New charges against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange are revenge for the embarrassment he brought on the US government and a signal to media to stay clear of US war crimes and corruption, lawyer and activist Kevin Zeese told RT.
A superseding indictment revealed by the US Justice Department on Thursday charges Assange with additional 17 counts under the US Espionage Act, a century-old document passed shortly after the US joined WWI. Assange is accused of endangering the lives of individuals who were working with the US government by releasing troves of military documents in 2010.
That's only a pretext, and the far-reaching goal is to browbeat journalists and publishers like Assange into thinking twice before covering various US government abuses, Kevin Zeese, American lawyer and political activist, believes.
"They want to frighten media into not covering US activity around the world. The US is often involved in activity that could be characterized as war crimes, certainly, atrocity, and certainly, corruption of our transnational corporations. That was all kinds of things WikiLeaks was reporting," Zeese told RT.
Having originally been intended to punish "actual" war-time traitors, the Espionage Act has now become a weapon in the Trump administration's "war on media." The release of the indictment sparked a widespread backlash from the journalistic community - something that Zeese believes has been long overdue.
US media outlets are starting to realize they are under threat, as well, having spent years trying to sink WikiLeaks, which they saw as a powerful competitor.
"Assange was democratizing the media, he was broadening the people who could report. People inside governments, inside corporations could leak classified documents anonymously and that had become news. That took away the power of the corporate media."
That being said, the US media are likely to side with the political establishment to remain in the authorities' good graces, said David Swanson, American anti-war activist and radio host.
"They find it more important to stand by the government, the establishment and treat these indictments as respectable because they come from the US government, rather than to stand up for journalism,"Swanson told RT, before assuring it will "come back to bite" them in the future.
'Dubious on many levels'
If the US government had solid evidence Assange actually endangered the people mentioned in the WikiLeaks files, it would have come up during the trial of former US Private and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, said Patrick Henningsen, journalist and Founder of 21stCenturyWire.com.
If they had anything it would have been on the table in 2010
"The government had multiple opportunities to present evidence that somehow the sources and methods were compromised or that the agents in the field were put in danger and at no point did they come forward with any evidence to back up this assertion. Instead, they came up with theoretical scenarios of what could have happened," Henningsen said, describing the attempts of the US prosecution to "reengineer" a case "dubious on many levels."
The risks to the lives of government contractors the US is describing "are vastly overstated," Arvin Vohra, former vice-chairman of the Libertarian National Committee and a 2020 presidential candidate, agreed.
Assange's main crime is that he "embarrassed the US government" and "revealed its dirty secrets," Vohra told RT, something Manning and Edward Snowden are "guilty" of as well.
Vohra believes Washington's ultimate goal is to demoralize would-be leakers once and for all.
They are trying to scare the next Assange, the next Snowden, the next Chelsea Manning.
"All they are doing is showing that Julian Assange is a great American hero, and they are showing nothing bad about Assange but causing American people to continue to lose trust and faith in the US federal government."
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