It should not surprise Americans that our government is seeking to jail the journalist Julian Assange for publishing embarrassing secret documents that expose criminal acts by our government both here and abroad.
In truth, and despite the First Amendment prohibition against any law abridging the freedom of the press, there is a long history in our country of the government doing just that.
John Adams jailed journalists for criticizing his conduct as president. Andrew Jackson jailed a New Orleans editorialist for criticizing his conduct as military governor there. Abraham Lincoln sent troops to shut down hundreds of newspapers and imprison publishers who criticized his war against the South. Woodrow Wilson jailed gospel ministers, writers, and even a film producer after they opposed his dragging our nation into World War I. Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to prosecute the Chicago Tribune for espionage. Richard Nixon used the courts to try to stop newspapers from publishing the Pentagon Papers, leaked by the brave Daniel Ellsberg, which documented the government lies used to draw us into the Vietnam War.
More recently, our military has been used to bomb media outlets overseas, and kidnap journalists, some to Gitmo, who published critical reports about our wars on the other side of the globe.
Julian Assange and Wikileaks have done a great service to the American people by publishing leaked documents that expose our government’s kidnappings, murders, tortures, illegal spying, criminal hacking and other misconduct here and abroad. In 2016, Wikileaks published secret documents that showed how the Hillary Clinton campaign clandestinely corrupted the Democratic primary process to obtain the nomination. Most amazingly, they also revealed how Clinton secretly manipulated the media into promoting Trump’s primary campaign, thinking that Trump would be the easiest Republican nominee to defeat.
Contrary to what our government has alleged, Assange has been very careful to redact names of those who might be physically harmed by their disclosure, and not a single instance has been provided where his publications have resulted in such damage.
In short, Assange has done what journalists are supposed to do: report the truth about government misconduct that it wishes to conceal from its own citizens and the world.
It is preposterous, and very dangerous, to accuse a journalist of “espionage” for reporting government secrets. Several of the power elites in Washington have even called for his murder.
Recently, many prominent and respected American journalists have warned that the government’s prosecution of Assange will not end with him, but will metastasize throughout the American news media, with the government next going after stateside journalists who have been doing the same sort of vital reporting as Assange and Wikileaks.
All of this is of some personal moment to me, because almost three decades ago, I was arrested and charged for the “crime” of committing journalism here in Greenwood. That was at the very start of The Taxpayers Channel, and its memory comes back to me, over and over, as I have watched with great distress this pernicious pursuit of Assange by the government, revealing its antipathy to journalism that exposes wrongdoing by the state.
But many Americans seem to take the view that exposing government crimes is somehow disloyal or treasonous. I can only ask, What sort of “patriotism” is that?
True patriots are eager to be informed by journalists such as Assange, because only by confronting head-on the wrongdoing of our government, and being equipped with the truth, can we rightly perform our duties as citizens in choosing our leaders, and holding them to account when they go astray.
So I will continue to pray for Mr. Assange’s release from prison, so that he can go back to doing what he has done so well in the past: receiving and reporting on government secrets that disclose criminal wrongdoing by our leaders.
I urge everyone who cares about the truth, and who wants to see things as they are, eyes wide open, to work for Mr. Assange’s freedom. I pray that he will be saved, in every sense of the word, from the clutches of the wicked men who have tried to silence him.
• John Pittman Hey is a software developer and manages The Taxpayers Channel. He also preaches at Grace Bible Church in Greenwood.