepared to argue that he could not receive a fair trial in the United States because of his fame and his alleged links to political scandals — specifically, that he played a role in helping Russian efforts to hack Democratic computers during the 2016 presidential election.
For some people Assange presents a problem. He obtained top secret files from the U.S. military and diplomatic corps, some of which were embarrassing to the nation and its allies. How, they wonder, does this differ from what Daniel Ellsberg did a half-century ago, bringing to light atrocities and lies concerning the Vietnam War?
The answer lies in process. Ellsberg gave the files he obtained to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Trained journalists know to consider such information against a variety of factors, including its potential harm to innocent people. The Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham, is considered legendary for her deliberations of the merits of publishing what were known as the “Pentagon Papers,” and then her courage in doing so amid government challenges once she had made her decision.
Assange, by contrast, dumped hundreds of thousands of classified documents on the public without a thought toward consequences, and apparently without having read them all himself. He selectively targeted the United States, endangering Americans and many of the nation’s allies, equating U.S. forces to the old East German secret police while ignoring the atrocities committed by the Taliban or other enemies.
He implied in an interview on Dutch TV that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee worker killed in a robbery, was murdered for providing him stolen information — something for which no evidence exists. The Washington Times recently retracted its stories pushing that conspiracy theory. Assange appears to have been giving cover to Russian efforts to influence the U.S. election.
All this may seem like hair-splitting when it comes to deciding how to define the difference between journalism and espionage. The U.S. Constitution clearly makes it difficult to define who gets to wear the title of a journalist. But in this case, Assange seems to have had little concern about the public good, protecting the innocent or the responsible dissemination and analysis of the information he obtained.13 comments on this story
A British judge soon may have to decide whether to extradite Assange to the United States or to send him to Sweden to face rape charges. A rape charge is serious, but sending him to Sweden may make it difficult for him to come to the United States to face charges here.
He is likely to make the claim that the United States wants him mainly for political reasons. That’s unconvincing, considering the Trump administration allegedly gained the most from his work. The United States has consistently sought to try Assange, dating back to the Obama administration.
It’s time for him to come to the United States and defend himself in court. It’s time to hear evidence and, once and for all, determine the truth about his actions and his motives.