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Thousands Form Human Chain Around UK Parliament Demanding The Release of Julian Assange
Thousands of protestors gathered today outside of the UK parliament forming a human chain in solidarity with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The United States is trying to have Assange extradited to face criminal charges for leaking classified information to the public. Protestors gathered in a line which stretched from the parliament's perimeter railings and snaked across nearby Westminster Bridge to the other side fo the River Thames.
Assange's' wife, Stella, recently posted the following on Twitter,
Assange was charged under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, largely for actions rightfully recognized as protected news-gathering practices. He made public previously classified documents exposing various war crimes and other immoral and unethical actions carried out by the US and other governments.
For the first time in the history, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information. This establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it’s equally dangerous for U.S. journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations.
Ben Wizner, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, American Civil Liberties Union, explains,
“For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information…It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it’s equally dangerous for U.S. journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations."
Ben Wizner, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
If Julian is extradited he will be put on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where he stands no chance of a fair trial. It is where US intelligence agencies are headquartered. The court complex is 15 miles from CIA headquarters. The state is populated by employees of the very sector whose abuses and crimes Julian exposed. The Espionage Act prevents Julian from arguing why he published what he published, what he exposed, and the fact it didn’t result in any physical harm.
The Espionage Act was originally intended for use against spies. But it’s been used against journalists and whistleblowers in recent decades. These new charges against Assange threaten to criminalize reporting in the United States and around the world.
Daniel Hale a former U.S. intelligence analyst was arrested and sentenced to 45 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act. Hale leaked documents about the secretive U.S. drone program, showing 90% of people killed in Afghanistan were innocent bystanders.
A favourite quote of ours here at The Pulse comes to mind. It's from Nils Melzer, the Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law who has served as the UN Rapporteur on Torture and Other Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
“How far have we sunk if telling the truth becomes a crime? How far have we sunk if we prosecute people that expose war crimes for exposing war crimes? How far have we sunk when we no longer prosecute our own war criminals? Because we identify more with them, than we identify with the people that actually expose these crimes. What does that tell about us and about our governments? In a democracy, the power does not belong to the government, but to the people. But the people have to claim it. Secrecy disempowers the people because it prevents them from exercising democratic control, which is precisely why governments want secrecy.”
Nils Melzer, Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law
Proponents of Assange’s extradition would argue that he threatened national security. We would argue, as would many others, that national security has become an umbrella tool to censor information that exposes unethical and immoral actions of corporations and governments. It's simply used as an excuse to justify these actions for ulterior motives, be it financial or political gain, while simultaneously deeming these actions as necessary and good for the collective.