Monday in London, the U.S. government began proceedings to extradite WikiLeaks honcho Julian Assange to the United States where he could face charges of espionage related to his exposure ten years ago of classified American military documents.
British extradition lawyer Anand Doobay commented on the case: “Very few cases raise this range of issues, where there are likely to be arguments about the actual offenses he’s accused of committing and whether they amount to a crime in both countries. There are arguments about his treatment in terms of the fairness of his trial, the conditions he’s going to be detained in, the reasons why he is being prosecuted, his activities as a journalist.”
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In a question that has divided many, including members of the American conservative and libertarian movements: Is Assange a journalist or a common leaker that put U.S. forces in danger by making classified plans and analysis available to the public?
Fox News reports, “Assange has been indicted in the U.S. on 18 charges over the publication of classified documents. Prosecutors say he conspired with U.S. army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
As a former U.S. Army intel analyst, the same duty as Manning, I can tell you that if secret non-redacted U.S. warplans had been made public in the 80s it would have done serious damage to American national security. And then, we were not at war.
But the question remains, does the American public have the right to know what is being done in its name on the battlefield? Or is Assange just another mercenary journalist who is willing to do anything to report a story no matter the consequences to others?
We in the media can understand Assange’s motivation. But some things should stop at the water’s edge. If Assange had been reporting in the spring of 1944 would he have been justified in revealing the secret allied plans for the early June invasion of France?
No. Some things must take precedence over a scoop and a headline. Julian Assange is not a fool and knew that. He proceeded anyway. He should face the consequences of his actions.