For a number of years, attorneys and I at the Center for Constitutional Rights have been the U.S. lawyers for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. My colleagues and I have closely followed the case, which the United States has been building against him, and would like nothing better than assurances that Julian Assange is not being investigated in the United States now, nor facing charges in the future. Despite our repeated written and verbal efforts to get those assurances, we have been repeatedly denied. As recently as November 20th, the spokeswoman for the prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is responsible for the WikiLeaks investigation, said the investigation is still ongoing.
Repeating falsehoods does not make them true. There is a documented risk and danger to Julian Assange of spending years in prison if the United States detains him. Despite this, both the lawyer for one of the women in Sweden who accused Julian Assange of sexual misconduct and an anonymous U.S. officials claim that the US is not “interested” in him. They have also made the fallacious allegation that Mr. Assange is in the Ecuador embassy to avoid answering questions regarding the sexual misconduct allegations facing him in Sweden.
This canard must be put to rest once and for all. It harms Julian Assange by dismissing a serious risk to him in the U.S.; it absolves the United States from what has been its unprecedented attack on journalists, publishers and whistleblowers; and it makes it wrongly appear that Julian Assange’s purpose is to flout the Swedish justice system. This latter assertion harms the resolution of the Swedish cases and is bad for all concerned: the complainants, Sweden, and Julian Assange.
Recognizing the real risk of persecution that Julian Assange faces in the United States could lead to a resolution of the sexual misconduct accusations, but apparently that is not what is seriously desired in Sweden. The lawyers for the complainants could acknowledge this clear risk and lobby the prosecutor to question Julian Assange in London; they could also request that Sweden and the United Kingdom guarantee that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States from Sweden. The failure of lawyers for the complainants to do so makes it appear that they and the Swedish prosecutor are not truly concerned about resolving the case.
Below are just a few of the salient facts that demonstrate the ongoing, unprecedented, and wide-ranging investigation into WikiLeaks’ publishing and sourcing activities, including claims that these activities might somehow constitute a conspiracy to commit espionage, theft, or access violations. ‘The investigation has involved paid informers, unlawful interrogations in Europe, and subpoenas to WikiLeaks’ supporters and social media companies:
- The US Department of Justice launched the criminal investigation into WikiLeaks in early 2010.
- On November 29, 2010 and December 6, 2010 the US Attorney General at the Department of Justice Eric Holder publicly confirmed an “active. ongoing criminal investigation” and grand jury probe of WikiLeaks.
- In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has been empaneled for the past three years to explore ways to prosecute WikiLeaks. The FBI is investigating at least seven civilians, including the “founders, owners or managers of WikiLeaks.”
- On September 28th, 2012, the Pentagon renewed its threats against WikiLeaks, stating, “it is our view that continued possession by WikiLeaks of classified information belonging to the United States government represents a continuing violation of law” and “[w]e regard this as a law enforcement matter.”
- Diplomatic communications from the Australian mission in Washington characterize the US investigation into WikiLeaks as “unprecedented in scale and nature.” In official Australian government records the US probe is described as a “whole of government” investigation.
- Military prosecutors repeatedly referenced Julian Assange and attempted to establish that Manning acted as an agent rather than a journalistic source of Julian Assange, even though in her own statement to the court she took full responsibility for her actions.
- On November 18th, a law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated in the Washington Post that the investigation is “ongoing.”
In the wake of the overwhelming evidence of the continuing investigation of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the Washington Post published an article citing an anonymous Department of Justice official. That unnamed person now claims that there is little possibility of prosecuting Julian Assange for publishing, but that a Grand Jury remains empaneled and the situation may change. Thus, we have a much-hedged statement by someone who cannot be identified claiming that the government may not indict Julian Assange for publishing.
Even if the anonymous source’s statements are true, it only addresses a small part of the Grand Jury investigation. That investigation has been primarily concerned with trying to prove somehow that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were involved, not merely in publication, but in a conspiracy with their sources.
Enough with empty and false claims that Julian Assange is not in jeopardy from the United States. Any assertion that he is not is a fantasy. Mr. Assange wants to be able to address the allegations against him in Sweden and has offered to answer any and all questions from the Ecuadoran embassy in London, but he cannot travel until the United States government does the right thing: closes the investigation, and formally and unequivocally tells WikiLeaks and Julian Assange that no charges will be brought against him or his organization.