The mainstream media’s recent smear campaign against Julian Assange is an attempt to make people comfortable with the breakdown of democracy and the free press. Since the target of this unprecedented assault on American liberties is now seen as a villain by mainstream thinkers, this assault can be easily carried out.
And indeed, any objective look at the laws shows that the effort to prosecute Assange is an illegitimate attack on democratic rights. In response to this week’s news that the Trump administration has charged Assange with an undefined crime, the ACLU’s expert on speech and privacy laws Ben Wizner put out a statement which says:
“Any prosecution of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations,”
All of the facts back up the ACLU’s assessment. The documents WikiLeaks has put out are no more illegal to publish than were the Pentagon Papers, the Downing Street Memo, and all the other private documents that news sources have leaked throughout history. This routine journalistic practice is the only “crime” that WikiLeaks has ever committed; there’s no evidence that WikiLeaks worked with Trump and Russia to obtain the DNC emails as part of a grand conspiracy to “influence the election,” any more than there’s evidence that Russia was behind the DNC leak.
Therefore, if the government can prosecute Assange after he’s likely forced out of the Ecuadorian embassy, we’ll enter a new era of a censored press. As Wizner and other legal experts have pointed out, Assange’s conviction would give the Trump administration the precedent to target anyone who publishes state secrets. Click To Tweet
We’re hanging on the precipice of a major step towards a tyrannical police state. And as always happens when an authoritarian takeover is made, the people who support the takeover are claiming that they still support liberty. Right now, the Democratic Party’s “Resistance” liberals are supporting Assange’s prosecution. And, they’re rationalizing their position by saying that Assange is an isolated case and that his prosecution, therefore, won’t endanger press freedom. This view of the issue, in addition to being evidently false, is similar to the rationalizations that people have made for past erosions of our freedoms.
When the Patriot Act was passed, its supporters claimed that it was in line with the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy. Since then, the NSA has been allowed to create a data center that processes nearly all of Americans’ online activity, fulfilling one part of Orwell’s dystopia.
When an unaccountable drone assassination program developed under Bush and Obama, some claimed it was a system that could be trusted. Then Obama used it to kill seven American citizens without due process, Trump used it to continue the practice of assassinating civilians, and it’s now killing more innocent people than ever.
When a bill was passed under the 2013 NDAA which allowed the U.S. government to target Americans with propaganda, the law’s initiators claimed that it would only be used for fighting terrorism. Since then, the State Department has created a shadowy and unaccountable program for advancing “truth-based narratives,” leading to a vast amount of war propaganda and media psyops.
We have every reason to expect our government to leverage Assange’s persecution into yet another power grab. If we don’t take immediate action to free this man, the precedent will be set for all of us to become less free along with him. Click To Tweet
“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.” ―