Assange will be punished for exposing US government lies: Journalist

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11, 2019 in London, England.

Australian journalist and WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is likely to pay a higher price than Daniel Ellsberg, who had released the Pentagon Papers about the involvement in the Vietnam war, for exposing US government lies by publishing thousands of classified documents, British journalist Patrick Cockburn has said.

Assange was arrested by British police on behalf of the US on Thursday at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had been granted asylum since 2012.

Assange, 47, is wanted by the US government for publishing classified documents related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that were leaked by American whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Assange spent seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy before his arrest.

Cockburn, an award-winning columnist for The Independent, recently described how the US military tried to cover up the July 12, 2007 massacre of Iraqi civilians by American pilots in Baghdad which was exposed when WikiLeaks published a video of the incident.

“It was known that a video of the killings taken from the helicopter existed, but the Pentagon refused to release it under the Freedom of Information Act,” he wrote.

“Plenty of people were being killed all over Iraq at the time and the incident would soon have been forgotten, except by the families of the dead, if a US soldier called Chelsea Manning had not handed over a copy of the official video to WikiLeaks which published it in 2010,” he added.

“The exposure of the Baghdad helicopter killings was the first of many revelations which explain why Julian Assange has been pursued for so long by the US and British governments,” he stated.

Manning, a transgender whistleblower, was convicted in 2013 for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which were later released by WikiLeaks.

Manning, the former US army analyst turned whistleblower, was imprisoned for seven years in relation to her WikiLeaks disclosures. Her 35-year sentence was cut short after President Barack Obama granted her clemency. Last month, Manning was arrested again after she reportedly refused to testify in a court about her interactions with WikiLeaks and Assange.

Cockburn wrote that British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is correct to say that the arrest of Assange by British police is all about “the extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.” 

“Assange is likely to pay a higher price than Ellsberg for his exposure of government secrets. The Pentagon Papers were published when the media was becoming freer across the world while now it is on the retreat as authoritarian governments replace democratic ones and democratic governments become more authoritarian,” he wrote.

“The fate of Assange will be a good guide as to how far we are going down this road and the degree to which freedom of expression is threatened in Britain at a time of deepening political crisis,” the journalist concluded.

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