President Biden Should Drop Charges Against Julian Assange


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange won a critical legal victory on Monday when the United Kingdom’s High Court ruled in favor of allowing him to appeal his pending extradition to the United States to face charges related to violations of the Espionage Act and others.

The move comes shortly after President Joe Biden indicated that he is considering dropping the charges against the embattled journalist, who is currently imprisoned in the U.K. after his asylum status was revoked by the Ecuadorian government.

Assange had been seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the U.K. before being arrested. Now, he has a chance to avoid being sent to the United States to face charges.

This development comes as President Joe Biden is facing calls to drop the case against Assange.

London’s High Court has ruled that Julian Assange has the right to appeal in his final challenge against extradition to the United States.

The legal victory for the WikiLeaks founder was cheered by dozens of his supporters as they rallied outside the court in the British capital.

Some beat drums, some shouted “drop the case,” while other supporters held placards reading “Let him go Joe,” in reference to U.S. President Joe Biden.

Assange’s legal team argued in Monday’s hearing that the judges, Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson, should not accept the assurances given by U.S. prosecutors that he could seek to rely on the rights and protections under the US First Amendment.

His team made the case that, if extradited, Assange could be discriminated against on the basis of his nationality, as an Australian-born foreign national.

In a short ruling, the judges said the U.S. submissions were not sufficient, granting Assange permission to a full appeal in relation to the legal points on freedom of speech and nationality.

A date has not yet been set for the next hearing.

Assange is facing 18 counts related to Espionage Act violations and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. He could be facing life in prison if he is convicted.

Through WikiLeaks, Assange exposed numerous classified documents to the public. The disclosures brought attention to questionable activities conducted by the federal government.

In April 2010, WikiLeaks released a classified video showing a 2007 Apache helicopter airstrike carried out in Baghdad. The video, titled “Collateral Murder,” showed U.S. forces accidentally killing a group of non-combatants, including two Reuters journalists, contradicting the government’s claims that the journalists died during a firefight with insurgents.  

WikiLeaks also published almost 400,000 classified military documents known as the Iraq War Logs. The documents highlighted various aspects of the war from 2004 to 2009 and detailed civilian casualties, torture, and other abuses conducted by members of the Iraqi military and private contractors.

In November 2010, the news outlet released over 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables in a scandal known as “Cablegate.” The cables included confidential communications between U.S. embassies and the State Department. These communications gave a behind-the-scenes look at U.S. diplomacy and included secret negotiations and several instances of corruption and human rights abuses carried out in numerous countries.

This disclosure revealed that the United States was conducting surveillance on United Nations officials. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had instructed diplomats to gather detailed information on members of the U.N.’s leadership, including biometric data such as fingerprints and iris scans. It also highlighted rampant corruption in Afghanistan’s burgeoning government. This includes bribery of officials and other offenses. It also exposed the Tunisian regime’s human rights abuses, which later contributed to the rise of the Arab Spring.

These examples represent only a smattering of the covert activities perpetrated by the United States government and its allies. Assange was widely lauded for exposing them. But some argued that his actions were reckless and could have endangered members of the government.

Nevertheless, Assange’s actions should fall under the type of journalistic activities that are protected by the First Amendment. He did not actually obtain the documents himself; they were given to him by people like Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army Intelligence analyst, and others in the government. Assange merely published the information he was given, and it was an important step in exposing government malfeasance to the public.

The exposures WikiLeaks brought about were very much in the public’s interest. As American citizens, we deserve to know what our government is up to, whether it involves activities abroad or within our borders. It is nearly impossible to hold the state accountable if it is allowed to cover up its crimes and misconduct. This is why corrupt government officials seek to conceal their activities by almost any means necessary. Outlets like WikiLeaks help us understand what our government is doing.

Lastly, it is hard to deny that the effort to prosecute Assange is rooted in a desire to prevent further disclosures. It is aimed at protecting corrupt government officials by intimidating other journalists who might want to inform the public of their activities behind closed doors. If Assange is convicted and condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison, it will discourage others from telling the people about what their government officials are doing. This would only empower even more corruption.

Those arguing in favor of Assange’s prosecution might argue that he jeopardized national security by releasing classified information that could endanger lives and compromise military operations. Sending him to prison would be a step to deter future leaks and protect national security interests.

National security is certainly a legitimate concern – especially since America has enemies. However, protecting the public from the machinations of government officials is also critical to national security and keeping the state in check. It is also worth noting that the Defense Department could not link a single death to WikiLeaks’ publications.

There could certainly be room for criticism of Assange’s actions. But making it possible to hold the federal government accountable by forcing it to be transparent is a necessary service to the American public. As I argued previously, the information WikiLeaks exposed is a matter of public interest, and we deserve to know if people in the government are abusing their positions for nefarious ends. Corruption thrives when the populace remains ignorant. This is why folks like Assange are essential to having a free society.