The United States extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been confined at Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, has united MAGA member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and “Squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in protest.
The otherwise hostile duo are among 16 members of Congress who wrote President Joe Biden a letter Wednesday that urges the government to cease its persecution of Assange on the basis that his Wikileaks work is protected under the First Amendment.
Obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald, the letter argued Assange did not violate the 1917 Espionage Act, which “was ostensibly intended to punish and imprison government employees and contractors for providing or selling state secrets to enemy governments.”
The members of Congress went on to “strongly encourage your Administration to withdraw the U.S. extradition request” and “halt all prosecutorial proceedings against” Assange “as soon as possible.”
Democrat signatories included Jim McGovern, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Pramila Jaypal, Greg Casar, Jamaal Bowman, Ayanna Pressley and Jesús García; Republicans included Thomas Massie, Eric Burlison, Paul A. Gosar, Matthew Rosendale and Rand Paul.
Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006 and became a progressive darling for publishing classified documents. These included Iraq and Afghanistan War cables and chilling footage of a U.S. Apache helicopter killing a Reuters journalist.
The DOJ under then-President Barack Obama declined to bring charges against Assange in 2013. However, he was arrested in London in 2019 on a conspiracy charge not long after Ecuador terminated his diplomatic immunity status, leaving him open to extradition.
In 2022, the High Court in the U.K. ruled Assange could be extradited to the U.S.
“We believe the Department of Justice acted correctly in 2013, during your vice-presidency, when it declined to pursue charges against Mr. Assange,” stated Wednesday’s letter, which added “that the prosecution would set a dangerous precedent” for freedom of the press.
Londoners demonstrated outside court in 2019 during Assange's extradition request hearing.
It also noted the Espionage Act, which Assange would be charged with if extradited, was not created “to punish journalists and whistleblowers for attempting to inform the public about serious issues that some U.S. government officials might prefer to keep secret.”
“The United States must not pursue an unnecessary prosecution that risks criminalizing common journalistic practices and thus chilling the work of the free press,” the letter read.
The letter also argued “it is the duty of journalists to seek out sources” in order “to report to the public on the activities of the government.”
Assange, whose star among many Democrats faded after the 2016 presidential election, still has some notable supporters.
He has received vocal support in the past from figures such as director Michael Moore, Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, ex-U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg.