As the Supreme Court in Britain hears the Julian Assange case, John Pilger examines the implications of an intensified US campaign to silence WikiLeaks and prosecute Assange for a crime that doesn’t exist, threatening the principle of free speech and all unfettered journalism.
This week’s Supreme Court hearing in the Julian Assange case has profound meaning for the preservation of basic freedoms in western democracies. This is Assange’s final appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct that were originally dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm and constitute no crime in Britain.
The consequences, if he loses, lie not in Sweden but in the shadows cast by America’s descent into totalitarianism. In Sweden, he is at risk of being “temporarily surrendered” to the US where his life has been threatened and he is accused of “aiding the enemy” with Bradley Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks. The connections between Manning and Assange have been concocted by a secret grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, which allowed no defence counsel or witnesses, and by a system of plea-bargaining that ensures a 90 per cent conviction. It is reminiscent of a Soviet show trial.
The determination of the Obama administration to crush Assange and the unfettered journalism represented by WikiLeaks is revealed in secret Australian government documents released under freedom of information which describe the US pursuit of WikiLeaks as “an unprecedented investigation”. It is unprecedented because it subverts the First Amendment of the US constitution that explicitly protects truth-tellers. In 2008 Barack Obama said, “Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” Obama has since prosecuted twice as many whistleblowers as all previous US presidents.