Julian Assange and the Axis of Evil
In a hearing in September, a British court ruled against extraditing famed leaker Julian Assange to the US after a psychiatrist told the judge that if Assange were deported, he would commit suicide. On October 27th, lawyers representing the United States said that the claim that Assange would kill himself is false.
Assange, they pointed out, has had a female partner since 2015. Her name is Stella Moris. Despite Assange’s virtual house arrest in London’s Ecuadorian embassy for close to seven years and his current imprisonment in England’s Belmarsh Prison, Assange and Moris have had two children. According to Moris, the two plan to marry before the end of the year. A man with children, argues the US attorney is unlikely to kill himself.
Julian Assange has been trying to prevent his extradition from Britain for eleven years. Assange’s brother and father say he has committed no crime. He has simply championed freedom of speech and transparency.
The US government feels otherwise. It accuses Assange of 17 crimes against the Espionage Act of 1917. And those charges could land Assange in prison for 140 years.
But Assange’s case is really about freedom of speech, transparency, and national security.
Assange is a distributor of top secret information. In 2010, he received hundreds of thousands of American military and state department documents from Chelsea Manning and spread them to some of the world’s most prominent newspapers. The most important leaked material is the gunsight video of an American Apache helicopter attack on ten men standing near a car in Iraq. One minute you see them talking to each other. The next you see the explosion of 30 mm cannon fire and a billow of smoke and dust. When the dust clears, there are no longer any humans. Roughly ten people have been killed.
It turned out that none of those victims were enemy soldiers. All of them were civilians. Including two Reuters employees.[i]
This was information American citizens needed to know. Information that made Assange a darling of the left. Then Assange released information that made democrats furious.
In 2016, at the peak of the battle for the presidency between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Assange leaked 22,000 emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. The emails revealed no crimes or sordid doings, but Donald Trump used them in his rallies to rouse crowds to chants of “lock her up.”
Assange lost his democratic support and became a hero to people like Sean Hannity, who traveled to England to interview Assange at his hideout in the Guatemalan Embassy.
Meanwhile, there is a hidden undercurrent to all of this. We are locked in a competition with an Axis of Evil, an alliance between China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba. That competition includes a cyber war to turn America into a has-been by stealing our technologies and by pitting us against each other.
The Mueller Report demonstrated without question that Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services meddled in the American election of 2016. The Russians wanted to defeat Hillary Clinton and to elect Donald Trump. Why? To undermine us by setting us at each other’s throats.
The Mueller Report also shows how Assange got the Clinton emails from Russian intelligence operatives going under the name of Guccifer 2.0. Assange’s function as a convenient tool may explain why Russian propaganda TV outlet RT paid Assange off with his own chat show while he was holed up in the Guatemalan embassy.
Leakers like Julian Assange do things of heroic value when they reveal errors that we need to correct. And they can do great harm. Assange’s leaks exposed the identities of American intelligence informants in Afghanistan and Iraq, exposing them to death, and blinding us against the next attack.
So how do we square freedom of speech with the need to win the cyberwars with Russia and China? I wish I had an answer, but I don’t.