Julian Assange, perhaps one of the best-known of the WikiLeaks collective, spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London until, under circumstances that remain unclear, his asylum became his detention—pending his extradition to the United States. Why? Because WikiLeaks revealed the crimes of the U.S. empire in Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces killed non-combatants for fun, including journalists.
Assange’s group showed memos and video of U.S. Armed Forces joking while killing and the consequences of the imperial war based on baseless lies. Assange, in passing on these memos and tapes to U.S. and global journalists, revealed the cruelties of imperial war and how easily such wars are accomplished. That is his crime. It is for that reason that he’s in detention again in the United States of America, awaiting the reality of a free press.
The question arises, of course, is Julian Assange a political prisoner? I don’t think there’s any question that can reasonably be asked about that, given the fact that he is a prisoner and has been held in asylum by governments, by states, for acts that are legal, that are in the public interest and that tend to inform people of that which governments don’t want people to know about. There can be no question on this issue, and because of that, I think, you know the answer. And as someone who has been charged for being a member of a political organization and convicted and sentenced to death, I hink I have some insight on that.
First things first, who was Julian Assange? And secondarily, why is his struggle of import to any of us?
Assange, born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia in 1971, is the founder of the global online media service known as WikiLeaks. As such, Assange is a journalist. His group has been a blockbuster, capturing and passing on files and internal memos of governments all around the globe.
For this, he has been hounded, targeted, and jailed, now serving over 50 weeks for allegedly jumping bail in Britain to avoid extradition to the United States, which seeks to jail him for violating the U.S. Espionage Act. As shown, Assange, born into a British commonwealth state, Australia, is not an American and owes it no fealty. But the U.S. empire rules the world, not just U.S. territory.
On July 25th, 2010, WikiLeaks published on his website some 75,000 documents on the Afghanistan War. These documents presented a damning portrait of the U.S. empire at work. When you attack the empire, of course, the empire strikes back. For publishing documents that embarrassed the United States, Assange is convicted, traces over a century, in fact, 175 years in prison.
And as a foreign national, the First Amendment to the Constitution does not provide a defense. So wait, the U.S. can invoke its criminal law for use worldwide, but the Bill of Rights doesn’t obtain to foreigners. Right? Yeah. That sounds fair.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are now widely considered to be the biggest blunders in U.S. foreign policy, for those wars of regime change, floated into being on an ocean of lies and misinformation. Quick: remember weapons of mass destruction? How many thousands and tens of thousands died based on an American mirage? Assange, through his journalistic revelations help awaken generations to the elements of imperial wars.
He wasn’t spying. Spies worked for governments and militaries. Journalists work to inform people to broaden the reaches of democracy. In the not-so-recent past, the U.S. empire used its tools of repression to silence its critics and opponents, even when they were allegedly U.S. citizens.
The targeting of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg comes to mind. They were called spies and subsequently electrocuted. The cases of Sacco and Vanzetti, immigrants from Italy, comes to mind. The targeting of the New York branch of the Black Panther Party and the trial of the Panther 21 on trumped-up charges also comes to memory. Julian Assange is a prisoner of a political vendetta. Is he thus a political prisoner? You’re damn betcha.
From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.