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Biden sides with Trump over Obama on Julian Assange charges and extradition
The Biden regime is continuing the Trump regime’s attempt to imprison the WikiLeaks founder in the United States
The Obama regime (2009-2017) refused to prosecute the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, because they concluded that they could not directly prosecute journalism under the the free press guarantee of the First Amendment, despite the fact that they were, at least until Trump, widely perceived as one of the most aggressive abusers of the freedom of the press since Nixon. Obama’s vice president was Joe Biden, the current President of the United States. From the Washington Post in 2013:
The Obama administration has charged government employees and contractors who leak classified information — such as former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning — with violations of the Espionage Act. But officials said that although Assange published classified documents, he did not leak them, something they said significantly affects their legal analysis.
“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”
Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realized that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem.” If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
In other words, despite the assurances of very serious people, Assange is a journalist, and the freedom of the press either applies to everyone or it applies to no one.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden wrote of Trump’s attack on the press:
A free press is essential to a free society. Tyrants know this all too well. That is why attacking the press and attempting to intimidate independent media is a standard part of the authoritarian playbook. And, it’s why Donald Trump’s repeated efforts to demonize the media put us on such a dangerous path. When he labels the press as the “ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” or decries “FAKE NEWS,” he is eroding our essential, Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press in ways large and small.
Trump deflects legitimate questions with attacks. He bullies and berates individual members of the press, rather than take responsibility for his failures of leadership. His efforts to undermine public confidence in the integrity of fact-based reporting violate our core American values and threaten our very system of government. And, it is particularly offensive to see the White House seek to spread misinformation and bully reporters in the midst of a global pandemic.
Journalists hold those in positions of authority accountable, investigate and document abuses of power, and expose the truth for everyone to see. While many presidents have been unhappy with their media coverage, only Donald Trump has attacked the independence of journalists and launched an all-out assault on the media.
Biden’s complaints about Trump here are not particularly serious, as he’s complaining about Trump’s rhetoric more than his actual policies targeting journalists, reporters, or sources such as Julian Assange or Reality Winner. Regardless, there were real problems with Trump’s attacks on the press. From Glenn Greenwald in 2017 regarding then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s threats against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks:
BUT IT IS Pompeo’s threatening language about free speech and press freedoms that ought to be causing serious alarm for journalists, regardless of what one thinks of WikiLeaks. Even more extreme than the explicit attacks in his prepared remarks is what the CIA Director said in the question-and-answer session that followed. He was asked about WikiLeaks by the unidentified questioner, who queried of “the need to limit the lateral movements such as by using our First Amendment rights. How do you plan to accomplish that?” This was Pompeo’s answer:
A little less Constitutional law and a lot more of a philosophical understanding. Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen. What I was speaking to is an understanding that these are not reporters doing good work to try to keep the American Government on us. These are actively recruiting agents to steal American secrets with the sole intent of destroying the American way of life.
That is fundamentally different than a First Amendment activity as I understand them. This is what I was getting to. We have had administrations before that have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish. Nobody has the right to actively engage in the theft of secrets from American without the intent to do harm to it.
Pompeo’s remarks deserve far greater scrutiny than this. To begin with, the notion that WikiLeaks has no free press rights because Assange is a foreigner is both wrong and dangerous. When I worked at the Guardian, my editors were all non-Americans. Would it therefore have been constitutionally permissible for the U.S. Government to shut down that paper and imprison its editors on the ground that they enjoy no constitutional protections? Obviously not. Moreover, what rational person would possibly be comfortable with having this determination – who is and is not a “real journalist” – made by the CIA?
But the most menacing aspect is the attempt to criminalize the publication of classified information. For years, mainstream U.S. media outlets – including ones that despise WikiLeaks – nonetheless understood that prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing secrets would pose a grave threat to press freedoms for themselves.
The Trump regime then made good on Pompeo’s threat and charged Julian Assange and sought his extradition from the United Kingdom, but Trump then lost his reelection bid to Joe Biden, who said, continuing from his earlier quoted statement, “We must urgently reverse the trend of threats to the media at home and abroad, and once we have reversed it, we must assure that attacks on our free press are never again acceptable in any corner of society, and certainly not in the White House.”
This is why it’s so odd that, now that he’s the president, Biden is siding with Donald Trump in continuing to prosecute Julian Assange for the crime of journalism.
President Joe Biden’s administration plans to continue to seek to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the United Kingdom to the United States to face hacking conspiracy charges, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi on Tuesday said the U.S. government will continue to challenge a British judge’s ruling last month that Assange should not be extradited to the United States because of the risk he would commit suicide.
In a Jan. 4 ruling, the judge, Vanessa Baraitser, said, “I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”
The British judge set Friday as a deadline for the United States to appeal her ruling forbidding Assange’s extradition.
Raimondi said the United States will challenge Baraitser’s ruling. “We continue to seek his extradition.”
Biden may not use the same type of language that Trump used in describing members of the press that he dislikes, “fake news,” but he will do what most presidents do: Continue and escalate the policies of the previous regime. Trump escalated the genuine attacks on the free press that began under Obama, attacking whistleblowers, by also going after people like Assange, and Obama escalated Bush’s War on Terror into several other countries like Yemen and Syria.
Biden was right during the campaign that Trump was an authoritarian, especially when it came to matters of freedom of the press, but he never criticized any actual examples of Trump’s authoritarian streak, instead he merely highlighted rhetoric that bruised the egos of crybabies like Jim Acosta, because he is also an authoritarian and wants to use that power against his own enemies. Joe Biden hasn’t been president for a month yet, and we can already see that the 2020 election was never a battle between liberty and tyranny, or good and evil, but rather between which dictatorial window-dressing you prefer to see oppressing you from the Oval Office.