Wikileaks' Julian Assange has not been a free man for over a deade

Fate of Wikileaks Founder Will be Decided by UK Court

The UK’s High Court will hold a two-day hearing on February 20 and 21 on the U.S. request to extradite Wikileaks cofounder Julian Assange to the notorious Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) to face 17 felony counts of espionage and one count of misuse of a computer related to Wikileaks’ release of the Iraq War Logs and so-called Collateral Murder Video provided by Chelsea Manning.

The conventional wisdom is that Julian’s appeal will be denied and that he will be swiftly turned over to the FBI, put on a government jet, and rendered to the U.S. If convicted, Julian faces up to 175 years in prison, almost all of it in a maximum-security penitentiary and/or a restrictive Communications Management Unit, which would literally cut him off from the outside world.

The process has dragged on for years. Julian has essentially been in detention for more than 13 years: 10 days of solitary confinement in London’s Wandsworth Prison, followed by 550 days of house arrest. That was followed by four-and-a-half years of asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, although “asylum” is in the eye of the beholder.


The Ecuadorian authorities worked closely with the CIA and with the UK’s MI-5 and MI-6 to wire literally the entire embassy for video and audio, including in Julian’s bathroom, where he sometimes met with his attorneys, thinking it was safe to speak there. He was forcibly dragged out of the embassy almost five years ago after the Ecuadorian government turned on him and threw its lot in with the CIA, and he has been in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison since April 11, 2019. He has been in solitary confinement for most of that time.

A group of people holding signs outside of a building

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Activists outside Belmarsh prison where Julian has been held in solitary confinement. [Source:]

Again, the conventional wisdom is that Julian will be extradited in a matter of days. And let’s be clear. He will not receive a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The EDVA is known as the “Espionage Court” because it’s the CIA’s preferred venue and because no national security defendant has ever won a case there. Literally. I was charged there. CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling was charged there.

The Eastern District of Virginia “espionage court.” [Source:]

Ed Snowden was charged there. Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale was charged there. And now that’s where Julian will face “justice.”

Why have none of us had any chance in the EDVA? Because of its location and its judges. First, any jury will be made up of employees of, or family members of employees of, the CIA, the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and any of dozens of intelligence community contractors. They’re all based in the EDVA. And don’t forget the FBI and the Justice Department itself, many of whose employees live in the EDVA. The deck is stacked. Fairness is impossible.

And take a look at the EDVA’s judges. In the immediate aftermath of charges being filed against Julian, I wrote that his judge would likely be Judge Leonie Brinkema. A former federal prosecutor, she was my judge, Sterling’s judge, and was scheduled to be Snowden’s judge. She is known as someone who pushes national security trials through the process as quickly as possible, becoming visibly angry when the defendant doesn’t accept a guilty plea. Brinkema as Julian’s judge proved to be incorrect.

For Julian, the situation is actually more difficult. EDVA Senior Judge Claude Hilton has reserved Julian’s case for himself. Hilton also is a former prosecutor. But worse than that, he is a former judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA,) that notorious secret body that provides legal cover for U.S. intelligence community electronic operations against virtually anybody anywhere in the world.

Julian faces still another problem, this one post-conviction. The United Nations has deemed the U.S. practice of using solitary confinement as a form of torture.

Julian will almost certainly be sent to solitary confinement or to an equally-restrictive Communications Management Unit if he’s convicted.

Ignore Justice Department protestations that it promises not to put Julian in solitary. I’m here to tell you that they’re lying. First, Justice Department prosecutors have literally nothing to do with deciding where a prisoner is sent to serve his sentence. That is determined exclusively by the federal Bureau of Prisons, one of the most troubled and corrupt organizations in the U.S. government.

And second, rather than have a 15-day limit to holding a prisoner in solitary, as many states and foreign countries have, the U.S. keeps and has kept many prisoners in solitary for decades. Imagine having literally no human contact for the rest of your life. The prisoner often goes insane years before dying.

Joe Biden knows all of this. Except for a break from 2017 to 2021, he has been a senior government official since 1972 (senator, vice president, and president.) He is also a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with oversight authority over the Justice Department. He knows exactly what Julian is facing.

David Hicks [Source:]

So why does he not pardon Julian Assange and end this immoral and unethical prosecution? Why does he not instruct his Attorney General to drop the charges? Why is he willing to take the chance that Julian will be convicted, which would then make literally every national security journalist in America (or the world?) liable for prosecution under the Espionage Act simply for doing his or her job? Furthermore, why does the U.S. hold out on Julian, when the Bush Administration allowed the release of Australian national—and convicted terrorist—David Hicks? Even the Chinese recently released detained journalist Cheng Lei.

On the one hand, we can never give up hope that the White House will do the right thing, forgive Julian, and let him go home. On the other hand, I’ve been in Washington for 41 years and I’ve seen the worst of it.

I took the CIA’s best shot and lived to tell the tale, but only after serving two years in prison and being personally, professionally, and financially ruined.

But with that said, this story is far bigger than just Julian Assange. Julian stands for every other journalist in the world who is liable to prosecution simply for doing his or her job. Julian understands that if he is convicted—or if he takes a plea under the Espionage Act—that all journalists are endangered. This fight isn’t just between Julian Assange and the U.S. Department of Justice. The fight is between U.S. government wrongdoing and the rest of us.

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  1. Let us not forget what happened to James Earl Ray when he was extradited to the USA.
    He was tricked and coerced into a plea bargain rather than a trial. When he did appeal for a trial, Judge Preston Battle very conveniently died of a heart attack.
    A few years later, Judge Joe Brown of the Appeals Court, was taken off the case for saying that Ray’s rifle was not the murder weapon.

  2. One factor that may impact the final decision is the death of Alexi Navalny who also spent many years in solitary confinement. The powers that be may want to treat Assange more humanely so that they can be perceived more positively on the Global Stage in contrast to the way that the persecutors of Navalny are viewed right now.

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