Why the Assange Arrest Should Scare Reporters, by Matt Taibbi

The Assange arrest is a direct assault on the freedom of the press. From Matt Taibbi at rollingstone.com:

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 11: Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11, 2019 in London, England.  After weeks of speculation Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by Scotland Yard Police Officers inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in Central London this morning. Ecuador's President, Lenin Moreno, withdrew Assange's Asylum after seven years citing repeated violations to international conventions. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11, 2019 in London, England. After weeks of speculation Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by Scotland Yard Police Officers inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in Central London this morning. Ecuador’s President, Lenin Moreno, withdrew Assange’s Asylum after seven years citing repeated violations to international conventions.

Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The WikiLeaks founder will be tried in a real court for one thing, but for something else in the court of public opinion

Julian Assange was arrested in England on Thursday. Though nothing has been announced, there are reports he may be extradited to the United States to face charges related to Obama-era actions.

Here’s the Washington Post on the subject of prosecuting Assange:

A conviction would also cause collateral damage to American media freedoms. It is difficult to distinguish Assange or WikiLeaks from The Washington Post.”

That passage is from a 2011 editorial, “Why the U.S. Shouldn’t Try Julian Assange.”

The Post editorial of years back is still relevant because Assange is being tried for an “offense” almost a decade old. What’s changed since is the public perception of him, and in a supreme irony it will be the government of Donald “I love WikiLeaks”Trump benefiting from a trick of time, to rally public support for a prosecution that officials hesitated to push in the Obama years.

Much of the American media audience views the arrested WikiLeaks founder through the lens of the 2016 election, after which he was denounced as a Russian cutout who threw an election for Trump.

But the current indictment is the extension of a years-long effort, pre-dating Trump, to construct a legal argument against someone who releases embarrassing secrets.

Barack Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, said as far back as 2010 the WikiLeaks founder was the focus of an “active, ongoing criminal investigation.” Assange at the time had won, or was en route to winning, a pile of journalism prizes for releasing embarrassing classified information about many governments, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video delivered by Chelsea Manning. The video showed a helicopter attack in Iraq which among other things resulted in the deaths of two Reuters reporters.

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