Julian Assange is still hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, as Ecuador has granted him political asylum. However, things are now a little more serious; the United States military has determined Assange, and WikiLeaks, to be enemies of the state.
The classification became known through documents that were previously designated secret/noforn (no foreign nationals). They have been released under the Freedom of Information laws in America and published, ironically, by WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange said that the documents have been released just recently because of their sensitivity for some of the people involved in the investigation.
With these documents the “unusual position” and “difficulty” Assange and his organization face turn completely absurd.
“For example, that the US military should designate me and all of WikiLeaks as the enemy in its formal investigation, an investigation that carries a death-penalty offense into a person who was alleged to have come to my extradition hearing,” he said. “And in the same document it speaks about the victim being that of society, when there is no allegation that any documents have been released or published by us.”
The report exemplified the “absurdist, neo-McCarthyist fervor that exists within some of the government departments in the US,” Assange said.
Enormous wheels have been set in motion, with over a dozen different US intelligence and investigative organizations turning through this, Assange said. “Everyone sees that it is completely absurd and counter to the values the United States should be trying to present to the world,” he said, urging everyone to read the files
The Australian National Times added the following, regarding the ongoing controversy:
Mr Assange’s US attorney, Michael Ratner, said the designation of WikiLeaks as an “enemy” had serious implications for the WikiLeaks publisher if he were to be extradited to the US, including possible military detention.
US Army private Bradley Manning faces a court martial charged with aiding the enemy – identified as al-Qaeda – by transmitting information that, published by WikiLeaks, became available to the enemy.
Mr Ratner said that under US law it would most likely have been considered criminal for the US Air Force analyst to communicate classified material to journalists and publishers, but those journalists and publishers would not have been considered the enemy or prosecuted.
Ratner is entirely right. Pvt. Manning and other whistle-blowers could face much more serious prosecution in the future. Although a charge of military espionage can carry the death penalty; the “enemy” designation of what is nothing more than a journalistic endeavor into government transparency can make it so that any military official communicating with said “enemy,” in this case, WikiLeaks or Assange, can be convicted and theoretically given a death sentence as well.
It also allows for military termination against Mr. Assange, although that is unlikely given the political backlash that would engender.
Designating a journalist (remember that he isn’t stealing documents or otherwise; he is providing a way for them to be given to him) as an enemy for doing what journalists do, is also a violation of the Constitution of the United States of America; freedom of the press and freedom of speech are both rights that Julian Assange is being denied. While it is understandable that military officials providing documents to the agency can be prosecuted, prosecuting the agency itself is simply un-American.
The National Times reports;
The Australian diplomatic reports canvassed the possibility that the US may eventually seek Mr Assange’s extradition on conspiracy or information-theft-related offences to avoid extradition problems arising from the nature of espionage as a political offence and the free-speech protections in the US constitution.
Mr Assange is scheduled this morning to speak by video link to a meeting on his asylum case on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The meeting will be attended by Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.
In a separate FOI decision yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the release of Australian diplomatic cables about WikiLeaks and Mr Assange had been the subject of extensive consultation with the US.
The Australian article also includes a poll that asks, “Do you agree with the US designation of Julian Assange as an “enemy of state?”
Current results are 9% yes, 2% don’t know, and an overwhelming 89% disapproval.