“Syme was not only dead, he was abolished, an unperson. Any identifiable reference to him would have been mortally dangerous.”
1984, George Orwell, Chapter 6
I have rung the alarm on grievous instances of civil liberties being eroded and stomped on, facts becoming wrong-think, and the censorship and de-platforming of opposing voices against the conventional mainstream narratives. Founder of WikiLeaks and freedom fighter, Julian Assange, has been on trial in London for extradition hearings – accused by the Department of Justice for contravening the U.S. Espionage Act in 17 individual charges and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Timothy Erik Strom of CounterPunch interviewed Australian documentary filmmaker and journalist, John Pilger at the beginning of the month. When asked by Strom of the atmosphere in the court after having witnessed it from the public gallery at London’s Old Bailey, Pilger described:
The prevailing atmosphere has been shocking. I say that without hesitation; I have sat in many courts and seldom known such a corruption of due process; this is due revenge.
Pilger is not alone in his thought process of the trial being “due revenge”, either. In a testimony read to the court on October 1, Professor Michael Tigar of Duke Law School explained parallels between abuse of power perpetrated by the Nixon administration versus the Presidency of Donald Trump.
In short, the Nixon admin illegally wiretapped government whistleblower of 1971’s Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg. Nixon’s government said they lost the wiretaps when they were told to provide them in court and tried to bribe Ellsberg’s judge with a position as FBI director.
Tigar pointed out the similarities of Assange’s case to Ellsberg’s.
The U.S. intelligence community contracted Spanish security firm UC Global to surveil Assange 24/7 during his asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, even during privileged conversations with his attorneys. The spying was exposed in April of 2019 when El Pais, a Spanish newspaper, revealed that UC Global set up surveillance cameras with microphones inside the embassy and created profiles for the hundreds of visitors Assange spoke with.
Continuing his comments in the CounterPunch interview, Pilger goes on to describe Julian’s “daily routine” when he is seen in court. He details that Assange is behind thick glass and in order to make communication with his lawyers, has to crawl on his knees up to a slit in the glass – monitored the whole time by a guard. His barristers arguing against his extradition to America sit at the end of the court and any contact Assange makes is passed by post-it note down to them.
On November 16, Assange’s defense will submit their closing arguments with charges set to be announced two weeks later. The defense team disclosed their final argument will focus on the political motivation of Assange’s prosecution, the abuse of power relating to his surveillance, and the inhumane and cruel punishment he would face if extradited to a U.S. prison system in its current condition coupled with his medical history.
With the crux of Assange’s crimes being the release and freedom of information, one must wonder how much he will have to endure after seven years of being isolated inside the Ecuadorian embassy followed by being captured and taken prisoner at the United State’s order into a rigged prison system.
Truly, this doesn’t even encompass all of the psychological torture Assange experienced in incarceration. For months, Assange was “denied exercise and held in solitary confinement” and “constantly medicated by… prison authorities. When… asked… what they were giving him, he couldn’t say“.
Dr Kate Humphrey, one of the court’s expert medical witnesses, revealed the damage to Julian’s mind. She detailed that his “intellect had gone from in the superior, or more likely very superior range to significantly below this optimal level…” and that he “was struggling to absorb information”.
Clearly Assange has suffered enough for any perceived crimes unless the United States intends to throw the book at him – which very well might be their intention.
Assange’s situation begs the simple question: who’s next? If extradited to the U.S. – Assange will set a precedent for any journalist – anywhere – to be shipped to an American court of law if they release info that doesn’t align with the views of the U.S. government.
This also makes the cost of whistleblowing any potentially corrupt acts by the American government come with extreme consequences. An attack on freedom of information such as this is – at its core – unprecedented. The trial’s outcome and Assange’s fate will be watched with great interest with many hoping for the charges against Assange to be dropped.