Julian Assange: a profile in courage
The United States and British governments treat Julian Assange like the ultimate terrorist threat.
Members of the London Metropolitan Police, wearing Kevlar vests, surround the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange has taken refuge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They occupy the front steps and entrances, they occupy street corners nearby, one police officer occupies a room in a building adjoining Assange’s room. Chris Hedges, a journalist and former war correspondent, said the Metropolitan Police spent the equivalent of $4.5 million in surveillance of Julian Assange just through January 31.
Behind the United Kingdom government is the power of the U.S. government. A dozen government agencies are working on the Julian Assange case. They have waged economic warfare and cyberwarfare to try to shut down Assange’s WikiLeaks operation. They interrogate and try to recruit WikiLeaks supporters every time they pass through a U.S.-controlled airport. Assange’s lawyers believe that Bradley Manning, who leaked confidential government information to WikiLeaks, could plea bargain for a reduced sentence by testifying that Assange solicited the information.
A secret grand jury in Arlington, Va., reportedly has handed down a sealed indictment of Assange. Hedges reported that the Department of Justice is mounting a major effort on this. It spent $2 million this year alone for a computer system to handle Assange prosecution documents. The U.S. Congress in 1989 authorized the federal government to seize anyone, anywhere in the world, who is accused of a crime under U.S. law, even if this is done in violation of international law or the law of the country concerned.
I read a lot about the partisan divisions in the U.S. government, but Democrats and Republicans, the so-called liberals and the so-called conservatives, are united in their desire for the U.S. government to capture Julian Assange. If this happens, Julian Assange can look forward to spending the rest of his life in the equivalent of the Soviet Gulag.
What is Julian Assange’s crime? What makes him such a threat? What he has done is to break the wall of secrecy which makes possible the “disposition matrix,” “signature strikes,” “extraordinary renditions,” “enhanced interrogation” and all the other secret Orwellian activities of government. If he is guilty of revealing secret information to the enemy under the Espionage Act, it is only if the U.S. government regards the American people as its enemy.
The remarkable thing is that, with all this power arrayed against him, Julian Assange is not afraid. The powers-that-be are afraid of him. He is not afraid of them. Trapped in a corner, he continues his work, to make known what the world’s governments want to hide. To the extent that freedom and democracy survive the next few decades, he will be regarded as one of our era’s greatest heroes.