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Thursday, July 4, 2024

Julian Assange's years-long ordeal reveals the lengths governments can go to suppress the truth

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Julian Assange's years-long ordeal reveals the lengths governments can go to suppress the truth

“Assange shamed his persecutors. He produced scoop after scoop. He exposed the fraudulence of wars promoted by the media and the homicidal nature of America’s wars, the corruption of dictators, the evils of Guantanamo.”

 

eblast promptAfter almost 2000 days languishing in captivity in Belmarsh Prison in London, England, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was reportedly freed on June 24 this year. His wife Stella took to X to post her happiness:

“Julian is free!!!! Words cannot express our immense gratitude to YOU- yes YOU, who have all mobilized for years and years to make this come true. THANK YOU. tHANK YOU. THANK YOU. Follow @WikiLeaks for more info soon…”

The official statement declaring Assange’s liberation on Wikileaks is as follows:

“JULIAN ASSANGE IS FREE Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK. This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organizers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations. This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalized. We will provide more information as soon as possible. After more than five years in a 2x3 meter cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars.WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people's right to know. As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian's freedom is our freedom.”

Following London’s High Court’s move to grant Assange bail,  the Wikileaks founder boarded a plane for his native Australia, ending a legal saga that began around 14 years ago.

In October 2010, WikiLeaks published classified material leaked to Assange associated with American participation in ill-advised wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of Assange’s attorneys, Aitor Martinez, claimed that the saga has revealed that the US has been using its “national security” as a “veil” to conceal war crimes.

In a dramatic twist of events, Assange pleaded guilty in the United States’ (US) smallest federal district court to laying hands on and publishing American military secrets. The US Department of Justice also decided to drop 17 charges of espionage against Assange.

Previously, Assange’s lawyers maintained that if he was extradited to the US, he could face a jail term of up to 175 years. Besides, Assange’s few supporters in the British media also warned that extradition would likely have led to him being “buried alive in some federal dungeon, the sort of place intended for mass murderers or terrorists.”

Also, Peter Hitchens, a columnist at The Mail on Sunday, warned that if Assange was extradited, “he will face the strong possibility of decades buried alive in some federal dungeon, the sort of place intended for mass murderers or terrorists.”

In remarks cited by Russia Today (RT), one of Assange’s attorneys, Aitor Martinez, claimed that the saga has revealed that the US has been using its “national security” as a “veil” to conceal war crimes.

Adding, Martinez said that the years-long persecution of Assange and his extradition case have set a very dangerous precedent, which undermines press freedom.

“The truth is that the US administration had been pushing for the extradition process until recently, and indeed, just a few weeks ago, they had even provided diplomatic assurances seeking the effective handover of Julian Assange. However, in recent times, a citizen movement has emerged against this extradition, and I believe there is no corner of the world where a ‘Free Assange’ movement has not sprung up,” Martinez declared.

Assange’s case “in some way tarnished the image of the United States before the world” given it “meant the political persecution of a journalist who simply published truthful information that evidenced the commission of serious war crimes,” the lawyer noted.

Assange’s case “in some way tarnished the image of the United States before the world” given it “meant the political persecution of a journalist who simply published truthful information that evidenced the commission of serious war crimes,” the lawyer noted.

“This case was being radically pushed by the US intelligence establishment and mainly by the CIA as a form of revenge against Julian Assange for the material he had published, which in some way had revealed the shame of the US military in operations abroad.”

Likewise, former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told RT:

“Julian Assange is persecuted for telling the truth, not for lying. And he is the truth teller, the persecuted, the punished, the one buried alive in a prison, when the ones in prison should have been the war criminals.”

Despite his release, Craig Murray, a human rights activist and former British ambassador to Uzbekistan told RT that Assange would remain a “marked man” and “will always be in danger” which he said was due to “the malicious forces of the CIA and the United States.”

Murray suggested that “nobody really takes seriously” the guilty plea as it had obviously been “coerced.”

“It is a cheap move by the Biden administration, to claim a little hollow victory for themselves,” he added.

Similarly, journalist John Pilger penned an article about the embattled Assange:

“Assange shamed his persecutors. He produced scoop after scoop. He exposed the fraudulence of wars promoted by the media and the homicidal nature of America’s wars, the corruption of dictators, the evils of Guantanamo.”

Moreover, critics of the plea deal, such as Seth Stern, the director of advocacy for Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), said, in comments quoted by RT:

“The plea deal won’t have the precedential effect of a court ruling, but it will still hang over the heads of national security reporters for years to come… It’s purely symbolic. The administration could’ve easily just dropped the case but chose to instead legitimize the criminalization of routine journalistic conduct and encourage future administrations to follow suit.”

Although Washington has previously (and rightfully) accused the communist regime of Beijing of repressing or targetting truth-tellers or dissidents, it too, has been guilty of similar acts that are not limited to Assange’s case.

The increasing curtailing of press freedom is not simply an American problem. In South America, leftist Brazilian courts clashed with X (formerly Twitter)’s Elon Musk, after Musk refused to remove certain accounts that the leftist authorities regarded as threatening to their hold onto power.

For instance, on June 3 this year, US Customs and Border Protection officers forcibly prevented Scott Ritter, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, from boarding a plane headed to  Russia for the 2024 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Ritter claimed that officers seized his passport, saying:

“They provided no warrant, no documentation, nor did they provide a receipt for my passport. They provided no explanation of what they were doing. They just did it.”

In statements quoted by Sputnik News, Ritter underscored:

“Under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and others, I'm free to travel. The US government cannot restrict my travel without specific justification, none of which was articulated to me and none of which I believe exists. So it's a violation of my Fifth Amendment.”

Additionally, Ritter opined that “the real reason” for such a move “appears to be to prevent"” him from going to Russia and make a documentary about “the reality of Russia”.

Alluding to Ritter’s inability to travel to Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov indicated

“This is just another example in addition to many that confirms that the United States, which calls itself the leader of democracy throughout the world, has long become a police state.”

Also, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested:

“He is a former intelligence officer, so he may be subject to certain restrictions on traveling abroad.”

Nonetheless, if no restrictions apply to Ritter, then America’s prevention of him going to Russia was a “manifestation of another rabid campaign aimed at preventing US citizens from establishing any sort of contacts with Russia,” Peskov cautioned.

The increasing curtailing of press freedom is not simply an American problem.

In South America, leftist Brazilian courts clashed with X (formerly Twitter)’s Elon Musk, after Musk refused to remove certain accounts that the leftist authorities regarded as threatening to their hold onto power.

The Assange saga clearly shows the lengths governments can go to restrict opposing narratives, even if these narratives are truths. These phenomena mark the world’s global plunge into increasing authoritarianism, reeking of how “dutiful” apparatchiks of the former Soviet Union used to stamp out individual freedoms, including an individual’s right to worship God.

Across the Atlantic, leftist forces tried to cancel this year’s National Conservatism Conference in Brussels, in a move that angered conservatives.

While free speech absolutism is not the stance of this article, the Assange saga, as well as the other aforementioned examples, clearly show the lengths governments can go to restrict opposing narratives, even if these narratives are truths. These phenomena mark the world’s global plunge into increasing authoritarianism, reeking of how “dutiful” apparatchiks of the former Soviet Union used to stamp out individual freedoms, including an individual’s right to worship God.

As for “free speech absolutism”, it clearly is an illusion, as the Catholic Church has long taught that “truth” and “error” cannot co-exist together. The encyclical Libertas by the great Pope Leo XIII states:

“We must now briefly consider liberty of speech, and liberty of the press. It is hardly necessary to say that there can be no such right as this, if it be not used in moderation, and if it passes beyond the bounds and end of all true liberty. For right is a moral power which - as We have before said and must again and again repeat - it is absurd to suppose that nature has accorded indifferently to truth and falsehood, to justice and injustice. Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State what things soever are true and honorable, so that as many as possible may possess them; but lying opinions, than which no mental plague is greater, and vices which corrupt the heart and moral life should be diligently repressed by public authority, lest they insidiously work the ruin of the State. The excesses of an unbridled intellect, which unfailingly end in the oppression of the untutored multitude, are no less rightly controlled by the authority of the law than are the injuries inflicted by violence upon the weak. And this all the more surely, because by far the greater part of the community is either absolutely unable, or able only with great difficulty, to escape from illusions and deceitful subtleties, especially such as flattering the passions. If unbridled license of speech and of writing be granted to all, nothing will remain sacred and inviolate; even the highest and truest mandates of natures, justly held to be the common and noblest heritage of the human race, will not be spared. Thus, truth being gradually obscured by darkness, pernicious and manifold error, as too often happens, will easily prevail. Thus, too, license will gain what liberty loses; for liberty will ever be more free and secure in proportion as license is kept in fuller restraint. In regard, however, to all matter of opinion which God leaves to man's free discussion, full liberty of thought and of speech is naturally within the right of everyone; for such liberty never leads men to suppress the truth, but often to discover it and make it known.”

In short, the Catholic Church’s position on “free speech” is premised on the fact that all authority is derived from God. As the same Pope Leo XIII wrote in lmmortale Dei:

“For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world. Everything, without exception, must be subject to Him, and must serve Him, so that whosoever holds the right to govern holds it from one sole and single source, namely God, the Sovereign Ruler of all.”

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Last modified on Tuesday, July 9, 2024
Angeline Tan | Remnant Columnist, Singapore

Angeline is a Catholic writer who enjoys Catholic history and architecture. Her favorite saints include Saint Joseph, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Saint Philomena and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of all Saints.