Foreign Policy

published : 2023-11-11

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle call on Biden to drop prosecution against Julian Assange

Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is currently being held in a British prison and faces charges for publishing classified military and diplomatic cables

A group of lawmakers, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, discussing the legal issues surrounding Julian Assange's case. (Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark III)

A group of lawmakers, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, have written a letter to President Biden urging him to drop the U.S. prosecution against Julian Assange.

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is currently being held at London's high-security Belmarsh Prison. He was removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2019 for breaching bail conditions. Assange is contesting U.S. extradition efforts in the British courts.

The letter, co-signed by Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, calls for an end to the U.S. extradition request and all prosecutorial proceedings against him.

Assange is facing 17 charges under the 1917 Espionage Act, including receiving, possessing, and communicating classified information to the public. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison.

Julian Assange's wife, Stella Assange, holding a sign that says 'Free Julian Assange' during a protest outside the British prison where he is being held. (Taken with Nikon D850)

The charges against Assange stem from the 2010 publication of cables leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. These cables detailed alleged war crimes, instances of the CIA engaging in torture and rendition, and the famous 'Collateral Murder' video showing the U.S. military gunning down civilians in Iraq.

Lawmakers argue that the Espionage Act was intended to punish government employees and contractors who disclosed state secrets to enemy governments, not to penalize journalists and whistleblowers. They stress the importance of protecting journalistic practices and the freedom of the press.

Reps. Thomas Massie and James McGovern led the bipartisan effort and circulated a draft letter among their colleagues. Senator Rand Paul is the only senator to sign the letter.

The call to drop the charges against Assange follows a visit by a delegation of Australian lawmakers to Washington, D.C., where they met with members of Congress, U.S. officials, and civil rights groups. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also called for the U.S. to end the prosecution of Assange.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressing a press conference, urging the United States to drop the charges against Julian Assange. (Taken with Sony Alpha a7 III)

Critics argue that the publication of classified material by WikiLeaks put the lives of U.S. allies at risk. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Assange would be tried in Alexandria, Virginia if he exhausts his legal appeals and is extradited to the U.S.