A group of prominent Western newspapers led by the New York Times has called on the Biden administration in a public letter issued Monday to drop charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Detained in the UK since 2019 after his asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy was revoked after 7 years, Assange is currently awaiting extradition to the US in a maximum-security prison.
Charges against Assange, including of espionage, are stemming from the so-called “Cable gate”, a set of 251,000 State Department’s confidential cables disclosing corruption, spy affairs, and diplomatic scandals on an international scale, that WikiLeaks and other world media published in November 2010.
The leaked documents also revealed that the US waged a secret war in Yemen, spied on its allies, undercounted civilian casualties, and committed war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pointing out that prosecuting the WikiLeaks founder sets a dangerous precedent, five major news outlets, including The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El Pais, stressed that obtaining and publishing sensitive information is a core part of the daily work of journalists.
Noting that criminalizing that work, the public discourse, and the world democracies will be made significantly weaker, the outlets emphasized that the indictment also threatens to undermine America’s first amendment and the freedom of the press by setting a dangerous precedent.
Biden has so far given no indication whatsoever that he intends to drop the case against Assange.
Assange was indicted in 2018 by the Trump administration’s Justice Department following WikiLeaks’ designation as a non-state hostile intelligence service by Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo a year before that although the Obama administration had previously opted not to charge Assange since that would’ve open all newspapers up to similar charges.
After WikiLeaks published in late 2016 emails about Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified communications while secretary of state, implicating her at the same time in a party-wide plot to sideline her popular contender Bernie Sanders, Assange fell out of favor with the Democratic Party.
The then-candidate Clinton even accused Assange – without any evidence though- of working for Russia.