Why is Joe Biden’s Department of Justice continuing Donald Trump’s persecution of WikiLeaks Julian Assange is the founder, publisher and journalist.
Barack Obama was concerned about threats to freedom of press and the First Amendment, and decided not to indict Assange for his exposure of U.S. war crimes. Trump did indict Assange under Espionage Act charges, which could land him 175 years imprisonment. A district judge denied Trump’s request for Assange’s extradition from the U.K. to the United States because of the extremely high likelihood that it would lead Assange to commit suicide. Trump appealed the denial to extradition.
Instead of dropping Trump’s extradition request, Biden is vigorously pursuing his predecessor’s appeal against Assange, which the U.K. High Court will hear on October 27 and 28. At that hearing, the High Court should determine what effect the CIA’s recently revealed plan to kidnap and assassinate Assange will have on his fragile mental state in the event he is extradited to the United States.
Judge Baraitser’s Denial of Extradition
On January 6, U.K. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser issued an order a 132-page decisionRefusing extradition. “Faced with conditions of near total isolation and without the protective factors which moderate his risk at HMP Belmarsh [where Assange is currently imprisoned],” she wrote, “I am satisfied that the procedures described by Dr. [Leukefeld] will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide.”
Baraitser rely heavily, but not exclusively, on Professor Michael Kopelman’s testimony as emeritus professor at Kings College London of neuropsychiatry. Kopelman diagnosed Assange with post-traumatic stress disorder and recurrent depression and concluded, “I am as confident as a psychiatrist ever can be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr. Assange will find a way of suiciding.”
“I am satisfied that the risk that Mr. Assange will commit suicide is a substantial one,” Baraitser determined. “I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”
The Biden administration is arguing that Baraitser should have disregarded Kopelman’s evidence or accorded it less weight because he didn’t write in his first report that Assange had a partner, Stella Moris, and they had two young children together. Although Kopelman knew about them, he was mindful of Moris’s anxiety about her children’s privacy. Both Kopelman’s subsequent report and his testimony at the extradition hearing referred to Moris and their children. It was already public knowledge.
Baraitser, who considered both of Kopelman’s reports as well as his testimony before ruling, wrote:
[Kopelman]He evaluated Mr. Assange from May 2019 to December 2019, and was best able to assess his symptoms first-hand. He has taken great care to provide an informed account of Mr. Assange’s background and psychiatric history. He paid close attention to prison medical notes and attached a detailed summary to his December report. He is a highly skilled clinician and was aware of the possibility for exaggeration as well as malingering. I had no reason for doubting his clinical opinion.
The United States will be allowed to present “assurances” that if Assange is extradited, tried, convicted and imprisoned, he will not be subject to special administrative measures (SAMs) — onerous conditions that would keep him in virtual isolation — or be held at the ADX maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado. The U.S. plans to give additional assurance that it won’t object to Assange serving any custodial sentence in Australia. These so-called assurances however are conditional. The U.S. reserves all rights to impose SAMs and hold Assange at ADX if Assange’s future behavior warrants. Moreover, the U.S. cannot guarantee that Australia would consent to hosting Assange’s incarceration.
The High Court should give considerable weight to the way in which explosive new revelations of the Trump administration’s plot to kidnap and assassinate Assange will affect his mental health if he is extradited.
High Court Should Look at U.S. Plans To Kidnap And Assassinate Assange
Assange is indicted. WikiLeaks’ 2010-2011 revelations of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo. They included 400,000 field reports about the Iraq War, 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians, and evidence of systematic torture, rape and murder after U.S. forces “handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad,” the documents reveal. They also included the Afghan War Logs which contain 90,000 reports detailing more civilian casualties caused by coalition forces than what the U.S. military had reported. And the Guantánamo Files contained 779 secret reports revealing that 150 innocent people had been imprisoned there for years and documenting the torture and abuse of 800 men and boys, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Perhaps the most important release by WikiLeaks was the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, in which a U.S. Army Apache helicopter gunship in Baghdad targets and fires on unarmed civilians. At least 18 civilians were injured, two of them fatally. Reuters Two journalists and a man tried to save the wounded. Two children were also injured. One of the bodies was then cut in half by a U.S. Army tank. The video shows three separate war crimes, as prohibited by the Geneva Conventions or the U.S Army Field Manual.
It was WikiLeaks’ publication of CIA hacking tools known as “Vault 7,” which the agency called “the largest data loss in CIA history,” that incurred the wrath of Trump’s CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Vault 7 materials showed electronic surveillance and cyberwarfare by CIA.
Pompeo called in 2017 WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and CIA and government officials hatched “secret war plans” to abduct and kill Assange, according to a stunning Yahoo! News report. Some senior CIA and Trump administration officials requested “sketches” or “options” for ways to assassinate Assange. Trump “asked whether the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide him ‘options’ for how to do so,” according to the report.
Pompeo advocated “extraordinary rendition,” which the CIA used in the “war on terror” to illegally seize suspects and send them to its “black sites” where they were tortured. The scenario was that the CIA would enter the Ecuadorian Embassy where Assange was under a grant for asylum and clandestinely fly him into the United States to face trial. Others wanted to kill Assange by poisoning or shooting him in order to avoid the hassle of kidnapping.
The CIA spied upon WikiLeaks, and it aimed to sow discord among the group’s members and steal their electronic devices, according to the Yahoo! NewsReport.The CIA also illegally spied inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, and spied on privileged attorney client communications between Assange’s lawyers.
In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ), worried that the CIA might kidnap and kill Assange, filed a secret indictment. To bolster the DOJ’s case for extradition, the FBI collaborated with informant Siggi Thordarson to paint Assange as a hacker instead of a journalist. Thordarson later admitted to the Icelandic paper. StundinIn exchange for immunity from prosecution by FBI, he lied that Assange was a hacker.
In 2019, after a new pro-U.S. president came to power in Ecuador, in order to facilitate the U.S.’s attempted extradition, London police dragged Assange from the embassy and arrested him for violating bail conditions. Assange remains in custody in London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison pending Biden’s appeal of the extradition denial.
The U.S. plans for kidnapping and assassinating Assange should be given a lot of weight by the High Court. The knowledge of those revelations will put even more mental stress on Assange, whom former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer described as having suffered “prolonged exposure to psychological torture” during his confinement. The High Court should affirm the district court’s denial of extradition.
Investigative Journalism: A Window into U.S. War Crimes
“When Assange published hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the public was given an unprecedented window into the lack of justification and the futility of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Assange Defense co-chairs Daniel Ellsberg, Alice Walker and Noam Chomsky wroteat Newsweek. “The truth was hidden by a generation of governmental lies. Assange’s efforts helped show the American public what their government was doing in their name.”
Recent revelations of Pompeo’s threats against Assange that appeared in Yahoo! News have shed light on the dangers the national security state poses to investigative journalism and the public’s right to know. 25 international human rights organisations, including civil liberties and press freedom organizations, have intensified their efforts to make these revelations. call for dismissal of the DOJ’s charges against Assange.
Adam Schiff, chairman, of the House Intelligence Committee, stated that his committee had asked the CIA to provide information about Assange’s plans to kidnap, or assassinate him.
The High Court will decide whether to affirm or overturn district judge Baraitser’s decision denying extradition. If they affirm Baraitser’s ruling, the Biden administration could ask the U.K. Supreme Court to review the case. If the High Court overturns Baraitser’s decision, Assange could appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court and then to the European Court of Human Rights if the Supreme Court ruling goes against him.
Biden’s appeal of the denial of extradition should be dismissed. Julian Assange should be freed and honored for his courage.