Former President Donald Trump shouldn’t be charged with espionage for taking classified documents with him —some of them apparently very highly classified — when he left the White House for semi-retirement at his Mar-a-Lago home. Nobody should be charged with espionage unless they are working for a foreign power and mean harm to the United States. The Espionage Act, which was written 105 years ago to combat German saboteurs, is rarely used now to target spies and traitors. Instead, it’s used as a cudgel to silence whistleblowers, journalists, and occasionally a stupid former president. To understand the damage that this deeply flawed law has done, and will continue to do, we have to look at its origins. The Espionage Act was written in 1917, at the height of World War I. The U.S. was panicked at the thought of German spies working undercover to steal its secrets and to disrupt its ability to produce war materiel and support its allies.
Progressives love the FBI? Leftists embrace the Espionage Act? Of course, one man is responsible for this madness, and he is none other than Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States. The fallout from the FBI search conducted at Trump’s home shows the rank confusion spread by people who call themselves liberal but who are as dangerous as anyone on the right. From the moment that Trump announced the raid they were in full fascist mode, even as they claimed to be fighting fascism. Trump did what he usually does, play fast and loose with the truth. Of all former presidents only he would ignore subpoenas and claim to have declassified documents when he hadn’t done so. He can’t get out of his own way and thus makes himself a target. But Democrats should know that the search is seen as nothing more than a personal attack against him.
Marion, Illinois — Daniel Hale, dressed in a khaki uniform, his hair cut short and sporting a long, neatly groomed brown beard, is seated behind a plexiglass screen, speaking into a telephone receiver at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois. I hold a receiver on the other side of the plexiglass and listen as he describes his journey from working for the National Security Agency and the Joint Special Operations Task Force at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to becoming federal prisoner 26069-07. Hale, a 34-year-old former Air Force signals intelligence analyst, is serving a 45 month prison sentence, following his conviction under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified documents about the U.S. military’s drone assassination program and its high civilian death toll. The documents are believed to be the source material for “The Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, **on October 15, 2015.
If you’ve been following the case of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whose revelations about US wars and war crimes outlets like the New York Times published to great acclaim, you know that you haven’t been following it in, for example, The New York Times. Major US outlets’ interest in Assange’s prosecution is hard to detect, as if they had no stake in a case which is not, at bottom, only about whether individuals can leak classified information, but whether journalists can publish that information at all. And it’s as if their readers had no stake in that decision either. Joining us now with the latest is researcher and journalist Chip Gibbons. He’s policy director of the group Defending Rights and Dissent. He joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Chip Gibbons.
From its earliest years the United States has found ways to deny the rights of a free press when it was politically expedient to do so. One of the latest ways was to arrest WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange two years ago today and to indict him — the first time a publisher and journalist has ever been charged under the 1917 Espionage Act for possessing and publishing state secrets. Though several U.S. administrations had come close to punishing journalists for revealing defense information, they all pulled back, until Assange. They were restrained because of a conflict with the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from passing any law, including the Espionage Act, that abridges press freedom.
Join us for a special broadcast featuring DRAD Policy Director Chip Gibbons, Jesselyn Radack head of Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts, and whistleblowers who have faced Espionage Act charges. Last week, Daniel Hale, a drone whistleblower, pled guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act. Hale admitted in court that he gave to an investigative reporter documents detailing human rights abuses pertaining to the US’s troubling assassination program. Although this information was in the public interest, the government nonetheless indicted Hale under the Espionage Act. This fits into a troubling pattern where those who expose official abuses of power, including war crimes and unconstitutional surveillance, are charged under the Espionage Act.
The Left would go crazy over Jewish American dissidents Abel and Anne Meeropol if they were alive today. Their tale is a radical epic so poignant that one wonders where the 10-part miniseries is. It covers a range of contemporary themes: children separated from parents, the political persecution of dissidents, and social justice warriors doing battle against a racist, xenophobic, increasingly fascistic America. It’s a story so fantastical, and containing so many celebrated names, that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t stuck better into the mainstream. Then again, a tale involving judicial executions on fake charges of espionage and the heroism of Jewish and Black radicals probably wouldn’t get the prestige TV greenlight.
The prosecution against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has invoked my case, making it a haunting reminder of the travesty of justice that befell me. I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2015, the United States government wrongfully tried, convicted, and sent me to prison for allegedly violating the U.S. Espionage Act. I am one of the few who has ever gone to trial to defend their selves against this ancient and misused law. If I had succeeded in defending myself, it is possible Assange may not be facing the same impossible hell that ruined my life. As such, I feel a burden to challenge certain statements by the Crown Prosecution Service in Assange’s case.
Opponents of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange often hold up Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as an example of someone who was responsible for a good leak. They insist WikiLeaks is not like the Pentagon Papers because supposedly Assange was reckless with sensitive documents. On the seventh day of an extradition trial against Assange, Ellsberg dismantled this false narrative and outlined for a British magistrate court why Assange would not receive a fair trial in the United States. Assange is accused of 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime that, as alleged in the indictment, is written like an Espionage Act offense.
Musician Roger Waters told NewsClick that , "In 2010 Julian Assange along with Chelsea Manning played a pivotal role in releasing classified documents on US military activity in Iraq and Iran. I displayed the video for three years. If Julian is guilty so am. I am ready to give my arrest and may be in the coming time they can arrest me too. ''
On October 21, 2019, Assange appeared in court for an extradition hearing. Assange is being held in a British jail pending the US extradition, having served his sentence for going to the Ecuadorian, violating his bail condition, to avoid extradition. It is evident from this hearing that Assange is being railroaded and not receiving due process for an alleged crime that should not exist, i.e. being an editor and publisher that told the truth about US war crimes and other illegal actions, as well as the corporate control of US foreign policy. The judge refused to delay the hearing in the case when Assange’s lawyer, Mark Summers, argued that Assange’s extradition hearing should be delayed for three months.
Julian Assange was not at Westminster Magistrates Court today for the US extradition request hearing, because of his poor state of health. As his lawyer Gareth Peirce explained, he was too ill to appear via video link from Belmarsh prison. The Wikileaks founder has actually been moved to the hospital wing of the high-security prison, where he has been jailed since April. Judge Emma Arbuthnot acknowledged Julian Assange’s ill-health and suggested to hold the next hearing right at Belmarsh.
Julian Assange’s attorney Barry Pollack responded to the news, saying: “Today the government charged Julian Assange under the Espionage Act for encouraging sources to provide him truthful information and for publishing that information. The fig leaf that this is merely about alleged computer hacking has been removed. These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions that have taken by the U.S. government.” Journalists, press freedom organizations and other figures were quick to respond to the additional charges laid against Assange.
In an interview with Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says the Espionage Act, under which he was indicted, cannot apply to Julian Assange because he is a journalist. Speaking during an online vigil for Assange organized by Unity4J.com, Ellsberg told Lauria that the motive for U.S. leaders to protect their secrets and go after Assange has nothing to do with their mantra of “national security.” “The purpose is not to protect national security, but to protect the asses of the people who wrote the directives” of classified material, most of which should never have been classified, Ellsberg said. Ellsberg, 87, said that as a publisher and journalist, the Espionage Act cannot be applied to Assange, as it should not have been applied to Ellsberg for non-spying activities when he released the Pentagon Papers revealing that the U.S.
Matt DeHart is a 30-year-old former US National Guard drone team member and alleged WikiLeaks courier who worked with the hactivist group Anonymous. He has been deported/extradited from Canada to the United States to face charges that judges in two countries (the US and Canada) have found to lack credibility. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “Canada’s actions are shameful. It may as well not have a border.” A few minutes ago Matt DeHart appeared before a judge in Buffalo and was ordered to be transferred to Tennessee for arraignment. For the past five years, Matt DeHart has been at the centre of a US national security investigation and has experienced extraordinary hardship as a result. In 2010, Matt was detained at the US–Canadian border by FBI agents, who administered an IV (intravenous line) to Matt against his will. They questioned him over several days regarding his military unit, his involvement with Anonymous and WikiLeaks. They denied him access to his lawyer, deprived him of sleep, food and water, and tortured him during this time.