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Former Washington Journalist
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Julian Assange, the newly jailed founder of the WikiLeaks organization, must now be held to account for his alleged crimes, according to former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Assange, 47, was plucked from his sanctuary at the Embassy of Ecuador in London Thursday, arrested by British police conducting an arrest “on behalf of the United States.” He had been staying in the embassy since 2012 to avoid charges of an alleged sexual assault and rape in Sweden. However, his Ecuadorian hosts revoked his asylum after souring on him as a house-guest.
Assange, who appeared to resist arrest, reportedly will fight extradition, a process which could take several years to sort out.
He is being charged in the United States related to obtaining and publishing military files nearly a decade ago now related to US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as publishing a cache of US diplomatic cables. Much of the military material was provided by American Chelsea Manning, who was serving in uniform at the time. She served seven years in prison for that action, before her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama before he left office.
While many around the world were worried for signal the arrest of Assange would have on press freedoms for the work of releasing government documents, Clinton did not see it that way.
“Well, look, I think it’s clear from the indictment that came out that it’s not about punishing journalism,” she said. “It’s about assisting the hacking of the military computer to steal information from the United States government. And, look, I’ll wait and see what happens with the charges and how it proceeds, but he skipped bail in the U.K., Sweden had those charges which were then dropped in the last several years, but the bottom line is that he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it has been charged.
“I do think it’s a little ironic that he may be the only foreigner that this administration would welcome to the United States,” Clinton quipped, apparently referring to Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies.
Clinton, however, can hardly be called a disinterested observer when it comes to Assange and WikiLeaks. Trump associate Roger Stone is said to have worked with WikiLeaks to engineer a hack and dump from the Democratic National Committee leading up to the 2016 presidential election in order to damage Clinton politically, who, at the time, was the Democratic nominee and widely favored to win the presidency.
At the time, during a campaign rally in October 2016 in Pennsylvania, Trump enthused, “WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks!”
However, since then, the WikiLeaks DNC hack has been connected to the broader Russian attempt to meddle in the election. And Trump’s old pal Roger Stone could now go to prison for his role in the affair.
This week, after the Assange takedown, Trump had this to say: “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing. And I know there was something having to do with Julian Assange.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Commiteè and has played a key role in the investigations into Russia’s attack on the 2016. Whatever noble, whistleblower role Assange and WikiLeaks may once have had, they cannot escape their role in that attack, he said.
“Julian Assange has long professed high ideals and moral superiority. Unfortunately, whatever his intentions when he started WikiLeaks, what he’s really become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West and a dedicated accomplice in efforts to undermine American security,” Warner said. “It is my hope that the British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves.”