by Taylor Hudak
As the United States approaches its 59th presidential election, candidates on both sides of the political spectrum have been debating issues including job creation, education, climate change and health care, among others. However, what has largely been absent from the debate stage is the state of the free press in America and around the world.
In 2019, the world witnessed the United States government, for the first time ever, use the Espionage Act of 1917 against a journalist. To understand a candidate’s perspective on the free press, it is worth understanding the candidate’s perception of this unprecedented use of the Espionage Act. Additionally, there is no better test of a candidate’s dedication to preserving a free press than by his or her perspective on the world’s most persecuted journalist, Julian Assange.
Who is Julian Assange?
Julian Assange is a politically persecuted Australian journalist facing 175 years in a US prison for multi-award winning journalism exposing US war crimes and corruption.
Assange created the non-profit organization WikiLeaks in 2006, which became the first ever media entity to withhold a 100% accuracy rate in reporting.
Throughout the years, Assange has been the recipient of numerous awards and has received recognition from some of the world’s most esteemed intellectuals.
In 2011, former US Colonel Ann Wright wrote an article titled “Instead of attacking WikiLeaks, fix what it exposed,” which provides critical insight to WikiLeaks’ revelations through the perspective of a veteran.
“These revelations are not merely embarrassing. They also contain evidence of government actions and policies that are an abuse of power and that violate international human-rights standards to which we as Americans are committed,” wrote Ann Wright.
In 2010, the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence was unanimously given to Assange by a panel of senior retired intelligence, military, diplomatic officers, including CIA officers for publishing military whistleblower documents on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The documents which contained evidence of US war crimes and information revealing that the US government misled the public about the wars, are the very same documents for a which he is charged on 17 counts of Espionage and facing a 175 year sentence in a US maximum security prison.
Samuel A. Adams was a CIA analyst and whistleblower who helped reveal during the mid-1960s that the American military intelligence had underestimated the amount of North Vietnamese Army soldiers. Adams was challenged yet he persisted. Since 2002 an award in his name has been given to an individual exhibiting integrity and morality. In 2010, that individual was Julian Assange.
A journalist being charged with espionage poses serious threats to the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the right to a free press. If tried and convicted, Assange’s case will set a damaging legal precedent for all journalists.
What do the presidential candidates say?
Since WikiLeaks gained national recognition, many of the 2020 presidential candidates have provided their perspectives on WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and/or his pending case throughout their careers. A compilation of their statements is provided below.
REPRESENTATIVE TULSI GABBARD
(May 15, 2019) In an interview with Joe Rogan (addressed in a Newsweek article), Rogan asked Rep. Gabbard how she would address Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Rep. Gabbard said she would drop the charges against Assange and pardon Snowden.
Gabbard: “There is not an actual channel for whistleblowers like them to bring forward information that exposes egregious abuses of our constitutional rights and liberties period.”
(June 5, 2019) Rep. Tulsi Gabbard posted a video on Twitter in support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as part of her campaign message.
Gabbard: “Charging Assange under the Espionage Act will have a serious chilling effect on our most fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Every American, certainly every journalist, must strongly condemn this anti-Democratic act by the Trump Administration.”
Gabbard: “What we’re really defending is freedom of speech and freedom of the press… if we don’t stand up for those freedoms and in this case, the freedom of the press, when they are under attack and when they are at peril, then each of us whether as journalists or as everyday Americans, are also facing that threat of having our own personal freedom undermined because really what’s happening with Julian Assange, as well as Chelsea Manning, Snowden and others is the government taking a position that if you are pushing transparency, if you’re putting out information that the government deems will make them look bad or that they don’t like, then they will use the force of law to come after you and make an example of you. And try to prevent anyone else from doing the same. And whether you agree or disagree with what Julian Assange has done or if he’s a good guy or bad guy or whatever these are all irrelevant points because really what we’re talking about is freedom of the press and what’s happening to Julian Assange will very well happen to any other journalist, whether with new media or with main stream media or with any American for that matter who speaks up and speaks out on the truth, our government is showing that if you do that there will be consequences and that’s very dangerous.”
(Dec. 2019) At an event, Gabbard took questions from the audience. Via video link Rouleau addresses with Rep. Gabbard the human rights violations on Julian Assange and how that should be to put to an end.
Rouleau: “Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, recently said that Assange is quote– suffering extreme depression, extreme anxiety and extreme levels of stress (end quote) and there’s question about whether or not he’s going to survive long enough to be extradited to this country. So my question is, what can be done to stop this assault on human rights before it’s too late and he goes down as another victim of the same authoritarian practices that you are talking about?”
Gabbard: “Well thanks Dack, you’ve been a very strong advocate and continuing to raise his plight and this issue. And I think it’s important for us as we’re talking about these Afghanistan papers that have just been released showing lies, fraud and deceit within our own government and what it has cost us– the American people through lives and tax payer dollars. We see see how Julian Assange is being punished and treated so inhumanely for revealing and releasing information that has brought shame and embarrassment to people in our government. That’s really what it comes down to. (inaudible) I’ve been outspoken about this both with you directly Dack throughout the last several months in how dangerous it is so see the freedom of the press so threatened that what is happening to Julian Assange could happen to anybody. We now have journalist like yourself and others who are using different platforms to be able to share and reveal information to report on different events and facts. Anyone could be scooped up and charged and challenged in the way that Julian Assange is. I don’t know off hand the legal remedies available to him. I know he’s got attorneys that are working really hard for him. But I think it’s doing exactly what you’re doing along with so many others continuing to push this issue to the forefront to get more leaders within the world as you mentioned and quoted speaking out on his behalf so that his situation can improve and ultimately those charges should be dropped.”
(Dec. 2019) During a town hall event Salem, NH, student Nour Hijazi asked Rep. Gabbard her opinion on Assange.
Hijazi: “I would like to get your opinion on what’s going on with Julian Assange right now, and how you would handle whistleblowers in a Gabbard administration.”
Gabbard: “Thank you. What’s your name?”
Gabbard: “Nour, thanks for being here.”
Hijazi: “Thank you.”
Gabbard: “What we have seen in the arrest and the charges against Julian Assange should be of concern to everyone because what this really is threatening is freedom of the press– not a small thing. That because he released information that was embarrassing to our government, these charges occurred. Now we looked and he’s now being incarcerated because of it. Going back and looking at the previous administration, the Obama administration, they were initially looking at filing charges, and I think former Atty. General Eric Holder spoke about this, that they were looking at filing charges, but didn’t because of their concern about the precedents it would set in threatening freedom of the press. Whether you are a self-starting journalist and blogger or you’re working for a major media corporation, to have this cloud cast over you, to have to think about whether or not the release of information would result in charges and incarceration because it’s embarrassing to our government is something that threatens the core of our constitutional foundation and this precedents cannot be set. So if I were president today I would drop those charges against Julian Assange and anyone else who is being threatened under these same circumstances. (applause) Thank you (inaudible). It’s an important question, and we can’t forget what, again, we started this conversation here tonight about our constitution– the bedrock of this country. Our democracy is far from perfect.”
Libertarian presidential candidate Jacob Hornberger is the founder and president of Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF), a non-profit organization established in 1989. According to the organization’s website, the purpose of FFF “is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government.”
Being that the organization is a non-profit, FFF remains separate from Hornberger’s campaign. However, on the website, Hornberger does reveal his stance on Julian Assange and whistleblowers in an article he published in late 2019 titled “Pardon Assange and Snowden.”
(Dec. 19, 2019) At the introduction of the article, Hornberger addresses a piece published in the Washington Post, which revealed that the United States lied and deceived its way into war with Afghanistan. Hornberger then transitions to Assange and Edward Snowden by first acknowledging that Assange revealed truths just as the Washington Post did in its article titled “At War With the Truth.”
“They simply published records that revealed the truth about the deep state. That’s why the deep state has condemned and vilified them as bad people, even as traitors — because they revealed the truth, just like the Washington Post has,” Hornberger wrote in reference to Assange and Snowden.
Hornberger continues to praise Assange’s work through WikiLeaks while strongly condemning the prosecution of whistleblowers and journalists.
“Assange and Snowden deserve immediate pardons, which would enable them to be released from prison and exile and to begin resuming their normal lives,” Hornberger wrote.
(Dec. 28, 2019) The official campaign Twitter account for Jacob Hornberger, @JacobforLiberty, retweeted Christine Assange, mother of Julian Assange. The retweet includes a comment asking for Assange’s release from Belmarsh Prison and advocating for him to not be extradited to the US.
(Dec. 29, 2019) The official campaign Twitter account retweeted the Washington Examiner with a comment using the #FreeAssange tag.
According to his 2020 presidential campaign website, Ian Schlackman supports whistleblowers—a stance shared universally among members of the Green Party.
On the website, Schlackman wrote: “We’re on a dangerous path. Not only have we criminalized whistleblowers exposing illegal acts of the US Government, such as Edward Snowden. We’re also criminalizing journalists & their sources. Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning & Reality Winner all imprisoned and all representing various parts of our nation criminalizing journalists. Human Rights Watch is warning Assange’s case will have dire consequences for press freedoms worldwide. All of these cases should be ended immediately & fully pardoned.”
(Aug. 7, 2019) Ian Schlackman appeared on the Free Assange Vigil Series and was asked if and how he would address Julian Assange on day one of his presidency.
Schlackman: “I think that you absolutely need to close the case with Julian Assange immediately and whatever the hell is going on with the grand jury and Chelsea and of course, I would pardon Reality Winner as well. Going back to Assange though, the case against him is so wildly dangerous because they’re not just charging him as a whistleblower… but first of all, he’s not even a US citizen and second of all, they’re charging him as a journalist. So where will this end? Will we be able to abduct journalists around the globe the US disagrees with and extradite them and basically Guantanamo them? I mean that’s why this precedent is so unbelievably dangerous.”
(Nov. 2019) Green Party presidential candidate Dario Hunter was a guest on the Free Assange Vigil series and was asked if he would pardon Julian Assange.
Free Assange Vigil host: “One of the main platforms of the Green Party, which is pretty much unique to then Green Party, is the outward support for whistleblowers and whistleblowers rights. And that also relates to journalists as well. So how would a Hunter administration treat Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning?”
Hunter: “First of all, I just want to talk about the deplorable circumstances that Julian Assange has been subject to. I want to name them and shame the actors involved. The things he’s been subjected to are nothing short of torture– we have to say it because it’s not being described as such in the mainstream media. But it has been described as such by the UN. It has been described as such by multiple sources because he’s been subjected to arbitrary detention with the involvement and the engagement of multiple nations many water-carriers on behalf of this government– this US government effort. And Chelsea Manning as well, of course, has been subjected to all manner of inhuman treatment and we have to acknowledge the fact that this is an international effort motivated by the United States in a way that deprives the basic human rights related to journalistic freedom. That’s what we are talking about here. Many defamatory things have been said about Assange– that he’s a hacker, all sorts of things. He’s a publisher. He’s a journalist. He’s a whistleblower. He’s a hero. The information that he’s made available is information that has lifted the veil, for many people, on all of the nefarious things being done by governments. It’s necessary. It’s a necessary part of human freedom to be able to have freedom of the press. And all of the things that have been done to him, that he has suffered through, have been done in order to squash that.”
Free Assange Vigil host: “Would you pardon Julian Assange?”
Hunter: “Absolutely. Absolutely. No brainer. No brainer. And more than that, to me, the question strikes me as that’s the least that you can do because so much more needs to take place. Yes, pardon, of course. But then you need to dig into all of the things that have been done to him, who’s been involved in them, and we need to hold the people involved responsible. The things that have been done to him are criminal. So we would move from pardoning to dealing with the criminal prosecution of who was involved in the torture of this man and the deprivation of this man from his rights in so many ways. One of the things that stands out to me that was so galling that isn’t really even talked about as much as it should be in some free Assange circles is the fact that he was a citizen of Ecuador. He was extended citizenship, and they yanked that citizenship back and then left him prey to all of these bodies subjecting him to torture motivated by the US. Well, that is a complete violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 15 — everyone has a right to nationality but also they have a right to not be arbitrarily deprived of it. And, to me, that’s one of the many ways it just shows all of the things that this system, this international system, this international cabal is willing to do in order to ensure that it gets its way and that it keeps these secrets under wrap.”
(Aug. 7, 2019) Adam Kokesh, member of the Libertarian Party, appeared on the Free Assange Vigil Series and was asked if and how he would address Julian Assange on day one of his presidency if he were elected.
Kokesh: “As for my campaign and Julian Assange, pardon on day one no question. In fact, a big part of this platform is that everybody in the United States who has ever been charged with a victimless crime will be immediately pardoned.”
(April 25, 2019) In an interview with comedian Jimmy Dore of The Jimmy Dore Show, Williamson is questioned about her stance on Julian Assange.
Williamson: “I go back and forth. I have a lot of ambivalence on the Julian Assange issue. Early on I saw him as any whistleblower and that he’s very important and the role he was playing and the function he was serving and I was very much aware of the fact that the system suppresses the whistleblower… In this last election it’s not as clear to me. Like who are you working for Julian? You’re just going down on that campaign and not the other campaign so I don’t know I see both sides (inaudible).”
Williamson: “The Julian Assange thing for many of us is a little not as black and white as you see it to be.”
Dore: “Well the Obama Administration’s Justice Department declined to prosecute him and The Washington Post editorial just a few years ago said the same thing—so what would you say the difference between Julian Assange publishing war crimes by the United States released by Chelsea Manning and the difference between Daniel Ellsberg and The Washington Post printing the pentagon papers—they’re both publishers, correct?”
Williamson: “I didn’t think there was any difference until this last thing happened with the election. Now that you’re saying that about the election and that’s where I’m still in process. Before this election, I saw no difference. Until this election and what happened with the election with Hillary Clinton I saw it exactly the same as Daniel Ellsberg.”
(Aug. 25, 2019) During a campaign event in New Market, NH, journalist Dack Rouleau asks Williamson to clarify her position on Julian Assange.
Williamson: “I’m tilting in the direction of if you’re going to stand for whistleblowers, you stand for whistleblowers. And I have to within myself, I have to discern, where is it Marianne that you just don’t like his personality, you know, because his personality is not an issue here. So there is a dangerous shutting down, and this was even true during the Obama Administration, there’s a dangerous shutting down of the whistleblowers. I realize that. And he’s a whistleblower.”
(Jan. 2020) At a campaign event in New Hampshire, Rouleau approaches Tom Steyer to ask him if he supports Julian Assange.
Rouleau: (Shakes Steyer’s hand) “Hey, do you support Julian Assange?”
Steyer: “Don’t know enough to have an educated opinion (inaudible).”
(Rouleau and Steyer pose for a photo. Video cuts to Steyer continuing his response.)
Steyer: “I believe that the government has been spying on us, yeah. I know they have. Do I think that’s ok? No. Do I believe the privacy of Americans is being systematically infringed on. (Nods his head.) Do I know enough about this to have an opinion (inaudible) no. I’ll have to do the work, and if you send me stuff, I will.”
Rouleau: “Have a great night. Thank you very much.”
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS
(Published Feb. 9, 2020) Primo Nutmeg interviews National Press Secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders Briahna Gray. He asks her for Sanders’ stance on Julian Assange.
Primo Nutmeg: “I just wanted to get to a few patron questions if that’s alright. Dan wanted to let you know that he thinks you’re doing a great job, and he wanted to know what Sen. Sanders position is on Julian Assange.”
Gray: “I’m not sure. That’s not something that– for the reasons that I kind of go into in my last question. Um, look, the senator has spoken out frequently about the kind of threats to the press that exist and the kind of lack of appreciation for the risks involved when whistleblowers bring important information to the floor. And to that end, Bernie Sanders is, I believe still the only candidate that has put forward a policy that protects the rights of journalists. But I can’t speak to that particular issue because it’s just not something that the campaign has made a statement on at this point.”
(Published Oct. 3, 2019) Independent journalist Dack Rouleau presses Sen. Bernie Sanders about Julian Assange at a campaign rally.
Rouleau: “Hey, do you support Julian Assange?”
Sanders: “Do I support Julian Assange?”
Rouleau: “Will you pardon him?”
Sanders: (points at the camera) “That’s the wrong… can’t say it just yet. It’s the wrong (inaudible).
Rouleau: “Please, please, please sir. Please.”
Sanders: “I am aware of the issue.”
Rouleau: “Will you pardon him? Commute his sentence? Please.”
(May 24, 2019) An article published in The Intercept examines Sen. Bernie Sanders tweets addressing Julian Assange.
Sanders: “Let me be clear: it is a disturbing attack on the First Amendment for the Trump administration to decide who is or is not a reporter for the purposes of a criminal prosecution.”
GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK
At a campaign event in Concord, NH, Unity4J spokeswoman and Free Assange Vigil co-host Christy Dopf questioned former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Julian Assange.
Dopf: “I’m very personally concerned about the Trump Administration’s war on journalism, in particular the persecution of journalist and publisher Julian Assange, who just said recently that he is slowly dying in prison. So what actions, specifically, would you take as president to defend this journalist?”
Patrick: “Well, I don’t know enough about him to offer a point of view. Hello Julian (waves at cameras). But I think that the persecution of journalism and the twisting of the First Amendment so that it justifies propaganda is wrong. And I think what I can do is model a different behavior. Believe me, journalists made my life hard when I was governor but that was their job. And the accountability necessary for successful democracy is a big part of what journalism is supposed to be (inaudible). So I totally get that part, and if that is consistent with what Mr. Assange is about, I hear that. But I am not well enough informed about him to offer a solution for him or a promise for him.”
GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER
(2019) Sirius XM’s Olivier Knox interviews Gov. John Hickenlooper. During the interview, Julian Assange and the First Amendment were addressed.
Hickenlooper: “Well the first amendment is one of the most sacred rights we have in the country. But that being said we have clear laws that are designed to protect the employees of our government when they’re working in foreign countries. Oftentimes they are in very dangerous situations that can be compromised easily if information is leaked… But I think the country needs to see you know someone like Mr. Assange… let’s get the facts and see exactly what the decisions he made and what were the sacrifices, and what was he trying to get done? And what were the sacrifices made on that behalf?”
(April 11, 2019) Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins published a statement on his campaign website providing his stance on Julian Assange following Assange’s arrest in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Hawkins wrote: “The freedom of all of the press is threatened by the US indictment of Julian Assange in connection with the publication of U.S. government documents. We must oppose Assange’s extradition to the U.S. because he is unlikely to receive a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, where the intelligence and defense industries are based. We must oppose Assange’s extradition to the U.S because he is likely to face cruel and inhumane treatment… Rather than prosecuting a publisher for reporting the truth, the war crimes and human rights violations exposed by Wikileaks should be prosecuted by US and international courts. Those who committed crimes should be prosecuted, not the journalist who reported them.”
(Published June 1, 2019) In an interview with Primo Nutmeg, a reporter asks Hawkins if he believes WikiLeaks is involved in a Russian plot.
Hawkins: “I don’t know if they’re (WikiLeaks) working for Russia. Assange is working for himself. And I have to tell you, him giving the advise to Donald Jr.– you should protest the election if you lose– I mean he’s dealing with the son of a clansman to become our president, an out and out racist who’s encouraging the right-wing, who’s armed to come out and cause mayhem. I mean those politics are really bad. So you know, if he goes to trial we may find out more. I don’t think he should on this 2010 charge– that’s a whistleblower thing. And he was a publisher, and he should be defended. But his politics in 2010, trying to give advice to Donald Jr. for the campaign, you know working with, you know, that’s bad. I don’t support that at all… so that remains to be seen if he’s working with the Russians or if he’s biased with them. But he should not be prosecuted for publishing the leaks provided by Private Manning.”
(Published June 1, 2019) In an interview with Primo Nutmeg, continued…
Hawkins: “No, not for WikiLeaks. The crime is hacking. That’s a crime. Assange said he didn’t get it from the Russians. The intelligence community said the Russians did it.”
SENATOR COREY BOOKER
(Published Jan. 3, 2020) Journalist Dack Rouleau voices his concerns to Sen. Corey Booker about press freedoms and Julian Assange.
Rouleau: “I’m very concerned about the Trump Administration’s war on journalism, and I’m really disturbed about what’s happening to Julian Assange who’s being locked in solitary confinement and faces extradition to this country. So I’m wondering, as president, what are you going to do to defend this man who has done quite a bit to inform us about what our government is doing in our name.”
Booker: “This is one legal case I don’t know as much clearly as you do, so I’m to going to comment on that because I just don’t know all the facts of his case. I know if people have broken our laws that they should be held accountable. And if he has broken our laws, he should be afforded everything that people in my community, (inaudible), is fair trials, due process and the like. We have a country, as Brian Stevenson says, that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. So this individual, I’m going to make sure that we do justice by him… (diverts conversation to fake news and Obamacare) And so sir, I am going to do everything I can, of course, for due process. The media plays a very important role. But this is a little larger context within our society where we have to start addressing the erosion of our institutions, the erosion of trust, and the lurching we’re doing toward sensationalism, toward half-truths, toward misinformation is now polluting our public spheres and our most sacred spaces which are that civic discourse that is essential for a thriving democracy.”
(2016) In a video posted by Press for Truth, reporter Dan Dicks asks Sen. Corey Booker what he thought of the WikiLeaks revelations suggesting that the 2016 primary election was rigged in favor of then-candidate Hillary Clinton.
Booker: “Well, the WikiLeaks are awful and it was unfortunate and I’m glad that the DNC chair (inaudible) stepped aside.”
FORMER GOVERNOR BILL WELD
(April 16, 2019) According to an article published in the Boston Globe, former Gov. Weld spoke with voters while campaigning, and during an exchange with voters, Weld claimed he would pardon Edward Snowden but is undecided on how to address the Julian Assange case.
FORMER CONGRESSMAN BETO O’ROURKE
(Published Sept. 7, 2019) Journalist Dack Rouleau approached former Rep. Beto O’Rourke at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention and questions him on Julian Assange.
Rouleau: “Would you support Julian Assange? Would you differ from the Trump Administration in his prosecution of him?”
O’Rourke: “Look, I just make sure that we do not treat the press as the enemy of the people but that we also protect our elections, you know, our democracy from attacks (inaudible). I’m really concerned about the complicity not just between the Trump Administration and Vladimir Putin but the close connection between WikiLeaks and the Russian security services so those are my feelings on the issue. I appreciate the question.”
(May 30, 2019) In an interview with a reporter from Citizen Source published on Medium, the reporter asks former Rep. Beto O’Rourke about his stance on Julian Assange.
O’Rourke: “I want to make sure that we don’t do anything that chills the ability to hold people in positions of public trust accountable to make sure that the public and the press have the facts to make informed decisions. Those are my values without commenting on a specific case.”
SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN
(2019) In an article published in The Washington Times, Sen. Elizabeth Warren provided her perspective on Julian Assange.
Warren: “Assange is a bad actor who has harmed U.S. national security—and he should be held accountable… But Trump should not be using this case as a pretext to wage war on the First Amendment and go after the free press who hold the powerful accountable every day.”
(June 18, 2019) In a video published by journalist Dack Rouleau, Rouleau confronts Andrew Yang at a campaign event in Concord to question his perspective on Julian Assange.
Yang: “I think Julian Assange should stand trial. I’m generally pro-whistleblower and like pro-people trying to call out bad behaviors. But in that particular case he did disclose information that had really no useful purpose except for potential damage to our infrastructure (inaudible). So ya I think he should stand trial.”
SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET
(2018) In an article published on the World Socialist Web Site, it was revealed that Michael Bennet was one of 10 Democratic senators who signed a letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence demanding that the Trump Administration call upon the Ecuadorian government to revoke Julian Assange’s asylum and expel him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The letter was sent prior to Vice President Pence’s visit to Ecuador in 2018. The contents of the letter indicate that the 10 senators viewed the Vice President’s visit as a unique opportunity to encourage Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to further persecute Assange in exchange for restored US-Ecuador relations.
Near the conclusion of the letter, the 10 senators ask Pence to please relay their condolences to President Moreno for the deaths of two El Comerico journalists who were abducted in Northern Ecuador by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) a few months prior.
(Dec. 2019) Independent journalist Dack Rouleau of overwritten.org from New Hampshire, who is referenced numerous times throughout this article, confronted Bennet about his signing of this letter addressed to Mike Pence and his overall position on Julian Assange and press freedoms.
Rouleau: “You mentioned Donald Trump’s attack on freedom of the press. Now there’s no more disturbing illustration of this, for me, than the persecution of Julian Assange. You, last year, were one of 10 United States senators who wrote a letter to Vice President Pence imploring him to put pressure on the Ecuadorian government to expel Assange from the embassy in Britain. And now that we see how Assange is being tortured in Belmarsh, and knowing how he’s going to be tortured here, I’m wondering how as president you are going to make amends for this?”
Bennet: “Well, I can actually think of a more egregious example by far, which was the assassination of Khashoggi by the Saudi Arabians, who is a journalist living in the United States of America who was lured to his death in Turkey by the Saudis, whom our intelligence agencies all said was killed by the Saudi Prince. And then Donald Trump just turned his back on it– not standing up for his values. So I disagree on which was more egregious, but I think the latter, and I appreciate your asking the question.”
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
(2010) In an interview with ABC News (Australia), then-Vice President Joe Biden was asked on Meet The Press if the United States should take any measures to stop Assange.
Biden: “We’re looking at that right now. The Justice Department is taking a look at that, and I’m not going to comment on that process.”
The then-Vice President was asked if Assange is a criminal.
Biden: “If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military, that’s fundamentally different than if somebody drops on your lap—here David, you’re a press person, here is classified material.”
The anchor asks Biden if this case is more like the pentagon papers or a high-tech terrorist.
Biden: “I would argue that it’s closer to being a high-tech terrorist than the pentagon papers.”
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG
(Oct. 24, 2019) Journalist Dack Rouelau of overwritten.org questions Mayor Buttigieg during a campaign event in Bow, NH. This is the first candidate to be asked about Assange following his in-person court appearance that took place Oct. 21 in London.
Rouealu: “I’m concerned about the Trump’s administration’s war on journalism, as president will you pardon Julian Assange? Will you commute his sentence? He is dying in prison, and he badly needs support in our government. He is a prosecuted Nobel prize-nominated journalist. What will you do to help him?”
Buttigieg is standing on stage with three women seated to his left and a handful of what one may assume is supporters behind him.
Buttigieg: (takes a few steps up stage while continuing to face the audience) “Uh, I’m not going to make any commitment as a candidate to issue a pardon to any individual.”
The crowd applauds Buttigieg’s response.
(2019) In an interview with CBS radio, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was asked about Chelsea Manning being imprisoned for a second time for her refusal to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.
Buttigieg: “As somebody who was tasked with handling sensitive information, information that could get people killed I took an oath and made promises that I would handle it responsibly. And when you’re involved in divulging classified information that can harm American troops overseas that is not something to be taken lightly.”
CBS News Radio asked about former President Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence.
Buttigieg: “I’m troubled by that.”
CBS News Radio asked if NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a hero or a villain in his (Buttigieg’s) perspective.
Buttigieg: “When you are trusted with classified information you have made a promise, and if you are not comfortable safe-guarding information that could get Americans killed, then you shouldn’t be in that profession. I certainly agree that we have learned things about abuses and one way or another that needed to come out. But in my view, the way for that to come out is through congressional oversight not through a breach of classified information.”
FORMER HUD SECRETARY JULIAN CASTRO
(Published Sept. 7, 2019) At the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention, journalist Dack Rouleau approaches former HUD Secretary Julian Castro and asks him his stance on Julian Assange.
Castro: (laughs) “That’s a good question.”
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO
(Published Aug. 17, 2019) Journalist Dack Rouleau confronted Mayor de Blasio and asked if he supported Julian Assange.
de Blasio: “No I don’t honestly… because I believe very much that we have to address the issues that have been covered up, but I don’t think he did it the right way.”
Rouleau: “What do you think he could have done more effectively?”
de Blasio: “When it’s issues where people’s lives may be in danger or national security may be in danger, there has to be some kind of limit. So based on what I know, the impulse to get information out to the public that oftentimes that the government should provide but doesn’t– that’s a good impulse, but I think the way he did it is the wrong way. That’s my feeling.”
(Oct. 13, 2016) Politico published an article concerning WikiLeaks’ release of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.
Mayor Bill de Blasio provided his insight and perspective on the publications.
According to the article, Mayor de Blasio says to reporters: “I think all of us have private lives. All of us have things that are not, historically, subject to public review… And I think it creates a very, very troubling dynamic where there is no privacy of any kind anymore.”
FORMER REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DELANEY
(April 11, 2019) In a press release found on former Rep. John Delaney’s campaign website, his team includes the following:
“Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States and tried for the charge that he allegedly assisted in hacking into government systems. Journalists are free to publish information that they receive but they are not free to participate in obtaining information illegally. This is the central question in the Assange case. The U.S. government has alleged that Assange assisted in hacking critical and confidential government information and in doing so, endangered the national security interests of the U.S. citizens and the identity of U.S. intelligence assets.”
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND
(Dec. 12, 2010) According to Sen. Gillibrand’s government website, she urged then-President Obama in an open letter to crack down on “cyber-criminals” following a cyber-attack on MasterCard, Visa and PayPal.
MasterCard, Visa and PayPal unlawfully prevented WikiLeaks supporters from donating to the organization in late 2010. In retaliation, Anonymous launched Operation Payback, which consisted of distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks on PayPal following its decision to discontinue the processing of donations to the whistleblowing website, according to a report from RT.
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR
(Oct. 17, 2019) Journalist Dack Rouleau greets a smiling candidate Amy Klobuchar after a political event in Plymouth, NH. The two shake hands and Klobuchar appears cordial and warm until Rouelau asks the inevitable– if she supports Julian Assange.
Klobuchar: (smiling) “Hi.”
Rouleau: “Nice to meet you.”
The two shake hands.
Klobuchar: (still smiling) “Thank you.”
Rouleau: “Hey, do you support Julian Assange?”
Rouleau: “Will you pardon Julian Assange if you’re president?”
Klobuchar: “Uh, no (inaudible) I would not, sorry.”
Rouleau: “You would not?”
(Nov. 29, 2010) In a radio interview with WCCO’s Chad Hartman, Sen. Klobuchar encourages a tough punishment on WikiLeaks following the release of the State Department Cables.
In reference to the leak and its subsequent publication, Klobuchar said: “I think it’s an enormous story and it’s more than a story it’s actually an enormous security risk… It really undermines our efforts to work with other countries Secretary of State Clinton just went on noting that, and that it really tears at the fabric of our government when this kind of thing happens. And that’s what I’m concerned about, and that we have to make sure that the person who appears to be the original leaker here– this Private Manning who’s down the food chain here. First of all, why did she have access to all this information first of all I think that’s something we’re going to have to push but then obviously holding her responsible.”
In reference to Manning, Klobuchar said: “A lot of people believe she could get a prison term for the rest of her life, and I think that would be appropriate.”
Klobuchar: “The other piece of this is what responsibility, legal responsibility, WikiLeaks has with their website. If there’s any way we can push that to say that you can’t put illegally obtained documents up on your website, and I think that’s worth it… If we can show that the material on there was stolen that website can actually be taken down. What you do with something like WikiLeaks which has vast amount of material that’s legal and then they put on things that are illegal I mean that’s where were going to have to strike the balance and make sure that security isn’t jeopardized but this is devastating to our national security.”
CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN
(Published on Sept. 12, 2019) Journalist Dack Rouleau asks Rep. Tim Ryan for his stance on Julian Assange, and if he would pardon or commute his sentence if he were to win the presidency.
Rep. Ryan: “Yeah, I would not. Releasing important state secrets or information that you’ve gotten inappropriately is wrong, and I would not. Although, let me be clear with my position with Donald Trump, my position with Russia is very, very clear. I believe that, you know, Russia did or was involved in the elections. I think they were trying to tip the scales for Donald Trump. I think there was some level of connection between the campaign and what was happening. I’m not sure we know exactly how coordinated that was (inaudible.)”
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL
(2019) In an interview with CNN that was later published on Breitbart, Representative Eric Swalwell provided his stance on Julian Assange.
Swalwell: “It will be heartening to see Mr. Assange be brought to justice, and I also want to respect the role of journalists and distinguish him from a journalist. He works with state actors to obtain our country and other countries intelligence information and interfere in elections. So I have no sympathy for Mr. Assange with respect to what he did.”
Swalwell: “He (Trump) doesn’t commend the British for working with us to extradite Mr. Assange.”
FORMER CONGRESSMAN JOE WALSH
(2019) The day following Assange’s arrest, former Rep. Walsh went to Twitter to post his perspectives on the week’s events.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
(2016) During the 2016 US presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump famously said, “I love WikiLeaks” while on the campaign trail.
(April 11, 2019) When the president was asked if he still held the same amount of admiration for the anti-secrecy website, he adopted a much different tone than what was portrayed two years earlier.
Trump: “I know nothing about WikiLeaks, it’s not my thing. I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange. I’ve been seeing what’s happened with Assange and that will be a determination I would imagine mostly by the Attorney General who’s doing an excellent job so he will be making a determination. I know nothing really about him. It’s not my deal in life.”
(June 2013) In an appearance on Fox & Friends, which was later published in the Huffington Post, Donald Trump revealed his thoughts on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Trump: “You know there is still a thing called execution.”
GOVERNOR STEVE BULLOCK
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FORMER CONGRESSMAN JOE SESTAK
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SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS
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MAYOR WAYNE MESSAM
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GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE
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