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Julian Assange of WikiLeaks published information that placed U.S. personnel in grave danger around the world. TRUE OR FALSE?

FALSE. The U.S. Pentagon conducted a 10-month long, 6.2 million dollar investigation led by Brigadier General Robert Carr, to assess the damage caused by WikiLeaks publications. Under oath during Chelsea Manning’s 2013 trial, General Carr admitted that he could not name a single person who was endangered as a result of the publications, nor could he provide any data to support Pentagon claims that the leaks worked to erode trust between nation states, between citizens and leaders, or between soldiers and citizens. In the years since the investigation concluded, that status has never changed. While admitting that the leaks were embarrassing for the United States, Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the rhetoric on the supposed harm caused by them as “significantly overwrought.” What is less known is that Julian Assange approached the U.S. State Department for their direct help in redacting the documents prior to their publication. On November 27, 2010, the State Department’s legal counsel Hongju Koh replied to Assange’s request for help, saying: “We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials.” Had there been any likelihood of serious damage, it would not have been because of negligence on the part of Assange.

Julian Assange colluded with the Russians to interfere in our democratic elections. TRUE OR FALSE?

FALSE. Assange has consistently maintained that his source was not a state actor. In exchange for immunity, Assange offered to meet with Adam Schiff of the Senate House Intelligence Committee to present proof that his source was not Russian and was not a state actor Schiff, on behalf of the Justice Department, refused to interview Assange unless he was in custody. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (a group which included the creator of the NSA’s top cyber tools) performed an independent forensic investigation into the matter and concluded that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that exceeded the capabilities of a remote hack, and narrowed the likely location of the copying to the east coast of the U.S. In April, 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed a lawsuit alleging that WikiLeaks was civilly liable for conspiring with the Russian government to steal DNC emails and data. Judge John Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the charges “with prejudice,” assessed the plaintiff’s argument as “threadbare,” and ruled that the evidence of wrongdoing by the DNC was information “plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.”

Julian Assange refused to respond to legal charges that he raped two women in Sweden. TRUE OR FALSE?

FALSE. Despite the media implication, Assange was never charged with rape in Sweden or anywhere else. He was only sought for questioning in a “preliminary” investigation. When he was in Sweden in 2009, the two women in question reported to the police to ask if Assange was legally obliged to submit to an HIV test. Both women made statements saying they had not been raped. Nevertheless, Assange remained in Sweden for several weeks to cooperate with the investigation until Swedish Prosecutor Eva Finne determined that “No rape has been committed,” and informed Assange he was free to leave the country. The case was then re-assigned to another prosecutor, who opened a “preliminary” investigation to see if it was feasible to file charges. In violation of Swedish legal procedure, his team issued an Interpol Red Notice for Assange’s arrest—an extraordinary legal reach concerning a case where someone was still not charged, but sought only for questioning. They kept that ”preliminary” investigation open for nine full years, during which time Assange offered to be questioned in London via standard practices such as satellite, or in Sweden, provided officials guarantee that he not be extradited to the U.S.—which they repeatedly refused to do. The British dissuaded the Swedes from coming to London to question Assange and from dropping the extradition, which they had wished to do as early as 2013. Only at the behest of a high Swedish court in 2016, did the prosecutor finally interview Assange in London. Again citing lack of evidence, no criminal charges were filed. Both cases are now closed.

Julian Assange hacked into Pentagon computers to steal classified files or helped Chelsea Manning hack into them. TRUE OR FALSE?

FALSE. Neither Assange nor Manning hacked into any computer to steal classified documents. Chelsea Manning had her own password and full authorization to access the documents. She downloaded the data not only without Assange’s help, but did so at a point in time before she had contacted him. As Manning’s lawyers made clear during her Court Martial trial, she was careful to leak only files marked “low sensitivity,” not “high sensitivity.” 

The U.S. wants to extradite Julian Assange to face trial for his political acts of Espionage. TRUE OR FALSE?

FALSE. This is a pretext. Julian Assange practices journalism, not espionage. Espionage is, prima facie, a political charge as it is understood to involve matters of state security and sovereignty. The US/UK extradition treaty forbids handing over an individual to a government for political actions. The U.S. has charged Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917, yet U.S. prosecutors try to argue that Assange’s actions were not political so that he is extraditable. More contradictory, the public interest defense commonly applied to journalists to protect their rights, which automatically places the matter in a political context—is not applicable in Espionage cases.

Julian Assange is not a journalist. TRUE OR FALSE?

FALSE. Julian Assange is a member of both the Journalist Union of Australia (MEAA) and the International Federation of Journalists. As editor of WikiLeaks, Assange has partnered with other major journalists and outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian, to publish factual information on government wrong-doing. WikiLeaks is distinguished as an organization which has never had to retract a single item in their reports for error. They have also won every lawsuit that tried to challenge their information in court. 

Awards bestowed to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks:

2008: The Economist New Media Award 

2009: Amnesty International UK Media Award 

2010: Time Person of the Year, Reader’s Choice, Sam Adams Award, Le Monde Readers’ Choice Award for Person of the Year 

Sydney Peace Foundation gold medal for ‘exceptional courage’ in pursuit of human rights

2011: The Walkley Award (Australia’s equivalent to the Pulitzer), Free Dacia Award, Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal, Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, Voltaire Award for Free Speech

2012: Big Brother Award Italy, “Hero of Privacy”

2013: Global Exchange Human Rights Award, People’s Choice, Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award, New York Festivals World’s Best TV & Films Silver World Medal 

2014: Union of Journalists in Kazakhstan Top Prize

2019: GUE/NGL Galizia prize

2020: Stuttgart Peace Prize. The Stuttgart Peace Prize (Stuttgarter Friedenspreis) is an annual award made by the non governmental organization Die AnStifter (“The Instigators”) to people or projects involved “in a special way for peace, justice and world solidarity.