Hammer, Sickle and Four logo
The Internationalist
  March 2021

Heroes for Exposing the Crimes of Imperialism

Free Julian Assange – No Extradition,
U.S. Hands Off Edward Snowden!

Wikileaks Has Performed a Public Service for All Humanity

On January 3, the Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth joined in a demonstration in New York City against the threatened extradition of Julian Assange.  (Internationalist photo)

On February 12, it was announced that the U.S. Department of Justice had filed a brief in support of a prior appeal against the January 4 decision of a British judge barring the extradition of Wikileaks leader Julian Assange. This confirms that the Democratic administration of Joe Biden is continuing to pursue the prosecution of Assange begun by Republican Donald Trump. Under the draconian provisions of the Espionage Act, the founder of the internet whistleblower site faces charges which could total 175 years in prison for exposing hideous war crimes by U.S. imperialism and the “dirty tricks” of its spy agencies. By going after Assange with a vengeance, under both Republicans and Democrats, the United States government is seeking to put a stop to exposés of its secrets.

The U.S.’ appeal of the British judge’s ruling was a parting blow of the Trump regime on its last day in office. In early February, a “blue ribbon” coalition of civil liberties and rights groups appealed to Biden’s acting attorney general to drop the extradition request and dismiss the original indictment of Assange. Their letter emphasized that, “The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely – and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do.” New York Times and London Guardian noted that they use the same methods as Assange in garnering information from insiders about government cover-ups. They also published information ferreted out by Wikileaks.

The mainstream bourgeois media does on occasion blow the whistle on some egregious misdeeds of some governments. The Pentagon Papers, which exposed the lies of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration about the Vietnam War, was a bombshell published by the Times in 1971 (after Johnson was gone). Richard Nixon’s administration tried to prosecute the leaker, analyst Daniel Ellsberg, for violating the Espionage Act, but the charges were dropped because of egregious legal violations by the prosecution. More typically, the “free but responsible press” has sat on government secrets – as the Times did with the U.S. role in the 1954 overthrow of the government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and preparations for John F. Kennedy’s failed Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón) invasion of Cuba in 1961 – or peddled government lies, such as the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, used to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Marxists staunchly defend the First Amendment right of freedom of expression against U.S. imperialism’s attempts to limit or suppress it. If the government could stop leakers from leaking and the press from printing, we would never have known about the horrendous massacre at My Lai in Vietnam, exposed by courageous investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (who also exposed fabrications by the Barack Obama administration about who used chemical weapons in Syria). It is because of Wikileaks’ exposure of imperialist crimes that Julian Assange is being mercilessly hounded today and has been for the last decade.

However, the British judge, Vanessa Baraitser, while she did stop (for now) the extradition of Assange, did not uphold any of the objections that prosecution of the Wikileaks founder would violate press freedoms. On the contrary, she defended the U.S. government’s supposed right to keep its secrets secret, on the grounds that, had Assange’s actions taken place in Britain, they would have violated the several Official Secrets Acts. Instead, the judge ruled that conditions in U.S. “supermax” prisons are so inhumane that it would drive Assange to commit suicide. She detailed the horrific Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) in the ADX Florence penitentiary in Colorado where Assange would be sent, and a number of its inmates have in fact taken their lives.

It should also be noted that Chelsea Manning, who obtained the damning information that Wikileaks made public when she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq, was tried under the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in jail. What she obtained was massive and invaluable, providing gruesome accounts of murderous U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and exquisite detail of how the U.S. rulers control their puppets and spy on their imperialist allies. In one of his last acts as president, Obama commuted her sentence in 2017, but in 2019 she was thrown back in jail for a year for courageously refusing to testify against Assange in secret grand jury proceedings. Meanwhile, Edward Snowden has also been charged with “espionage” for revealing how the U.S. agencies have massively spied on the U.S. population. Snowden was forced to seek asylum in Russia, after the U.S. prevented him from obtaining it in Ecuador in 2013.

The Ecuadorian government of Rafael Correa in 2012 granted Assange asylum in its London embassy, citing his defense of freedom of expression and the danger to “his life, safety or personal integrity,” after a Swedish prosecutor demanded he be extradited for questioning on a frame-up accusation of rape.1 The Swedish extradition demand was dropped in 2017, but by then Assange risked extradition to the U.S. where the Trump administration was preparing charges. Under pressure from Washington, Correa’s successor, Lenin Moreno, said in 2018 he wanted Assange out of the embassy, and in April 2019, in an act of servile submission to imperialism, the former leftist Moreno invited British police into the embassy to arrest him. On the same day, the U.S. unveiled the secret 2018 indictment of Assange for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” (later escalated to espionage).

So Julian Assange has been confined for a decade, whether in asylum in an embassy or in a British jail, seeking to stay out of reach of U.S. imperialism. As we wrote in 2010, “Make no mistake, Julian Assange is in real danger from the same imperialist war criminals that have Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning in a military jail. Hands off Julian Assange and WikiLeaks!”2 Some of Assange’s defenders, as well as in the media and among the signers of the February 8 letter to the Justice Department, had hopes that the new Democratic administration would drop Trump’s extradition request and possibly even the indictment. But in its personnel and policies, the Biden administration is very much a continuation of Obama’s, which prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous U.S. governments combined (8 out of 14 cases).

The fate of Julian Assange hangs in the balance. The founder and publisher of Wikileaks, which deeply wounded the imperialist beast, is in the clutches of the capitalist “justice” system. Whether he will ever walk free again is unknown. Even if the U.S. appeal is turned down, that hardly means freedom for Assange (who is still being held in Britain’s notorious Belmarsh high-security prison). “He would have to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder and it would not be safe to leave the UK,” said a former head of the extradition section of the Crown Prosecution Service (Guardian, 4 January). Recall that after Daniel Ellsberg’s prosecution was dropped, the Nixon administration floated an “Ellsberg neutralization proposal” in which a dozen CIA gusano assets would “totally incapacitate” him at a public rally.

The Internationalist Group demands no extradition, freedom for Julian Assange and dropping of all charges against him, as well as against Edward Snowden. They and Chelsea Manning were charged with espionage, precisely for their “crime” of exposing to public scrutiny a small part of the skullduggery, bloody subversion and wanton slaughter carried out by the U.S. espionage agencies and other components of the U.S. imperialist behemoth under the cloak of official secrecy. The real criminals are the spymasters and warmongers in Washington who have launched the vendetta against these champions of our right – your right – to know what the biggest mass murderers in the world, the United States government, are up to. ■

  1. 1. The justified fear was that if Assange were extradited to Sweden, where social-democratic governments had regularly cooperated with CIA operations, from Poland to Syria, he would likely be extradited to the U.S. See “Free Julian Assange! Drop All Charges!The Internationalist No. 32, January-February 2011.
  2. 2. See “Defend PFC Bradley Manning!The Internationalist No. 31, Summer 2010.