This is indeed a dark day. Even if Assange wins his court case in the U.S., certainly not the betting favorite, the intimidation effect sounds the death knell for freedom of the press, and by implication every one of the other freedoms once nobly enshrined in the First Amendment. Glenn Greenwald’s article is excellent. Read it and weep. From Greenwald at greenwald.substack.com:
Press freedom groups have warned Assange’s prosecution is a grave threat. The Biden DOJ ignored them, and today won a major victory toward permanently silencing the pioneering transparency activist.
In a London courtroom on Friday morning, Julian Assange suffered a devastating blow to his quest for freedom. A two-judge appellate panel of the United Kingdom’s High Court ruled that the U.S.’s request to extradite Assange to the U.S. to stand trial on espionage charges is legally valid.
As a result, that extradition request will now be sent to British Home Secretary Prita Patel, who technically must approve all extradition requests but, given the U.K. Government’s long-time subservience to the U.S. security state, is all but certain to rubber-stamp it. Assange’s representatives, including his fiancee Stella Morris, have vowed to appeal the ruling, but today’s victory for the U.S. means that Assange’s freedom, if it ever comes, is further away than ever: not months but years even under the best of circumstances.
In endorsing the U.S. extradition request, the High Court overturned a lower court’s ruling from January which had concluded that the conditions of U.S. prison — particularly for those accused of national security crimes — are so harsh and oppressive that there is a high likelihood that Assange would commit suicide. In January’s ruling, Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected all of Assange’s arguments that the U.S. was seeking to punish him not for crimes but for political offenses. But in rejecting the extradition request, she cited the numerous attestations from Assange’s doctors that his physical and mental health had deteriorated greatly after seven years of confinement in the small Ecuadorian Embassy where he had obtained asylum, followed by his indefinite incarceration in the U.K.
In response to that January victory for Assange, the Biden DOJ appealed the ruling and convinced Judge Baraitser to deny Assange bail and ordered him imprisoned pending appeal. The U.S. then offered multiple assurances that Assange would be treated “humanely” in U.S. prison once he was extradited and convicted. They guaranteed that he would not be held in the most repressive “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado — whose conditions are so repressive that it has been condemned and declared illegal by numerous human rights groups around the world — nor, vowed U.S. prosecutors, would he be subjected to the most extreme regimen of restrictions and isolation called Special Administrative Measures (“SAMs”) unless subsequent behavior by Assange justified it. American prosecutors also agreed that they would consent to any request from Assange that, once convicted, he could serve his prison term in his home country of Australia rather than the U.S. Those guarantees, ruled the High Court this morning, rendered the U.S. extradition request legal under British law.