Senate Pushes Joe Biden’s Hand to Release Julian Assange

By Victor Winston, updated on November 12, 2023

A group of US lawmakers from both major parties has urged President Biden to cease the prosecution of Assange, arguing it threatens journalistic freedom.

The call for action was initiated through a letter signed by a diverse group of representatives, including Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

This unusual alliance underscores the widespread concern over press freedom implications. The lawmakers emphasize the dangerous precedent that prosecuting Assange for publishing classified documents could establish.

Julian Assange has been confined in London's Belmarsh Prison since 2019, resisting extradition to the United States. He faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act, linked to the release of classified US military and diplomatic documents provided by Chelsea Manning.

The controversy stems from Wikileaks' 2010 release of sensitive information, which included details of alleged war crimes and torture by the US government. This act of publishing, while controversial, is viewed by some as an integral part of journalistic inquiry and transparency.

Bipartisan Concerns Over Espionage Act

The bipartisan letter sent to President Biden asserts that the Espionage Act, under which Assange is charged, was originally intended to target government employees leaking secrets, not journalists or publishers.

This distinction, the lawmakers argue, is crucial in preserving the essence of journalistic work, Fox News reported.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and other international voices have joined the call for the US to reconsider its stance against Assange, an Australian citizen.

The global perspective on this issue highlights the broader implications for press freedom and government transparency.

If extradited and convicted in the US, Assange faces a possible sentence of up to 175 years in prison. However, dropping the charges could lead to his release, altering the course of this decade-long legal battle.

Assange's Decade-Long Ordeal

The saga of Julian Assange and Wikileaks dates back to 2010, with the publication of the infamous "Collateral Murder" video and other sensitive US cables.

This act brought global attention to Wikileaks and sparked a debate over the line between journalism and security breaches.

In 2019, Assange's asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London ended, leading to his arrest and subsequent detention in Belmarsh Prison.

Since then, Assange has been engaged in a protracted legal fight against extradition to the United States, a battle that has garnered international attention and debate.

The recent bipartisan letter to President Biden is the latest development in this ongoing saga. It underscores the deep divisions and concerns over the handling of Assange's case and its implications for press freedom.

The Debate Over Press Freedom and Security

The lawmakers' letter to President Biden highlights the delicate balance between national security and press freedom. The signatories express a deep commitment to the principles of free speech and the freedom of the press.

"As Members of Congress deeply committed to the principles of free speech and freedom of the press, we write to strongly encourage your Administration to withdraw the U.S. extradition request currently pending against Australian publisher Julian Assange and halt all prosecutorial proceedings against him as soon as possible."

This statement reflects a growing concern that pursuing charges against Assange could inadvertently criminalize standard journalistic practices, potentially chilling the work of the free press.

Journalism or Espionage: A Critical Distinction

The letter points out that the heart of journalism is to seek out and report on government activities, including through documentary evidence. This critical role of journalism in a democratic society is at the center of the debate over Assange's case.

The argument extends to the duty of journalists to seek out sources and report on government activities, a cornerstone of democratic transparency. The fear is that blurring the lines between espionage and journalism could threaten this essential function.

The lawmakers' appeal to President Biden emphasizes the need to protect these journalistic practices. They argue that pursuing Assange under the Espionage Act could set a dangerous precedent, potentially criminalizing these vital aspects of journalistic work.

A Global Issue with Far-Reaching Implications

Julian Assange's case transcends national boundaries, becoming a global issue of press freedom and government accountability. The involvement of international figures like the Australian Prime Minister in calling for Assange's release highlights the worldwide concern.

The decision of the US government on this matter is not only a legal issue but also a symbol of its stance on press freedom and its relationship with the global community. This case has become a litmus test for the US's commitment to these values.

The outcome of this case will have far-reaching implications. Potentially defining the future of press freedom and the treatment of journalists and publishers who expose government secrets.

A Critical Moment for Press Freedom

The bipartisan appeal to President Biden represents a critical moment in the ongoing debate over national security and press freedom.

The outcome of this case could set a precedent for how governments around the world treat journalists.

This debate, at its core, is about the role of journalism in a democratic society. Additionally, the lengths to which a government can go to protect its secrets. The decision on Assange's fate will reverberate globally, influencing how journalism is practiced and perceived in the future.

Conclusion

The call to action from the US lawmakers is a significant step in this debate. It brings attention to the potential risks of prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act.

It is a call for careful consideration of the broader implications of this case on press freedom and democratic values.

  • A bipartisan group of US lawmakers urges President Biden to drop the prosecution against Julian Assange.
  • The letter emphasizes the dangerous precedent this could set for criminalizing journalistic practices.
  • Julian Assange has been held in London's Belmarsh Prison since 2019, fighting extradition to the US.
  • The charges against Assange stem from Wikileaks' 2010 publication of classified US documents.
  • Lawmakers argue that prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act would chill press freedom.
  • If extradited and convicted in the US, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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