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    Level Talk with John Harrison

    The End of The Road for Assange?

    Level Talk with John Harrison
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    John Harrison
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    In a speech last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said: “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Can Assange be incarcerated by the US, or is this all just hot-air?

    Professor Inderjeet Parmar, from the Department of International Politics, School of Social Sciences, City University of London and Toby Cadman, an international law specialist and co-founder of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers in London, join the program.

    The procedure for Assange’s arrest; that is the issuance of an extradition request by a US court would be necessary to start the process whereby the UK would forcibly hand over Assange to US authorities. However, as Toby Cadman points out, if such an extradition request was issued, it would still be a long drawn-out process, as the order would have to be approved by a British extradition judge, Assange could appeal against the order, and eventually demand that it be heard by the European Court of Human Rights. The whole process could take years. Professor Parmar adds that the fact that Assange lives in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, with the agreement of the newly elected President of Ecuador, adds a further complication to the matter. The ability to convict Assange is very limited.

    Julian Assange did say that he would voluntarily go to the United States should President Obama pardon and release Chelsea Manning. When President Obama was on the way out of office in December and January he did commute her sentence, and she is due to be released on the 17th of May, Professor Parmar points out. Whether Assange will actually quit the Ecuadorian embassy now that WikiLeaks is accused of being a hostile intelligence service, is another matter. However, the Obama organization also described WikiLeaks in derogative terms, of being a terrorist organization, and it would seem that the present vitriol against Assange is an attempt for Trump to look powerful now that he has actually gained power. Assange is an inconvenience now that Trump has changed positions as regards the benefits of establishing good relations with Russia, Professor Parmar points out.

    The attack on Assange, even if it does not lead to arrest, will have the effect, Toby Cadman says, of creating fear in the hearts of other whistleblowers; and the consequences of that are serious, as western capitalist economies do need a free press that can criticize those on power from time to time.

    The second part of the program is taken up with a discussion on journalism and free speech as a whole. In particular, the difference between what WikiLeaks is doing, and any respected media outlet, in regards to protecting sources. Professor Parmar points out the 1st amendment of the US constitution does not make a distinction between newspapers and other publishers. On the subject of the 1st Amendment, Toby Cadman points out that there is a dispute going on because Mike Pompeo says that it does not cover Assange because he is not an American. Many say that this is incorrect because it actually covers anybody who has the right to visit the US as well as all those who reside there. Toby Cadman also says that to suggest that Assange would get no protection in the American courts because he is a non-national is a ludicrous argument.

    Toby Cadman makes the possibly valid point that Assange should go back to Sweden to face the courts there and that there is no reason to suggest that the Swedish courts would be biased against him. Toby says that Assange is not actually under house arrest, he is in self-imposed confinement.

    Returning to the wider picture, Professor Parmar sees the present attack on Assange being an attempt to degrade the credibility of whistleblowers and investigative journalism in general, which is already under greater and greater pressure. The cover-all term is used that if something is ‘bad for national security’ as stated by president Obama, is often used, as Professor Parmar says, as an excuse for covering up bad policies.

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    Tags:
    WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, United States
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