Julian Assange’s attorney, Mark Stephens, says that he’s learned there is a secret grand jury convened in Virginia, to consider charges against Assange, CNN reported today in Assange attorney: Secret grand jury meeting in Virginia on WikiLeaks.
Assange is being held in London on a Swedish warrant for questioning in relation to allegations of sexual assault there. It’s widely believed that those charges – which should be carefully investigated, as should all charges of sexual misconduct – are a cover for the Swedish government handing Assange over to the U.S. government.
“I think that the Americans are much more interested in terms of the WikiLeaks aspect of this,” Stephens told Al-Jazeera. He said it was his understanding that Swedish authorities have said that if Assange is extradited there, “they will defer their interest in him to the Americans… It does seem to me that what we have here is nothing more than a holding charge.” The United States just wants Assange detained, he said, so “ultimately they can get their mitts on him.”
Amid a worldwide surge of protest against US government-sponsored attacks on Wikileaks by private companies, and the dangerous threats to prosecute Assange, TIME magazine announced that Assange has won the readers poll as Person of the Year. In a TIME interview, Assange answers allegations:
Secrecy is important for many things but shouldn’t be used to cover up abuses, which leads us to the question of who decides and who is responsible. It shouldn’t really be that people are thinking about, Should something be secret? I would rather it be thought, ‘Who has a responsibility to keep certain things secret?’ And, ‘Who has a responsibility to bring matters to the public?’ And those responsibilities fall on different players. And it is our responsibility to bring matters to the public.
This organization in its four years of publishing history — we don’t need to speculate, it has a history — has never caused an individual, as far as we can determine or as far anyone else can determine, to come to any sort of physical harm or to be wrongly imprisoned and so on. That is a record compared to the organizations that we are trying to expose who have literally been involved in the deaths of hundreds or thousands or, potentially over the course of many years, millions.
The threats to Assange have been given wide publicity in US media. Revolution in U.S. Lashes Out at Wikileaks, summarizes
Leading U.S. political figures clamored for Assange’s capture, even his execution. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said Assange is a “high tech terrorist,” and Newt Gingrich said he is an “information terrorist” who should be arrested as an “enemy combatant.” Influential right-wing columnist William Kristol asked, “Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are? Why can’t we disrupt and destroy Wikileaks in both cyberspace and physical space, to the extent possible?” Sarah Palin, writing on her Facebook page, asked, “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”
WikiLeaks’s reported source, Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, having watched Iraqi police abuses and having read of similar and worse incidents in official messages, reportedly concluded, “I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.”
Rather than simply look the other way, Manning wrote: “I want people to see the truth.. because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public,” adding that he hoped to provoke worldwide discussion, debates and reform.
There is nothing to suggest that WikiLeaks/Assange’s motives were any different.
Daniel Ellsberg appeared on The Colbert Report last week, disputed claims that Assange is “not a journalist” and that journalists shouldn’t report the actions of governments.
Those action of governments are What Wikileaks Reveals: Cables, Lies & Murder, writes Larry Everest:
Wikileaks’ trove of secrets offers vivid, direct, and unassailable evidence that the U.S. routinely carries out all manner of crimes across the world, from torture and rape in Afghanistan, to mass murder in Yemen, to illegal spying at UN headquarters. They show the U.S. involved in a no-holds-barred capitalist-imperialist rivalry with powers they are allied with, as well as their more direct rivals. They document how the U.S. manages a global network of brutal client regimes as key links in their empire of oppression and exploitation. And these secret cables show that the U.S. lies about all of it. This is the nightmare world the U.S. dominates, and is viciously trying to maintain.
Finally, intellectual activists in the UK made this statement, printed in The Guardian:
We protest at the attacks on WikiLeaks and, in particular, on Julian Assange (Report, 9 December) The leaks have assisted democracy in revealing the real views of our governments over a range of issues which have been kept secret and are now irreversibly in the public domain. All we knew about the mass killing, torture and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan has been confirmed. The world’s leaders can no longer hide the truth by simply lying to the public. The lies have been exposed. The actions of major corporations such as Amazon, the Swiss banks and the credit card companies in hindering WikiLeaks are shameful, bowing to US government pressure. The US government and its allies, and their friends in the media, have built up a campaign against Assange which now sees him in prison facing extradition on dubious charges, with the presumed eventual aim of ensuring his extradition to the US. We demand his immediate release, the dropping of all charges, and an end to the censorship of WikiLeaks.
John Pilger, Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition, Salma Yaqoob, Craig Murray, Alexei Sayle, Mark Thomas, Caryl Churchill, AL Kennedy, Celia Mitchell, Ben Griffin (former soldier), Terry Jones, Sami Ramadani, Roger Lloyd Pack, David Gentleman, Miriam Margolyes, Andy de la Tour, Katharine Hamnett, Iain Banks