In April 2019 American police came to the Ecuadorian embassy and brutally ripped out Julian Assange after seeking refuge there since June 2012. He is now facing an extradition trial in front of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to determine whether he’ll be sent to the US to face a litany of charges there. This show trial is of import on par with the Pentagon Papers trial of New York Times Co. v. United States and also on par in regards to the rights and broader understandings of free press in the Popular Imaginary as Regina vs Hicklin. I talked with Nicky Hager, author of Hit & Run and Dirty Politics about his contributions as a defense witness, and his involvement with Wikileaks. This is what he had to say.
Jesse: I want to start by giving a quick rundown of the history of Wikileaks.
In November 2007 Wikileaks published the Guantanamo Operating Military Manual which provided evidence that the US Army kept officials and Red Cross away from areas of torture and isolation. The infamous Collateral Murder video came out, which depicts the US Army brazenly murdering Afghan civilians and Router reporters. In 2010 Wikileaks published the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War diaries and the Afghan War Logs. This included 90,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan, 400,000 documents related to the war in Iraq, and a lot more detailed information about civilian deaths and civilians targeted by the US military. This leak was also related to the classified material Chelsea Manning leaked to Wikileaks and was arrested for. Wikileaks worked with the Guardian, the New York Times and other media outlets so that they could go through the documents and report on them.
This batch of leaks happened during the Obama administration when the distinction between the US State Department and the CIA pretty much diminished or quickly disappeared. The CIA operated on domestic ground, which it’s always covertly done but that’s when this became a huge obvious thing where the CIA was giving direct orders to the US State Department. After these leaks Assange was labelled as a ‘terrorist’ by president elect Joe Biden, and Wikileaks was labelled a ‘hostile intelligence agency’ Mike Pompeo. It got even worse for Assange a month later when Wikileaks published the State Department cables which included 250,000 pages of unredacted US diplomatic cables from December 1996 to February 2010. Many of these were passed to intermediaries at the Guardian, and nothing in these cables were labelled ‘Top Secret’ or ‘Classified’, in fact many were unclassified, and some were just ‘Secret’.
These cables revealed proof that Hillary Clinton ordered US diplomats to spy on Ban Ki-Moon (who was then Secretary-General of the UN) and other top UN officials. They were specifically ordered to gather biometrics, personal information, and security passwords on leaders of foreign nations, famously Angela Merkel.
A lot happened in the last decade between 2010 and 2020 but from my understanding it boils down to Assange being stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy and then getting brutally arrested by American police officers in 2019.
Nicky: Yeah that’s a very clear run down, and it’s good because it brings us to the heart of what this is about, which is those big leaks of 2009/2010. That’s when the stuff happened which the US prosecutors are trying to get Julian for now. That’s also when he did the most important work that he perhaps will ever do. Those were the most important leaks and so it all crunches around that time.
Jesse: What was your involvement with Wikileaks?
Nicky: My main involvement with Wikileaks was over the period where the US embassy cables came out of the Afghanistan War Logs, but I actually heard from Julian right back in the beginning in 2006 when he was setting up Wikileaks and was casting around for people who would be interested in what he was doing. It’s really worth remembering that in those days nobody had heard of Wikileaks and it was really small. It was just this Aussie guy who had an idea about how he could make the world a more transparent and just place.
There were quite a few years through there where I had vague contact with Wikileaks, and I used their materials but it was small-time. Sometimes they might release a US military equipment list from Afghanistan or Iraq or something, but it was all fairly small. What we didn’t realize was going on there, was that through persistence and force of personality Julian was building up the idea that this ‘leaking’ could make a big difference. That the ‘leaking’ of major military and state records in the age of digital storage where you could have a lot of them, was a way that you could try to radically change the world. And so when finally those Chelsea Manning leaks arrived in 2009/2010 he’d been already building it up for years, and I think they happened because he had been gradually establishing the model, and gradually establishing the example, and then those big leaks were the product of all that work.
Jesse: Can you walk me through the actual process of participating in the hearing?
Nicky: Yeah, let’s start by explaining what the hearing is. This is a formal hearing where the British courts decide whether or not Julian Assange has to be extradited to the US to face the espionage and other charges which he’s got there. And so there’s certain things that they have to decide, like whether he’s actually done anything which is unlawful under UK law, whether he would be sent into torture or harm, and whether it’s a political crime that he’s being accused of, in which case you’re not allowed to extradite people for political crimes. So this is a court case which is sorting out those kinds of issues which have been coming for a very long time.
The case wasn’t about Julian getting to talk or be cross-examined, it was that Julian’s lawyers put up dozens of witnesses one after another (including me) who were arguing different parts of the case for why what he had done wasn’t unlawful, and was just normal journalism, and that he had acted responsibly, and that he had acted as a receiver of whistleblower information like many people have before him. So there were all those kinds of arguments, and then also a sad part of it which was other witnesses who where talking about how mentally and physically rundown and damaged he is from all the years of punishment that he’s had in seclusion that he’s lived through already, and what would happen to him if he found himself in a US prison. So I was making the case to the UK judge that they should refuse to allow him to be extradited to the almost inevitable convictions that he would face inside the US legal system.
Jesse: I just want to point out for the sake of the interview that the US and the UK extradition treaty explicitly forbids extraditions for political crimes, and the UK and US are undermining the very concept of political asylum. Also during the trial, there were witnesses talking on behalf of the cruel and inhuman conditions of the ADX Florence which is the supermax that he’s going to be a prison in that you mentioned, and the US prosecutors responded by saying that they have less suicides than in UK prisons rather than addressing the completely unjust and inhumane conditions of this imprisonment. The prosecution and judge also worked together to ban two witnesses that could testify on these inhumane conditions, and then castigated the other defense witnesses for not having first hand knowledge of the ADX Florence. Is that correct?
Nicky: I should say now that I didn’t listen to the entire thing all the way through. I read many of the affidavits, so that sounds roughly true. The British judge had seemed to be very unsympathetic to Julian through a lot of the processes, and the general view of people who have concern for him has been that there seems to be an unsympathetic court there, but that’s not quite the whole story because the judge seem to lighten up, and be more open minded on some things as it went along. So while there were some occurrences like you said where evidence got blocked, or wasn’t permitted to be heard after objections from the US prosecutors, there are other times where it wasn’t so bad, and so as far as I’m concerned, it’s not a forgone conclusion that Julian is going to lose in that court when the decision comes out on January the 4th.
Jesse: Most of what I saw of your contribution to the defense was stating your involvement in redacting names in order to protect people, which gave the United States time to warn sensitive sources, and how no one received any death threats as a result of the leaks. Except obviously Assange himself who was conspired to be murdered as there’s a lot of evidence pertaining to plans to poison him when he was residing in the Ecuadorian embassy. I’ve also seen people theorize that the leaks actually saved lives “After WikiLeaks published evidence of Iraqi torture centers the U.S. had established, the Iraqi government refused Obama’s request to extend immunity to U.S. soldiers who commit criminal and civil offenses there. As a result, Obama had to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.”
Can you talk to me more about the redaction process which you were involved in, and which a lot of the court hearing seems to be based on?
Nicky: Yes sure, I’m happy to talk about it. So when the US embassy cables were getting near to being released I was contacted directly by Julian who I had never met face to face before, and he invited me to go to Britain and be part of the release process which meant flying from New Zealand to Britain and going out to the countryside where they were hiding out in this great big manor house kind of a place, and reading the US embassy cables that related to New Zealand, Australia, and to some other countries that I was looking at. And yes, while half of the job was to look for stories which the world needed to know, in other words publicise what was in the leaked materials, the other half of the job was that by sharing the materials amongst people who knew their part of the world, like me knowing the South-Pacific, it was judged that I was in a good position to say which if any of the documents had overly sensitive sources or could be endangering someone, and what things needed to be redacted from them. So I got very specific requests to redact documents and I had to type up lists of what I thought should be released and what should be redacted and things like that.
I just want to explain what this is all about because I was giving the evidence of the care that was taken (and my experience was of the care) and this is all revolving around the US prosecutors trying to find a way of saying that what was essentially a highly public interest leak was irresponsible, and the argument that has been perhaps the main way they’ve argued, has been this thing about how many lives were put in danger and how it was just a fluke that nobody got killed, if no one got killed and that Julian and Wikileaks are responsible for endangering people’s lives and safety in different countries by releasing that information. So that’s what it’s about and this all came down to.
Let’s be really specific because I was answering particular allegations. What it came down to was that a long time after the documents were released (and I was there and I was part of that process) the unredacted full version of all the cables were released and not by wikileaks. When it was inevitable that it couldn’t be stopped, and they did try to stop it, they then published them themselves. So what the US prosecutors were saying was that forget all this stuff about how you carefully redacted that at the time they were first released, because they all got released later anyway and so they all got endangered. And so in fact the story is not that you were careful, but that Wikileaks just irresponsibly released the whole lot and endangered people. And so what I answered was that that argument ignored the fact that there was a whole lot of time in between. Now first of all, Wikileaks was not responsible for the later release, as that was done irresponsibly or carelessly by others and not by Wikileaks. And what I was saying is that the fact that Wikileaks had been so careful in the first place meant that there were no sensitive people that we know of that got revealed when the first release of embassy cables happened, and then months went by when the US authorities had this body of data which they knew had been released and they were in the position during that time to warn anybody whose name was in the data and anyone who might be in the vulnerable position to clear out or do whatever they needed to do to be protected, and in fact they did do things, like they moved people out of countries, and they did things to protect their secret sources and so on.
So what I was saying was that actually Wikileaks role was exactly the opposite of what the US prosecutor was saying, and it was because of the care that they had taken which I was a small part of, that no one was hurt at the beginning. Months could pass while no one was hurt and then when it eventually accidentally came out luckily their care in the first place had meant that there had been this period of time where people could be warned and protected, and so that Wikileaks had done the right thing. I’m not sure if that makes clear sense, but it’s a really important thing to say, far from painting Wikileaks and Julian as the people who irresponsibly and uncaringly put all these people at risk, it was precisely the opposite. Their care is why when other people released it, it was not going to do so much damage.
Jesse: It seems after the initial Wikileaks controversy that occurred in 2010, the US successfully attempted to change the discourse from all the immense amount of revelations in the leaks to completely being about Julian Assange himself as a media spectacle. President elect Joe Biden labelled Assange as a ‘terrorist’ and Mike Pompeo brandished Wikileaks a ‘hostile intelligence agency’. The media and state apparatus insisted on using the same kind of language that they use on the people that they’re going to kill, for example ‘enemy threat’ or ‘enemy of state’. Ironically as I’ve seen you put it, it’s very reasonable to say that because of this media spectacle made out of Assange, it’s very probably that it led to a flood of whistleblowers revealing leaks. For example, Edward Snowden and the Panama Papers. So in some ways the states attempt to make this all about Assange backfired.
Do you think the initial attempt to obfuscate the discourse was a deliberate attempt by the state and media apparatchiks to dissuade them from talking about the revelations of the cables?
Nicky: Yes definitely. I mean first of all there was just the plain old public relations technique of diverting the issue. Which is to not talk about the leak but to talk about the criminality of what they were responsible for, which is something that I and everyone who does my job has experienced many times, and you yawn and accept it when you see it. That’s right. But there was something else going on there as well which you’ve indicated. which is that when a great big powerful country is moving into the punishment phase, the first thing that happens is not the punishment but the smearing, and this is like when a country is going to bomb another country. The first thing that happens is the demonization of the leaders and the stories of torture of children and all the propaganda which proceeds the use of military force or other kinds of force. And I saw essentially the same thing happen with Julian. He was a well known person, in kind of crass media terms he was even a ‘celebrity’ with all that that carries with it. And so part of wanting to punish him, of setting out to punish him and to reduce the power of his example, was to smear him personally. And that was when very quickly there started to be one after another stories about what a difficult person he was, which I firstly don’t think is true, and secondly when has that ever had to do with how we judge the actions of world leaders and of great writers or whatever? But suddenly there was a barrage of stuff about him as a person and a receptiveness to anyone who would speak against him, which unfortunately there will always be with somebody who is prominent. And then yes, this hyped up enemy talk coming from the United States as it worked towards justifying taking retaliation against him. The funny thing was that in those early years, they decided against taking legal action.
Jesse: There’s also the irony that the ‘Assange effect’ is creating the environment that if you aren’t working for a capital J journalist institution like the New Yorker, like the Guardian, like anything Condé Nast, you’re liable for being charged with treason for ‘speaking truth to power’ which is what the journalist institutions pompously pretends it does. ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’ and all that. This combined with the complete inability of writers to actually get paid employment from these institutions due to the rise of permalancing thanks to Sumner Redstone and co, means that essentially there is going to, and carry on being, a small subsect of chosen liberal capitalist writers who uphold these seats of cultural and social influence.
If you’re one of these big institution journalists, the process of talking about very important global issues is first consulting the US state and asking ‘Hey is it okay if I say this?’ and then if they say ‘No’ which they will if you have anything remotely negative to say about the US and its allies, then you redact what you were going to say, and then you publish what they want you to say.
What do you think of these capital J journalists’ response, and the total media blackout of this trial that is so obviously relevant to ‘freedom of expression’ or ‘freedom of press’, or any of these other things that are generally spouted by journalists?
Nicky: I can put a bit of context on this before I answer the question directly, which is to say that as the court case approached my colleagues around the world, investigative journalists with whom I am friendly around the world, could see that media coverage of Julian was weirdly absent. To our minds, this was the case of the century in terms of journalism, and yet there was only the most flimsy occasional coverage of it. And we took action at the time, and organized a petition which hardly ever happens. A great big petition of investigative journalists and other journalists around the world writing, speaking up about what happened to him, and the threat to all journalism if you could charge Julian Assange for receiving whistleblowing information, because we all receive whistleblowing information in very similar circumstances. And so we spoke up about that threat and hoped that by doing so we would encourage more media coverage.
But I have to say I agree with the critics of the media over this court case. It’s hard to believe that it gets so little coverage. But let’s look at the things which have lead to that, and I’d say that the main reason why it doesn’t get the attention it deserves in my opinion, is just the sad consequence of 10 years of attacks on the personal character of Julian Assange and the kind of the trivialization of what’s going on. Part of this came out of the relentless coverage of Julian’s supposed difficult personality, including thanks to the work of the UK Guardian, for which I don’t respect them at all.
Jesse: Right on!
Nicky: And then there were of course the hints and allegations which never went anywhere but which hung around at the end of every news story about sex charges. So that even today when I talk to well informed people who I know and mention Julian Assange’s name, they are more likely to think about sex charges, when there were never sex charges, there were only allegations. In other words there was a strange overemphasis on something that was never proven and never pursued by the authorities concerned. That overemphasis has helped to kind of wear down, over year after year, what was previously a high level of public interest and engagement with, and support for, Julian. Which was of course a terrible thing because at the moment where he most needed and deserved public support, which was when he headed into these extradition hearings, the years of that disparaging and belittling showed their effects. So my feeling is to be kind to the news organizations which didn’t give the court case the coverage and the impact it deserved. Part of the reason is that they’re writing for an audience which has been jaundiced, which has been led to believe that Julien is some kind of a dodgy person and therefore isn’t the champion that he should be being treated as and the case that should be regarded as the media rights case of our lives.
Jesse: You described the prosecution as trying to build this case around the fact that Assange implored people to ‘hack’ rather than simply leak documents that whistleblowers had access to due to their careers and jobs. During the cross-examinations, one of the questions that were given to you was “You have as a journalist merely been the passive recipient of official information. Presumably you have never done anything criminal to obtain government information?”
What do you think of this as an attempt at portraying these whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden as oppositional ‘hackers’ rather than former members of the military apparatus that had used their own conscience to judge certain classified material as information that the public at large deserves a right to know about?
Nicky: I might sound contrary, but I took great heart from that being the argument that the US prosecutor was using. Because what was essentially going on is that they’ve realized that the thing which is actually the heart of this, the leaking of those big bodies of public information, doesn’t feel like a strong reason for extraditing Julian Assange and sending him to prison in the United States. And so what I think is going on is kind of this rather flimsy effort to find new reasons to criminalize Julian Assange.
The prosecutor said to me about how in my kind of work we receive information “passively”, and I guess perhaps he believed this, perhaps he thought that in the age of secure drop boxes we just sit around like chicken farmers hoping that the chicken will arrive in the secure box and will lay a legg and then we’ll write a story about it. But as I replied to the prosecutor, that’s not how it works. That once in a blue moon, someone has an unsolicited and worthwhile leak come into their lives but practically always in doing our work we are deliberately going out and asking people to help us, asking people to essentially break the law in the public interest by speaking to us, and maybe supplying us with documents to back up what they’ve said. This is the nature of investigative journalism and so that what Chelsea Manning did, and what Julian Assange then received, was actually totally standard behaviour. And what that means is that Chelsea Manning did not have to hack into the computer systems that she used to get the information because she was authorized to do it, and most people who leaked information were authorized to access the information. They just weren’t authorized to give it to someone else like me or Julian Assange.
And so that actually completely undermines the argument they were saying which was to try to pretend that the leaks that we’re talking about are not the standard democratic leaks that countries protect and understand the need for, down through the generations. So I was very pleased that I got questioned on that because I was able to say ‘Actually I do these same kinds of things.’ But just to finish off this and to explain the story, what the US prosecutors were doing in the court case was introducing last minute late court papers in which they were talking about how Julian Assange went to a hackers conference in Southeast Asia and encouraged people to hack and said that it would be a great thing, and he published a document called ‘Most Wanted Leaks’ as if that was inciting hacking. And so what they were doing was they were trying to construct from a bit of this, and a bit of that, and something Julian had said somewhere where he had been at a hackers conference, to suggest and imply illogically that the leaks that are the center of this whole case which are the Iraq War Diaries, the Afghanistan War Diaries and the US embassy cables, to try to suggest that somehow they were to do with hacking, because ‘hacking’ had a better sound of criminality than the high public interest normal old leak which it really was.
Jesse: It’s really ironic too, because I think the concept of ‘hackers’ has often been claimed by these libertarians, ‘hackerspace’ techies in San Francisco, and 501(c)(3) organizations who get US government contracts to build honey pot infrastructure like Signal. They’re trying to portray whistleblowers as these completely different people which are themselves very much assets owned by the US.
My next question isn’t necessarily about your involvement in the case, but the broader execution of the case itself. In November 2017 the International Criminal Court located in the Hague, started collecting evidence for war crimes. This includes crimes committed by the Taliban, the Afghan army, the US Armed Forces, and the CIA. In places like Poland, Romania, Lithuania, essentially where CIA black sites are situated. The investigations were corroborated with Wikileaks released documents. And on April 11th 2019 Assange was arrested. On April 12th, the very next day, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber declined the prosecution’s request to open investigations because so much of the evidence was corroborated by Wikileaks cables and so Assange himself is needed for providence. They said that without Assange they have no case. A lot of people were saying and very quite rationally I think, that you do need Assange for providence. So in 2020 the Appeals Chamber of the ICC overturned that rejection, and let the case go ahead. Immediately after that, the Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko were hit with sanctions by the US government.
From your understanding, and your experience actually being involved in the trial and hearings as a witness yourself, do you think there is any reason to say that this show trial is an attempt to curb investigation into war crimes?
Nicky: In the greater scheme of things, yes. But that’s not a wacko conspiracy theory. What I believe the ten year punishment of Julian Assange has been about is to try to stop Wikileaks operations and to discourage other people from going down that track. And it hasn’t just been Julian. There have been people who, for example a string of US genuine ‘hackers’ who have found information here or there who have been really hammered in the United States. There’s clearly been a government level decision in the states to try to sort of squash, to wipe out, this dangerous example of people acting in the public interest by leaking information which they have access to in the course of their jobs or in other ways. There’s no doubt that that is under way, and the punishment of Julian Assange is the leading part of that effort to try to snuff out that dangerous example of people being willing to leak large amounts of government and other organization’s material. Yes that’s what it’s all about.
Jesse: There’s a lot of evidence pertaining to this extradition trial as being a complete farce. From the revelations of the Spanish suit covered by El País, about Assange’s entire defense being known by the prosecution due to every conversation he had in the last few years at the Ecuadorian embassy being more or less in some way recorded by government contractors ‘Undercover Global’ owned by known CIA contractor David Morales, to the fact that Assange has been denied any contact with his defense lawyers during the trials. He has to crawl on his hands and knees out of this glass box that they’ve placed him in, and the judge mentioned during the start of the trial that the defense gave her 300 pages of opening argument in the context of her doubting the need for actual evidence on behalf of the defense. Essentially she’s saying ‘I have already have all of this, we don’t need witnesses’ She’s completely resistant to any exposition by witnesses for context for what they were testifying to in the defense of assange before cross-examination. The court was trying to get every witness to read off and give a statement into a ledger, that being no cross-examination, no political context, no follow up questions.
What can you tell me about the integrity of the trial?
Nicky: The judge seemed to be implacably biased and one sided. And then there were some cracks where it seemed like she was being more fair along the way but on the wider question, there is absolutely no doubt that according to the British legal system, or any non-Kangaroo legal system in the world, the whole thing should have been thrown out. The offenses against Julian Assange’s legal rights, when they spied on him with his lawyers and seized his legal documents and things like that, should have got it chucked out. If that was a murder trial, or a criminal trial of some sort, it would all be over. And so yes, anyone that feels like there’s something exceptional going on here and doesn’t understand why the judge doesn’t just throw it all out, I completely understand what they’re saying.
There was this feeling that during this court case that it went from total hostility to the Julian Assange case, to not so much hostility, and kind of an interesting possibility there but that’s probably academic anyway because whichever way the judge makes the decision on the 4th of January, the other side is going to appeal it. So this case will not be decided in the Old Bailey, it will be decided in the higher court.
Jesse: The prosecution playbook for every defense witness seems to be: undermine any credentials as not being precisely relevant, humiliate them by repeating memory test questions for precise repetition of obscure regulations that no one would know, disparage any political relevance of what the witness was testifying to, humiliate witnesses by repeating what was allowed in UK courts or not, running through a list of government qualifications relevant to the subject the witnesses were testifying on then making the witnesses say they had never held those positions, and claim testimony is bias or worthless because it doesn’t contain government assertions to counter what the witness was saying.
Did you see any of that going on?
Nicky: The part of the hearing which of course I took the most notice of was the bit where I was giving my evidence. And yes, totally. The prosecutor was testing my knowledge. Trying to trick me into saying stupid things about the state of the case, and what the charges were. There was no question at all that as I summarized it afterwards to friends, there were two things going on there: the prosecutor was trying to get me to say things that would harm Julian and his case by trying to trick me into saying things, and apart from that he was trying to discredit me, to make me look like a fool so that whatever I said would not be taken seriously.
And for example, towards the end of the time I was being cross-examined by the US prosecutor he suddenly said ‘Would you please turn to the next evidence’ which they had only submitted that morning, I didn’t even know they had done it, which was a copy of a big government inquiry in New Zealand which came out shortly before, it was called ‘Operation Burnham’ it’s a book I wrote about war crimes in Afghanistan. And I’m like ‘Where did this come from? I’m in the Julian Assange case and then suddenly their next piece of evidence is a report in New Zealand about some work of mine.’ And it was obvious why they were doing it, because the prosecutor said ‘If you turn to page such and such’ and read out a bit where they were saying a piece of my book was wrong or irrelevant. I was able to say to the prosecutor ‘I do not understand why you are raising something which is essentially a small footnote to the story and to the investigation that followed it’ And what the inquiry did find was that I was right about important big things about who had been hurt and injured and torture and so on. Then he just said ‘OK moving along’. Because it hadn’t worked trying to discredit me.
None of what the trial is about has anything to do with arguing the truth of anything that Wikileaks and Julian Assange has revealed to the world. From the confirmations of US war crimes in Yemen, to uncovering the covert drone strike operation, to US government contractors DynCorp getting paid for the services of child sex trafficking and young boys being abused by Afghan policemen, to Vault 7 and the ghoulishly named ‘Operation Weeping Angel’ which allows the CIA to put smart devices in ‘off mode’ but with mics on, to CIA doing false flag cyber attacks, to the act of ‘infecting’ cars to allow for assassinations. Seen with one Michael Hastings, who destroyed the career of Stanley Mcchrystal and was rewarded for this by being killed by ‘Out of control’ car as Pompeo described it as.
Assange is being hit with 18 charges, facing 175 years in prison. Originally he was just charged with helping Manning break into a database, and maybe helped her figure out a password. There’s no real evidence of this. The worst thing he could have probably done was suggest something and then have it fail. Manning is due to return to jail because she’s refusing to snitch on Assange. Much respect for that. In May 2020 Assange was hit with 17 more charges related to the documents of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are all charges relating to the Espionage Act. This is the same act Julius and Ethel Rosenberg where charged with under the antisemitic Red Scare. The espionage act covers ‘Anyone undermining the US government through publishing or selling state secrets’ which is an incredibly broad description akin to the Patriot Act. This act wasn’t used much until the Obama presidency when his administration charged and convicted 8 people including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. This was more cases than any other administration in the US combined.
In addition to the US extradition treaty expressly forbidding extraditions for political crimes, Julian Assange is not a citizen of either the UK or the US. They are completely undermining the concept of political asylum. Julian Assange was brutally ripped out of the Ecuadorian embassy by American police.