Democrats Want to Use the WikiLeaks Founder to Ignite a New Round of Russiagate
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by the U.K last week and the reaction coming from the Democratic Party is astonishing. Instead of opposing the Trump administration’s campaign to extradite him and criminalize journalism, the Democrats are debating whether they should drag Assange before a congressional committee, interrogate him on his connections to Trump, and use him to ignite a new round of Russiagate.
The world owes a huge debt of gratitude to Julian Assange. It’s thanks to him and WikiLeaks that we know that the 2016 American presidential election was rigged, not by Republicans and Russians, but by the Democratic Party.
Assange exposed war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, mass surveillance through our personal electronic devices, corruption spanning many governments with the State Department cables, and ensured that Snowden wouldn’t end up in a U.S. blacksite. He has published documents pertaining to every country in the world, exposed governments and corporations alike, and has a perfect record of accuracy in his reporting. He has paid an enormous personal price to shine light on the crimes of the powerful, having been confined to a small room inside the Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K. for nearly seven years before his arrest.
Trump’s indictment of Assange is a dramatic escalation in the war on press freedoms that Bush and Obama waged. The government’s indictment charges Assange with receiving classified information without the proper security clearance and soliciting government secrets through his publishing platform WikiLeaks, activities that are both central and routine to investigative journalism. By that standard, every journalist and newspaper that reports on government secrets could be prosecuted.
The same Democrats who have spent three years consumed with righteous indignation over Trump’s attacks on the press are now cheering him on as he criminalizes journalism. Democratic Rep. Jim Himes from Connecticut, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the party might try to force Assange to testify on his connections to the president, in an apparent attempt to salvage the imploding Trump-Russia conspiracy. Other congressional Democrats said they might want to force him to bolster American counterintelligence.
Determined not to be outdone by Trump, the Democratic Party is on its own crusade against press freedoms. The DNC sued Wikileaks last year for publishing its emails in 2016. The ACLU and other civil liberties organizations consider the suit so damaging to press freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment that they called on the judge to dismiss the case, pointing out that it arbitrarily singles out Wikileaks among news outlets “for publishing truthful information that is unquestionably of public interest.”
In fact, the threat to journalism is global. If Trump and the Democrats succeed in extraditing and prosecuting a foreign journalist for publishing U.S. government documents, it will set a precedent allowing governments around the world to extradite and imprison American journalists for reporting on their classified materials. Anytime a reporter at the Washington Post, New York Times and other U.S. publication covers leaks emerging from foreign governments, they would be at risk.
In December, the New York Times exposed Ecuador’s motivation for expelling Assange from the embassy after nearly seven years. Ecuador’s new neoliberal president sought to trade Assange to the U.S. for debt relief. It finalized the deal in February, receiving $10.2 billion in loans from the IMF, World Bank, and other U.S.-dominated financial institutions two months before handing Assange to the U.K.
In 2016 the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had ruled that Assange was being held unlawfully without charge and called for his release. The Trump administration claims that Assange will be tried for a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, but it is merely giving Ecuador and the U.K. plausible deniability that Assange won’t be subjected to further human rights violations upon his extradition to the U.S. On Wednesday CNN reported that more charges are coming. He is likely to be charged with espionage the minute he is in U.S. custody.
Perhaps better than any of us, Julian Assange understands that the Democratic and Republican parties are extensions of Wall Street and the military industrial complex. They are committees of corporations, much like ALEC, where lobbyists come together to rule with a veneer of democratic legitimacy.
I’m proud that a few months after our movement began, Assange wrote this essay urging progressives to form a major new party in America, and echoing us on why it can and must be done. Here is a preview of what he said:
Powerful governments and corporations perpetrate the biggest crimes on the planet. They fear what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks represent: a world where reality is not filtered through their censors in the corporate media, where opinions are not warped by their prisms of interests.
They fear a world where we make up our own minds.
Here’s to that world,
Founder and National Director
Movement for a People’s Party