Julian Assange Is Free But His Case Will Chill Everyone

Julian Assange Is Free But His Case Will Chill Everyone - LitFeeds

We need brilliant light wielders like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to call power to account in an era where our darkest secrets are something people are in awe of.

The conclusion arrived not with a bang but with a hazy picture of a guy boarding a plane at Stansted airport—which only became clear when most of us were asleep.

A source of considerable embarrassment, Julian Assange was at the focus of a legal dispute that threatened to resemble the petty feud between Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Dickens’s Bleak House, only smaller in scope.

With years more to come, he had already spent more than five years, at who knows what expense, in a UK maximum security prison. Julian legal team battled to keep him from being extradited to the US to spend still more time in jail.

About Julian’s Usual Life Now On!

Now he can continue something passing for normal life in his own Australia following an apparent plea deal involving a somewhat strange court on a little-known island in the western Pacific. One of the only unique features of the narrative is that Assange has somehow gained a wife and two children throughout his several years in forms of captivity, willingly or otherwise. He can genuinely spend more time with his family right now.

That Assange is free is quite fantastic news. The drawback is that he gained that freedom by confessing one offense under the 1917 US Espionage Act.

Assange’s Reality

Whichever Assange was, he was not a spy. He is all those— publisher, journalist, activist, information anarchist, whistleblower, impresario. Not even the US government, though, claimed that anything he did in 2010/11 amounted to espionage.

Thus, a threshold has been crossed in applying the blunt instrument of the Espionage Act—against which there is no allowed defense—against someone acting with journalistic intent to expose information for which a reasonable public interest argument was readily made.

That precedent should scare reporters, or as they would consider themselves to be “proper journalists,” as they consider what has happened to Assange. To deter others, he had to set an example five years in the modern equivalent of the medieval stocks. Whether the others really valued what was happening is a matter of opinion: some were overly preoccupied with whether Assange qualified as one of them. In due course, they will find out.

Impact Of Julian’s Life On The Political Front

Along with more harsh regulations in nations like Australia and the UK, his approach will surely have a chilling impact on honest and accurate reporting on national security concerns. An outcome for the secret state and government. Not especially for the rest of us.

It’s possible that Assange’s freedom owes much to the efforts of Australian politicians, up to and including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. One thing we are certain of is that no US government allows a US citizen to be abused in the manner Australian Assange has been subjected to.

Imagine an American journalist stationed in London being extradited to, say, Delhi to spend time in jail for revealing secrets the Indian government—with their own version of the Espionage Act—would rather keep under cover. Actually, you cannot fathom that: it never would happen.

One of the toughest beats in any traditional news agency is national security. Your task is to highlight a section of quasi-governmental activity that naturally seeks to operate in darkness. Some reporters use a strong searchlight; others manage to strike just a weakly flickering flame. But the courageous ones do this at some danger to the institutions they stand for and to themselves.

Edward Snowden – A Whistleblower

In a time when the state possesses the technological ability to dig into every person’s darkest secret, we need bright-light-wielding agents. Edward Snowden, a whistleblower for the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed how powers granted by security services render Orwell’s 1984 reading like a fairy tale.

Through a small number of reporters in the UK and the US, Snowden demonstrated how any government could use contemporary computing to eradicate a concept of privacy that started to be developed in English courts in the 18th century. Judges began to form the belief that your house was essentially a castle against governmental interference 250 years ago. Rather charming.

Subsequently, other courts have decided that Snowden’s worries were reasonable. Like Assange, Snowden himself was under threat from the Espionage Act and might likely live out his life in exile. A British editor working with such a whistleblower in the future could easily find years behind bars.

Daniel Ellsberg – Brief Intro

Daniel Ellsberg, the grandfather of current whistleblowers, passed away last year at the age of 92. Through the New York Times and Washington Post, he put all online to expose the secret truth about Vietnam. Like Julian Assange and Snowden, President Nixon attacked him as a traitor and threatened him with the Espionage Act.

Long before his death, people regard him as a hero. More importantly, he was central in the Pentagon Papers case, in which two editors, supported by two strong publishers, developed the theory that no government could, except in the most extraordinary conditions, use prior restraint to prevent the publication of material for which there was an arguable public interest.

Denying the ongoing injunction against the papers, the Supreme Court voted a majority 6-3. “In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do,” Justice Hugo Black remarked.

“The press had a responsibility,” he said, “to prevent any component of the administration from misleading the people and sending them out to die of foreign sickness and foreign shot and shell. Every moment’s continuation of the injunctions against these newspapers, in my opinion, represents a clear, unjustified, and ongoing First Amendment infringement.


For almost 50 years, reporters have benefited from that strong appreciation of their responsibility—even if, or maybe especially when, exposing facts about national security. The situations of Julian Assange and Snowden create another sort of precedent. Furthermore, it is not a decent one.


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