According to WikiLeaks, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has called on WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange to testify.
According to a tweet from the official WikiLeaks Twitter account, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has been called to testify before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. WikiLeaks says its legal team is “considering the offer but the conditions must conform to a high ethical standard.”
BREAKING: US Senate Intelligence Committee calls editor @JulianAssange to testify. Letter delivered via US embassy in London. WikiLeaks' legal team say they are "considering the offer but the conditions must conform to a high ethical standard". Also: https://t.co/pPf0GTjTlp pic.twitter.com/gQIUstbGbq
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 8, 2018
The letter allegedly sent by the U.S. Intelligence Committee reads:
Dear Mr. Assange:
As you are aware, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is conducting a bipartisan inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. As part of that inquiry, the Committee requests that you make yourself available for a closed interview with bipartisan Committee staff at a mutually agreeable time and location.
Please respond in writing upon receipt of this letter. If you have any questions about this letter, please contact Committee counsel at 202-224-1700.
Richard Burr, Chairman
Mark R. Warner, Vice Chairman
The tweet from WikiLeaks references an article by Human Rights Watch from June titled “UK Should Reject Extraditing Julian Assange to US.” The article argues that Assange should not face extradition to the U.S. and that the U.K. government should remove the threat of complying with any extradition orders against Assange.
The article states:
While some admire and others despise Assange, no one should be prosecuted under the antiquated Espionage Act for publishing leaked government documents. That 1917 statute was designed to punish people who leaked secrets to a foreign government, not to the media, and allows no defense or mitigation of punishment on the basis that public interest served by some leaks may outweigh any harm to national security.
The US grand jury investigation of Assange under the Espionage Act was apparently based on his publishing the leaks for which Chelsea Manning, a former US army soldier, was convicted. Her sentence was commuted.
The publication of leaks—particularly leaks that show potential government wrongdoing or human rights abuse—is a critical function of a free press in a democratic society. The vague and sweeping provisions of the Espionage Act remain ready to be used against other publishers and journalists, whether they be Wikileaks or the New York Times.
The article finishes by calling for the UK government to remove the threat of possible extradition:
In 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Assange’s stay in the Ecuadorean embassy, enforced by the alternative of his potential extradition to the US, to be an arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Ecuador, offended by Assange’s political comments, this year has denied him internet access and visitors, other than occasional contact with his lawyers. Ecuador denied Human Rights Watch permission to visit him this May. Concern is growing over his access to medical care. His asylum is growing more difficult to distinguish from detention.
The UK has the power to resolve concerns over his isolation, health, and confinement by removing the threat of extradition for publishing newsworthy leaks. It should do so before another year passes.