Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A placard by protesters lies on ground during the demonstration in Barcelona on January 25, 2021 against the imprisonment of Julian Assange.

A placard by protesters lies on ground during the demonstration in Barcelona on January 25, 2021 against the imprisonment of Julian Assange. (Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Free Assange' Demands Grow as Biden DOJ Says It Will Continue to Seek Extradition

"None of this is inevitable. At every step of the way, individuals with agency are actively choosing to continue the political case against Julian Assange that will have alarming consequences for journalism around the world."

Jake Johnson

Just a day after a coalition of press freedom groups urged President Joe Biden to drop his predecessor's effort to prosecute Julian Assange, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said Tuesday that the new administration intends to challenge a British judge's rejection last month of the U.S. attempt to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher.

"We continue to seek his extradition," Marc Raimondi, a spokesperson for the DOJ's National Security Division, told Reuters just days before the Friday deadline to appeal Judge Vanessa Baraitser's ruling, which denied the U.S. extradition request on the grounds that America's brutal prison system would pose a threat to Assange's life.

"I join all defenders of freedom of the press in demanding that the Biden administration drop the unconstitutional indictment of Julian Assange and accept—not appeal—the decision of the British judge not to extradite him."
—Daniel Ellsberg

Charged by the Trump Justice Department in 2019 with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for publishing classified documents that exposed U.S. war crimes overseas, Assange would likely face up to 175 years in a maximum-security prison if the extradition effort is successful.

Press freedom advocates raised alarm at Raimondi's comment and ramped up their demands that the Biden administration reverse course, warning that prosecution of Assange for journalistic activity would endanger press freedoms everywhere.

"None of this is inevitable," said Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns at Reporters Without Borders. "At every step of the way, individuals with agency are actively choosing to continue the political case against Julian Assange that will have alarming consequences for journalism around the world. It's time to free Assange."

The Courage Foundation, an organization founded to support whistleblowers and journalists, stressed in a series of tweets Tuesday that while "the U.S. may submit its Assange appeal filing by Friday to meet its deadline... one would expect a serious policy decision to be made by the new Attorney General [Merrick Garland] who, once confirmed, can review the incredibly weak case against Assange in full before making a determination."

"The incoming DOJ," the group added, "can drop the charges against Assange at any time, including after this Friday's appeal deadline."

Kevin Gosztola of Shadow Proof noted Tuesday that Raimondi's statement on Assange—who remains detained at the notorious high-security Belmarsh prison in London— "represents a departure from President Barack Obama's administration, which declined to prosecute Assange. Justice Department officials were reportedly concerned about the threat it would pose to press freedom."

"While Attorney General Eric Holder empaneled a grand jury to investigate WikiLeaks in 2010," Gosztola explained, "by the summer of 2013, Holder was reluctant to indict Assange and charges were never brought by the Obama administration."

In a letter to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson on Monday, a coalition of two dozen press freedom groups including the ACLU, Pen America, and the Committee to Protect Journalists warned that prosecution of Assange for publishing classified documents "could effectively criminalize... common journalistic practices" and called on the Biden administration to drop the charges.

It is unfortunately the case that press freedom is under threat globally," the groups wrote. "Now more than ever, it is crucial that we protect a robust and adversarial press—what Judge Murray Gurfein in the Pentagon Papers case memorably called a 'cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press'—in the United States and abroad. With this end in mind, we respectfully urge you to forgo the appeal of Judge Baraitser's ruling, and to dismiss the indictment of Mr. Assange."

Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, echoed the coalition's message in a tweet on Tuesday.

"I join all defenders of freedom of the press in demanding that the Biden administration drop the unconstitutional indictment of Julian Assange and accept—not appeal—the decision of the British judge not to extradite him," Ellsberg wrote.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'People Power Has Won The Day': Manchin Dirty Deal Defeated

The win was the result of "hundreds of national and grassroots organizations, along with concerned Americans from coast to coast, working together for the health and safety of frontline communities and a livable future for the planet," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·


Emissions Unleashed by Manchin Deal Would 'Wipe Out' Any Climate Gains: Analysis

"This analysis shows that Manchin's dirty deal directly undercuts the potential carbon savings of the IRA by fast-tracking fossil fuel projects currently waiting on permits," said Fossil Free Media's Jamie Henn.

Jessica Corbett ·


Florida Told to Brace for Deadly Impact as Ian Expected to Become Category 4 Hurricane

The Tampa Bay area has long been a "sitting duck for catastrophic storm surge and has dodged several bullets," said one climate scientist. "Might not be so lucky this time."

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressives Applaud Biden for Lowering Medicare Part B Premiums

"Democrats want to expand Social Security and Medicare," said one advocate. "Republicans want to cut, privatize, and ultimately end both programs."

Kenny Stancil ·


Suit Against Student Debt Relief Slammed as 'Transparently Frivolous Publicity Stunt'

"Why would this group bring this baseless claim?" asked the White House. "Because opponents of the debt relief plan are trying anything they can to stop this program that will provide needed relief to working families."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo