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Stella Moris on the Espionage Act and how the case against Assange is catastrophic for free speech


Monday 3 May 2021, by siawi3


Stella Moris on the Espionage Act and how the case against Assange is catastrophic for free speech

29 avr. 2021

Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign

VIDEO here 14:19

Julian Assange is my partner. We have two little boys, Max, 2, and Gabriel, who is almost 4. The sole reason Julian remains in jail is because the US government under Trump decided to bring an outrageous, abusive and political case under the Espionage Act against Julian, and the Biden administration has not yet put a stop to it.

Julian has been in a high security jail in London for two years now, even though he is not convicted of any crime. The US extradition case is progressing through the courts. In January a judge decided Julian should not be extradited. The US government is appealing.

Julian faces 175 years.

Julian has not been able to hold his sons in his arms for over a year. The last time he saw them in person was in October, when the jail briefly allowed visits.

Julian is a public figure, and he is known for his courageous publishing work. But he is also a son, a father, and a brother. He is caring and funny. He is the most principled man I know. He has helped bring justice to victims of state and corporate abuses all over the world.

Our family is fighting to free him, but because of the case that has been brought against Julian under the Espionage Act, that fight is at the same time a fight for our collective freedoms.

Julian faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act. The 175 year sentence concerns receiving, possessing and publishing the Guantanamo Bay Files, the Afghan and Iraq War Diaries, the Collateral Murder publication’s Rules of Engagement, and the US State Department cables. There is no allegation that Julian did anything that could be construed as espionage. The US government is accusing him of publishing information to the public.

These same publications have won Julian the most prestigious journalism awards, like the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Australian equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of these revelations. The Sydney Peace Prize jury said the following:

“Assange’s work is the Tom Paine Rights of Man and Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers tradition— challenging the old order of power in politics and journalism. Assange has championed people’s right

to know and has challenged the centuries old tradition that governments are entitled to keep the public in a state of ignorance. In the Paine, Ellsberg, and Assange cases, those in power moved quickly to silence their critics even by perverting the course of justice.”

Julian says the best way to obtain justice is by exposing injustice. And exposing injustice is what has made Julian enemies on both sides of politics in Washington. He is also admired on both sides of politics. And that is because regardless of where one stands on the political spectrum, what Julian represents goes to the heart of what it means to live in a democracy.

It is no overstatement to say that the use of the 1917 Espionage Act against Julian is the single biggest most urgent threat to press freedom and a free democratic society.

It is also profoundly wrong. Julian isn’t simply just innocent. He is being punished for doing the right thing. For exposing the wrongful killing of journalists and of thousands of civilians. For documenting war crimes. For doing the most important journalism any person can possibly do.

So how did we get here?

The first thing to understand is that the Espionage Act itself is a terrible piece of legislation. It was originally designed to try World War I spies, but the wording is so broad and indefinite, that the Act has been abused again and again for political purposes.

The wording is so broad that pretty much anyone could be prosecuted under it. During Julian’s extradition proceedings, expert witnesses explained that reading the daily newspaper could be construed as a violation of the Espionage Act. Another example: say you are a journalist and you write that the CIA torture memo should be in the public domain, and then a source sends it to you. You could go to prison as a co-conspirator. That is essentially what the conspiracy charge against Julian alleges in relation to the so-called Most Wanted Leaks, a wiki page where any random person on the Internet could nominate documents that ought to be in the public domain.

Secondly, what Bill Barr’s Department of Justice did in launching an Espionage Act indictment against Julian, is to do precisely what the First Amendment explicitly forbids. It is completely unconstitutional.

Think about the First Amendment. It says “Congress shall make no law [] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. The First Amendment doesn’t grant people rights that can be taken away, or specify who’s rights apply and whose don’t. What it does is impose a Constitutional prohibition on lawmakers which prevents the executive from restricting speech and publishing.

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