Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief recently granted asylum by Ecuador, delivered a speech on August 19 calling for the US to end its war on whistleblowers and dissidents. He named Pfc. Bradley Manning, former NSA employee William Binney, former NSA employee Thomas Drake and former CIA agent John Kiriakou as people who had been victims of this war. He also urged the US government to dissolve an FBI investigation that has targeted founders, owners, managers or staffers of WikiLeaks.
I appeared on “The Big Picture” on RT last night to discuss Assange’s speech and the asylum decision. Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) appeared during the same segment as well. Sam Sacks filled in for Thom Hartmann, who typically hosts the show.
Sacks stated in the setup to the discussion Binney, Drake and WikiLeaks staffers are “new faces” or “new victims” in an “assault spearheaded by the United States against those who are trying to bring corruption, war crimes, constitutional violations and corrupt and governmental abuse into the spotlight. They are whistleblowers and freedom of information activists who are exposing the corporate state, its assault on dissent and its ruthless expansion of influence around the planet.” Sacks noted the struggle is bigger than Assange and WikiLeaks.
“It’s the first time that somebody is seeking asylum, fleeing persecution from the United States government and going to a democratic country and getting political asylum,” Weisbrot said. He was actually granted diplomatic asylum, not political asylum but the essence of the point is sound.
Weisbrot added that the roles of Sweden and the United Kingdom had been “whitewashed.” They have not offered any reason for why they have to bring Assange to Sweden. “He’s not charged with any crime. They can question him in the UK. And very few journalists—and that I think is a sad thing about journalistic profession today—have even tried to get an answer from the Swedish government.” Also, “If this is supposedly about a criminal case, why are they letting it go two years without investigating it?”
I said on the program that the political climate in the US is ripe for an extradition of Assange. The FBI is clearly looking into individuals outside the WikiLeaks, as evidenced by a more than forty thousand page investigative file made public during the court martial proceedings against Manning.
I added at the end of the segment the asylum is a great opportunity for ”people to see the sort of beacon of democracy and freedom that the Latin American countries of the world are becoming, that they are willing take seriously international law and human rights while the United States shows an unremitting indifference to these ideals.”