A UK appeals court has allowed the United States to proceed in its extradition of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, overturning an earlier ruling that denied prosecutorial efforts based on the inhumane conditions of the American prison system.
The US Justice Department under Donald Trump specifically charged the Wikileaks publisher under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, largely for actions rightfully recognized as protected news gathering practices.
The Biden administration has continued the case, despite the near-universal condemnation from the civil liberties, human rights, and journalistic communities; Freedom of the Press Foundation has joined ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, and a coalition of more than two dozen organizations to repeatedly urge President Biden’s Department of Justice to drop its prosecution.
Today’s ruling is an alarming setback for press freedom in the United States and around the world, and represents a notable escalation in the use of the Espionage Act in the “War on Whistleblowers” that has expanded through the past several presidential administrations.
The following statement can be attributed to Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and an expert witness for the defense at the trial level:
These proceedings, and today's ruling, are a black mark on the history of press freedom. That United States prosecutors continued to push for this outcome is a betrayal of the journalistic principles the Biden administration has taken credit for celebrating. As brave whistleblowers have explained for decades, this kind of abuse of the Espionage Act against sources — and now journalists and publishers — is an embarrassment to basic ideals of justice and to core First Amendment values.
We now await any possible appeal, or extradition and United States trial.
Freedom of the Press Foundation continues to urge the Department of Justice to terminate its pursuit of this prosecution, and to commit to not using the Espionage Act against journalists and their sources in other prosecutions. We urge Congress, too, to reform the Espionage Act so it can no longer be abused in this manner.