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If Assange Is Extradited Here He Can Beat The Charges And Save Investigative Journalism

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

Julian Assange has been indicted again for what many believe to be criminalizing investigative journalism. There is a large movement to support him and block his extradition. The goal is to ensure that Assange never reaches the American Court System. This is a misguided strategy.

From Assange's personal legal perspective, stopping extradition is great. He'll merely serve out his sentence in the United Kingdom for bail jumping and avoid costly trials and potential imprisonment in the United States. It gives Assange his freedom, but it doesn't void the indictments. It also doesn't stop the government for indicting others under this form of legal reasoning.

Here's what will happen if Assange is extradited. First, pre-trial motions can be filed to dismiss charges and challenge the constitutionality of the indictment. Some of these can even be fought to the Supreme Court. They can win there. If they don't, then go to trial. Just one juror refusing to convict will lead to a mistrial and potential freedom or another trial again. Or the jurors can agree to acquit. Either way a case like Assange's has a good chance of succeeding. Suppose he's convicted. The appeals process begins and they can then challenge the constitutionality of the charges again.

If Assange is not extradited, think of what happens. The indictment stands unchallenged. If indictments like this stand, what is next? Can the definitions of classified information expand? Can state and local governments create similar laws? Combine this with newly revamped Ag-Gag laws and we can be in serious trouble. This is a showdown that anyone who supports investigative journalism should be willing to fight now.

Truth to be told, many journalists primed segments of the American public to attack any potential mishandling of classified information with moves like their aggressive coverage of Hillary Clinton's so-called email scandal. Many journalists also supported the expanded national security state that cloaked more activities under secrecy and increased the penalties for them. Nice moves.

We're far down a slippery slope, but it's not too late. If journalists fight back and educate the public, they can make this a national issue. Elected officials could be pressured to rectify this problem. The DOJ could drop the charges.

Time to unwind the past two decades of Patriot Act style encroachments on civil liberties. The Assange trial should be the start of that movement.

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