(TheRedWire.com) – Wikileaks published leaked diplomatic communications and embarrassing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010. Julian Assange, the group’s founder, published classified documents about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, reportedly given to him by former military analyst Chelsea Manning. A military court later convicted her, but former President Barack Obama later gave her a presidential pardon. Additionally, the famed internet publisher posted secret information about Guantanamo Bay, US diplomacy, and information about the Democratic Party ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Since 2019, Assange has been fighting extradition to the United States from within the United Kingdom since the US Department of Justice charged him with espionage. Now, President Joe Biden is facing pressure to pardon him or drop the charges.
Biden Faces Pressure to End Attempts To Extradite
Assange has remained jailed in London since 2019 while the country’s legal system determined whether it was proper for him to face espionage charges in the United States. In February, the UK Supreme Court ruled he couldn’t appeal lower court rulings against him. In April, a judge ordered his extradition to the United States to face the criminal accusations. The courts have said his extradition to the US would not be incompatible with the human right to a fair trial, and Americans would treat him appropriately.
At the case’s core, some question whether the law should treat Assange as a journalist and give him First Amendment protections. Opponents argue he was a rogue operator spreading propaganda that harmed government operations at home and around the globe.
Recently, the Biden administration released new standards expanding the protection of journalists. The question some are asking is, will the Justice Department continue to pursue the indictment or make good on its promises to protect journalists?
On Monday, November 28, five news outlets, including The New York Times, came to Assange’s defense. They argued the Department of Justice’s anticipated prosecution of Assange set a “dangerous precedent” and undermined the US Constitution.
Journalist or Illegal Activist?
Assange never actually stole any documents. Whistleblowers and others provided him the often-times classified information to post for the world to see. Columbia University law professor Jameel Jaffer, who runs the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia, said obtaining and releasing the data without any involvement in how informants gathered it crossed a “legal rubicon.”
Jaffer noted the federal government has never targeted a publisher under the Espionage Act. He stated the DOJ indicted Assange for daily activities that journalists engage in to inform the public of government activities. He said the case would be Biden’s legacy if the administration continued to pursue it, overshadowing every other free press issue.
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