The Kafkaesque extradition trial of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continues, with each frustrating day making it clearer than the day before that what we are watching is nothing other than a staged performance by the US and UK governments to explain why it’s okay for powerful governments to jail journalists who expose inconvenient truths about them.
The Assange defense team is performing admirably, making the arguments they need to make to try and prevent an extradition that will set a precedent which will imperil press freedoms and creating a chilling effect on all adversarial national security investigative journalism around the world. These arguments appear to fall on deaf ears before Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who has from the beginning been acting like someone who has already made up her mind and who has been reading from pre-written judgements at the trial regardless of the points presented to her (an unusual behavior made all the more suspicious by her supervision under Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who has a massive conflict of interest in this case).
And while it is essential to fight this fight with every intention of winning, I’d also like to issue a friendly reminder that this entire trial is illegitimate at its very foundation.
Amid all the pedantic squabbling over when it is and is not legal under US law for a journalist to expose evidence of US war crimes, we must never lose sight of the fact that (A) it should always be legal to expose war crimes, (B) it should always be illegal for governments to hide evidence of their war crimes, (C) war crimes should always be punished, (D) people who start criminal wars should always be punished, (E) governments should not be permitted to have a level of secrecy that allows them to start criminal wars, and (F) power and secrecy should always have an inverse relationship to one another.
The Assange case needs to be fought tooth and claw, but we must keep in mind that it is so very, very many clicks back from where we need to be as a civilization. In an ideal situation the public should have governments too afraid of them to keep secrets from them;