Photograph Source Elekhh – CC BY-SA 3.0
On Thursday, the Department of Justice made an unprecedented move to file 17 Espionage Act charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This indictment was what Assange and his legal team have been warning about since 2010 and the risk of extradition was the sole reason why Assange sought and was granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012.
Free press defenders condemned this aggressive prosecution of Assange by the Trump administration as “the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century”. This attack on free press as a pillar of democracy was predicted long ago by a leading figure in America’s early development. Thomas Jefferson feared that there would come a time when the American system of government would degenerate into a form of “elective despotism”.
Assange echoed this warning from one of America’s founding fathers in his message to his supporters: “I told you so”, which he deliveredthrough his lawyer after he was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy. He was not only aware of this unaccounted power inside this nation, but also through his work with WikiLeaks, he shed light on its shadowy activities, and provided ordinary people means to counter this force that has now become tyrannical.
WikiLeaks by publishing truthful information about the US government, revealing its war crimes, corruption and human rights abuses, came head to head with the Pentagon and the US State Department. Long before Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, Assange alerted public about mass surveillance, informing people how the Internet “has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism”.
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