Whistleblowers have played an important role in U.S. history by informing the public about crimes committed by corporations and governments. Whistleblower.org provides a list of many of the courageous people who have shone a light on the dark side of people in power. It’s the duty of the press to inform the public about these transgressions so that they are stopped and justice is delivered.
Perhaps the most well-known U.S. whistleblower is Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg provided documentation detailing the situation in Vietnam and the real reasons for U.S. involvement. He showed tremendous courage in copying this material and sharing it with the media. The government tried to stop the press from publishing the material, but the Supreme Court struck down the government’s challenge to press freedom.
The latest chapter in the challenge to press freedom has been the government’s attempt under both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump to imprison whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Both Obama and Trump also wanted the extradition of Julian Assange, the founder and leader of WikiLeaks, to the U.S. for trial.
If you are unfamiliar with the nonprofit WikiLeaks, it was founded in 2006 and has greatly aided the public interest by releasing and publishing information that makes clear the aggressions and deceptions of the powerful. The Guardian newspaper, not a friend of Assange, editorialized recently: “(Assange) believes in publishing things that should not be published. … But he has always shone a light on things that should never have been hidden.”
The WikiLeaks website provides in-depth material that WikiLeaks has released or published. Key material includes the video of a U.S. helicopter attack in the Baghdad area that killed at least 12 civilians; U.S. State Department cables showing, among many things, that U.S. diplomats were told to spy on U.N. officials; facts on trade deals that primarily benefited corporate interests; emails from the Democratic National Committee that showed the DNC bias against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016; and CIA Vault 7 material that detailed some of the CIA’s invasive electronic surveillance and cyberwarfare capabilities.
Ecuador recently illegally ended Assange’s asylum in its embassy in London, where he had been staying for seven years. British police promptly arrested Assange, and the Trump administration almost immediately requested the extradition of Assange. The U.S. charge was that Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning to illegally hack a government computer to obtain national security information.
The British paper The Observer editorialized: “Whatever one thinks of Assange’s status as a journalist, the U.S. indictment against him poses a threat to all journalists and potentially undermines press freedom.” New York Times deputy general counsel David McCraw said: “Prosecution of (Assange) would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers. … He’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position, and I think the law would have a very hard time drawing a distinction between The New York Times and WikiLeaks.”
Please attend the rally today supporting Julian Assange. It will be from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the corner of Canyon and Broadway.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.