The United States submitted a formal request to the United Kingdom to extradite Julian Assange, who is the founder of WikiLeaks.
The United States was given 65 days from the time of Assange’s arrest in London back in April to hand over extradition papers. The deadline was mid-June. Assange resided in London inside the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years. The United Kingdom revoked his protection when he was arrested.
Assange was charged originally with one count of computer intrusion. The charges were piled on with 17 more added last month including “controversial charges under the Espionage Act for encouraging, receiving and publishing national defense information in concert with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.”
CNN legal analyst Steve Vladeck stated, “Such a charge under the Espionage Act has never been successfully prosecuted.”
Since the extradition paperwork has been submitted, it is not likely the Justice Department will tack on any more charges.
There is a total of 18 indictments from the Eastern District of Virginia for the alleged selling of classified information. The indictments states, “Assange goaded Manning to obtain thousands of pages of classified material and to give Assange Iraq war-related significant activity reports, diplomatic State Department cables and information related to Guantanamo Bay detainees.”
Normally, government officials are prosecuted through the Justice Department when classified information is leaked. A federal grand jury will decide the fate of Assange, and it is coming straight from the Trump administration.
Their goal is to crack down on the release of classified information which was unauthorized, and it also goes after the press’ freedoms as well.
The national security should override any right for the safety of the American citizens. This led to a heavy debate because it was Assange’s first indictment, which raised the question if the material released was “protected journalistic activity.”
The Freedom of Speech and The Freedom of the Press came into the cards. The American Civil Liberties Union was the first organization to step up after it was announced Assange was being charged with espionage and called it, “a direct assault on the First Amendment.”
WikiLeaks responded by saying, “It was madness and the end of national security journalism and the First Amendment.”
The Justice Department worked toward downplaying an analogy between a news reporter and Assange. The Assistant Attorney General John Demers, stated, “Julian Assange is no journalist.”
Manning was convicted previously due to the disclosures where a classified video showed a United States chopper attacking journalist and civilians in 2007 in Iraq. Before leaving office, Former President Barrack Obama had her released in 2016. She was arrested again for the refusal of testifying before a grand jury.
Wednesday afternoon, The United Kingdom signed the request from the United States for the extradition of Julian Assange. The United Kingdom Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the papers and said, “First of all, I am very pleased the police were able to apprehend him, and now he is rightly behind bars because he broke UK law. There is an extradition request from the US that is before the courts tomorrow, but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it, and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow.”
The United States gave all the charges in detail Friday in London’s court.
The Espionage Act has been in existence for roughly one hundred years, and it is rare for the government to act on any violations from someone who was considered a journalist. It states, “Whoever, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States.”
Some people in the government, say Assange is not a journalist, and that has brought its own edge against those who are. The written first charge brought against Assange was, “Assange and WikiLeaks repeatedly encouraged sources with access to classified information to steal and provide it to WikiLeaks to disclose.”
Ted Boutrous is a First Amendment lawyer who stated he is glad the Justice Department acknowledged the journalist First Amendment rights, but their actions are not following through with what they are saying, and that is what has journalist worried.
It would give the government full authority over what is being put out to the public. Journalists have the right to get information from an official and deliver it to the American people who have the right to know.
After all, is not the government, “We the People?”