Julian Assange’s seven years of confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy came to an abrupt end on 11 April, when the president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, withdrew asylum from the journalist, and the Ecuadorian ambassador permitted the Metropolitan police to enter, and cart him off to an actual British jail.
When he entered the embassy in 2012, Julian Assange was just 40. After his prolonged house arrest, imposed by Britain’s government and police at the behest of the USA – a vindictive operation of persecution in which British workers had no interest, having suffered no injury or threat at his hands, but which cost them, ‘the British taxpayers’, £16m – Julian Assange is now 47.
Assange came to prominence as the founder of WikiLeaks, which publishes secret information withheld from public scrutiny, exposing the foul deeds and true nature of the governments of the ‘free [imperialist] world’.
WikiLeaks has publicised the dark secrets of the US state – secrets collected and handed over by US operatives themselves, including whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. WikiLeaks has done much to reveal the horrific crimes routinely committed by imperialist nations, the United States in particular, during the last two decades of escalating imperialist war.
At a time when the imperialist spokesmen are asking us to celebrate ‘world press freedom day’, we should remember that it was WikiLeaks, not the mainstream media, that brought us images of US occupying armies in their helicopter gunships discussing and carrying out the execution in cold blood of Iraqi civilians and journalists.
The entire practice of sanitised ‘embedded journalism’, an inherently partisan propaganda tool of the Anglo-American imperialist armies, gives the lie to our much-vaunted ‘freedom of the press’ – and the vindictive persecution of Mr Assange is driving that point home for any who are left in doubt.
The British case
The British police maintain that the ground for Assange’s arrest is his breach of bail conditions, imposed after he sought asylum in 2012. Mr Assange replies that he cannot turn himself in to British or Swedish authorities because they have failed to give a guarantee that they would not facilitate his extradition to the USA.
And sure enough, before news of his arrest was widely known, and within minutes of landing in British custody, Assange was rapidly and predictably issued with a further arrest warrant to enforce a direct extradition request by the United States.
Assange has always insisted that his detention by British authorities would lead straight to US extradition proceedings. His claim has been proven absolutely correct – as all informed observers knew it would.
On the part of the Ecuadorian authorities their motivations are straight forward.
The country’s comprador president Lenin Moreno has introduced a number of neoliberal reforms in Ecuador, which, like so many other countries, is mired dep in the present economic crisis. Turning over Julian Assange was in fact a US precondition on the issuing of IMF and World Bank loans totalling more than $10bn. (Ecuador inks $4.2bn financing deal with IMF: Moreno by Alexandra Valencia, Reuters, 21 February 2019)
These loans are also conditional upon further cuts and neoliberal reforms to the struggling Ecuadorian economy, and both the IMF restructuring and Assange’s arrest have triggered a wave of protests there.
However, what has motivated this sudden escalation by the US after seven years’ apparent stalemate is less clear. The Moon of Alabama website puts forward the view that Mr Assange has in fact been arrested for his ongoing exposures, and in particular for his involvement with another whistleblower, Joshua Schulte. Schulte is currently in US custody having been indicted for what is described as the largest leak of classified information in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
WikiLeaks exposes CIA cyberwarfare – and the US’s subterfuge of blaming Russia
According to Moon of Alabama: “National security reporter William Arkin, who left NBC News over its warmongering, is likely right when he writes that the issue behind [Assange’s arrest] is WikiLeaks’ publishing of the CIA’s hacking tools known as Vault 7.
“While the publishing of the Vault 7 files received little coverage in the media, it seriously damaged the CIA’s capabilities. Arkin wrote on 11 April about the Vault 7 connection. The Guardian and the Daily Beast were offered the piece but declined to publish it:
“‘The American case, which shifted completely in March 2017, is based on WikiLeaks’ publications of the so-called ‘Vault 7’ documents, an extensive set of cyber-espionage secrets of the CIA.
“‘Vault 7 was little noticed in the emerging Russian collusion scandal of the new Trump administration, but the leak of nearly 10,000 CIA documents that WikiLeaks started publishing in March constituted an unprecedented breach, potentially more damaging than anything the anti-secrecy website had ever done, according to numerous US officials.
“‘There have been serious compromises [to the US deep state] – Manning and Snowden included – but until 2017, no-one had laid a glove on the Agency [CIA] in decades,’ says a senior intelligence official who has been directly involved in the damage assessments.
“‘Then came Vault 7, almost the entire archive of the CIA’s own hacking group,’ the official says. ‘The CIA went ballistic at the breach.’ The official is referring to a little-known CIA organisation called the Center for Cyber Intelligence, a then-unknown counterpart to the National Security Agency [NSA], and one that conducts and oversees the covert hacking efforts of the US government.’
“WikiLeaks acquired the Vault 7 files in late 2016 or early 2017. In January 2017 a lawyer for Julian Assange tried to make a deal with the US government. Assange would refrain from publishing some critical content of the Vault 7 files in exchange for limited immunity and safe passage to talk with US officials.
“One issue to be talked about was the sourcing of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] files that WikiLeaks published. US officials in the anti-Trump camp claimed that Russia had hacked the DNC servers. Assange consistently said that Russia was not the source of the published files. He offered technical evidence to prove that.
“On 23 March 2017 WikiLeaks published some Vault 7 files of minor interest.
“The justice department wanted a deal and made an offer to Assange. But intervention from then FBI director [James] Comey sabotaged it:
“‘Multiple sources tell me the FBI’s counterintelligence team was aware and engaged in the justice department’s strategy but could not explain what motivated Comey to send a different message around the negotiations …’
“With the deal seemingly in jeopardy WikiLeaks published the CIA’s Vault 7 files of [CIA covert programmes] ‘Marble Framework’ and ‘Grasshopper’. These CIA tools systematically changed its sniffing tools to make them look ‘Russian’ or ‘Iranian’ by inserting foreign-language strings into their source code. The publication proved that the attribution of the DNC pilfering and other ‘hacks’ to Russia was nonsense. The publishing of these files ended all negotiations.
“‘On 7 April 2017, Assange released documents with the specifics of some of the CIA malware used for cyberattacks. It had immediate impact. A furious US government backed out of the negotiations, and then-CIA director Mike Pompeo slammed WikiLeaks as a ‘hostile intelligence service’.’
“The alleged leaker of the Vault 7 files, one Joshua Schulte, is in US custody but still has not had his day in court. It is likely that the US wants to offer him a deal should he agree to testify against Assange.
“In another piece, Arkin expands on his first take by setting the case into a wider context:
“‘Coming on the heels of massive leaks by Edward Snowden and a group called the Shadow Brokers just months earlier, and given the notoriety WikiLeaks had earned, Vault 7 was the straw that broke the governmental back. Not only was it an unprecedented penetration of the CIA, an organisation that had evaded any breach of this type since the 1970s, but it showed that all of the efforts of the US government after Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden had failed to either deter or catch “millennial leakers”.’
“The targeting of Assange is not only for revenge, though revenge is surely part of the motive. The wider aim is to shut down on leaking:
“‘The thinking of government officials – current and former – that I’ve talked to is that shutting down WikiLeaks once and for all – or at least separating it from the mainstream media to make it less attractive as a recipient of US government secrets, will at least be one step towards greater internal security.’” (CIA’s Vault 7 files launched new case against Assange – attack intends to prevent further leaks, 13 April 2019, our emphasis)
What does the future hold for Assange?
British authorities are working swiftly. Assange has been found guilty of failing to surrender to bail in 2012 by a Westminster magistrate and was deemed too ‘high-risk’ to attend court for sentencing, ‘appearing’ instead by video link at Westminster magistrates court on 1 May to receive his
sentence of 50 weeks in jail
for breaching the Bail Act.
The US case for extradition
A British court heard in April that US extradition proceedings are underway, and that the “extradition process will take many months”. The case was adjourned until 30 May, the judge having directed at his initial hearing that the US must put forward its case for extradition no later than 12 June.
Assange told the court: “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people.” Outside the court, dozens of his supporters, many holding posters and banners demanding his freedom, blocked the road in protest. (WikiLeaks co-founder jailed over bail breach, BBC News, 1 May 2019)
Mr Assange faces ‘conspiracy’ charges from the US relating to his role in releasing classified military documents leaked by Chelsea Manning in 2010. As this point in time, he is only being accused by the US of encouraging Manning to steal classified documents.
This alleged crime falls under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, rather than the Espionage Act; a crime with a penalty of up to five years in prison. However, the primary concern – indeed, the likely outcome – is that should Mr Assange find himself on US soil, further charges will be brought against him. The vindictive US state is likely to go all out to ensure that he spends many decades in prison.
Obviously Julian Assange and his lawyers will fight these vengeful proceedings.
The Swedish case
It is not clear whether Sweden will also make an extradition request relating to the alleged rape charges against him there, which have long since been discredited and withdrawn, but which are nevertheless constantly dragged up in order to smear Assange and give some semblance of a moral high ground to the modern-day inquisition.
Despite the Swedish government having discontinued its investigation into Mr Assange in 2017, a review of the case is currently being conducted, apparently after a further ‘request by one of Mr Assange’s accusers’. The statute of limitations for his alleged crimes expires in August 2020.
Swedish authorities had wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange as early as 2013, but continued the investigation at the request of Britain, rather exposing the fraud of Britain’s bail conditions – which allegedly required Assange to surrender himself for consideration of extradition at Sweden’s request.
It is clear that the heavy hand of Anglo-American imperialism lies behind the entire case, and it’s likely there will be no appetite in Sweden to begin an extradition process.
The British government and the loyal Labour opposition
No-one will be surprised to hear that “Mr Assange’s arrest has been welcomed by Mrs May, the prime minister, as well as the current home secretary, Sajid Javid, and the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt.”
While Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party followers have made noises about blocking Assange’s direct deportation to the USA, they are calling instead for his indirect deportation via Sweden – a superficially face-saving but meaningless distinction.
“Dianne Abbott said: “If the Swedish government wants to come forward with those charges, I believe he should face the criminal justice system.”
Following this cue, more than 70 Labour peers and members of parliament have signed a letter to home secretary Sajid Javid demanding Assange’s extradition to Sweden – should they wish to extradite him! The charade of ‘British justice’ in this case, demanding extradition to face charges that don’t exist, is paper thin. (Jeremy Corbyn calls on UK to block Julian Assange extradition by Henry Mance, Financial Times, 12 April 2019)
Paying for our own slavery
The hypocritical sympathy that our ‘free press’ feels for British workers stands out clearly in its attempts to whip up anger against Assange for the £16m it has cost the British state – at the direction of our ruing class – to keep him under house arrest.
British workers, facing austerity, unemployment and cuts, should rightly draw a lesson from this unnecessary expenditure: that money can always be found if the exploiters feel it is worth spending. The British imperial ruling class clearly understands that it is worth spending to defend and enforce its exploitation of the workers – but not to relieve their suffering!
British workers’ anger should be directed very clearly at these parliamentary gentry (many of them ‘Labour’), for it is they who have misdirected state funds to protect the interests of the exploiters. In this case, while overseeing the regime of austerity, choosing to persecute Assange for exposing their own war crimes.
The demonisation of Julian Assange
The arrest of Mr Assange and his potential extradition to the US sets an alarming precedent. Journalists and news organisations worldwide must now worry about prosecution by the US if they publish classified material – exposing yet again the lie of ‘press freedom’.
To drive home the point that the majority of the ‘mainstream’ media are open tools of imperialism, they are making a concerted effort to turn public opinion against Mr Assange. His right to be presumed innocent has gone out of the window, as one hypocritical liberal after another has come forward demanding his extradition to Sweden to face non-existent rape charges.
Emily Thornberry, the Labour party’s shadow foreign secretary, is typical, stating: “I think that what should happen is that he should be extradited to Sweden and then the Americans can make a further application to have him extradited from Sweden.
“Whenever I see pictures of Julian Assange or hear about him I think of two women in Sweden. They deserve a day in court. They deserve justice.” (Labour MPs call for Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden over sex assault claims by Patrick Sawer, The Telegraph, 13 April 2019)
For full details of the spurious charges, behind which these imperialist spokesmen hope to hide, why they have been withdrawn, and why Sweden doesn’t want to extradite Assange, we invite our readers to read our previous article on the topic: Free Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning! (23 April 2019)
Particularly unsavoury are media smears attempting to portray Mr Assange as mentally unhinged and thus unworthy of sympathy. Ludicrous accusations abound, which include his alleged smearing of faeces on the walls of the embassy and using his cat to spy on embassy staff. (‘Surreally idiotic’: Ecuador’s suggestion Assange used cat for spying triggers WikiLeaks response, RT, 13 April 2019)
The attitudes exhibited by the corporate media towards Mr Assange demonstrate their full complicity in his continued persecution, and are reminiscent of the treatment of the DPRK before the Kim-Trump summit.
Support Assange; no extradition!
We wish to be emphatic in declaring our support for Julian Assange and in expressing our opposition to his extradition to either the US or Sweden. Julian Assange has not been arrested for any of the discredited accusations made against him; he has been arrested for publishing evidence of war crimes committed by the US.
People like Mr Assange, even if they do not share our political views, are doing an essential job by educating the masses about the many crimes committed by imperialist nations, helping to instil the class-conscious understanding required to mobilise for revolution.
It is the duty of British workers to defend him. In doing so they are defending their own vital interests.