Political Prosecution Of Julian Assange Calls For Nonviolent Cryptographic Defense
On October 1, 2020, WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing at the Old Bailey in London came to an end. What unfolded during 18 days of hearings was a Kafkaesque show-trial of a free press, where Assange was placed behind a glass case, unable to have access to his lawyers. This is a war against journalism, and an empire’s assaults on the rights to the self-determination of people around the world.
For so long, narratives of our society have been controlled by those in power. WikiLeaks set frozen history in motion. Calling it “the rebel library of Alexandria,” Assange explained how WikiLeaks is “the single most significant collection of information about how modern institutions actually behave that doesn’t exist elsewhere, in a searchable, accessible, citable form.”
The defense witness during Assange’s extradition hearing testified on the effect of WikiLeaks in facilitating democracy. The publication of Iraq War Logs revealed the existence of an estimated 15,000 civilian casualties that were previously unknown, restoring dignity for those victims of senseless war. In a written statement, a German citizen Khalid El-Masri who mistakenly was identified as a terrorist and kidnapped and tortured by the CIA, addressed the court about how information released by WikiLeaks helped him to make his own court case and get justice.
Bitcoin has aided WikiLeaks’ quest: To bring the power to shape history into the hands of ordinary people. Appearing in the form of a hologram at The Nantucket Project conference, from inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was arbitrarily detained, Assange spoke of the significance of blockchains, Bitcoin’s underlying technology, particularly in relation to journalism and holding those in power to account.
WikiLeaks’ editor in chief described how Bitcoin’s distributed trust can be used to provide “proof of publishing at a certain time” without central authority, and the whistleblowing site utilized the censorship resistance that it enables to make its publications immune from being altered. As the prosecution of Assange continues, can this technology that helped WikiLeaks restore history now be used to defend the freedom of its founder?
Hijacking Of History
Since registering its domain on October 4, 2006, WikiLeaks has published more than 10 million documents with a pristine record of accuracy. Its publication of documents concerning the U.S. wars in the oil-rich Middle East informed the public about the rise of the military industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his farewell speech in 1961.
The release of the Collateral Murder video, depicting a U.S. military airstrike killing innocent civilians including two Reuters journalists in a suburb of Iraq, let people around the world see the faces of real victims of the U.S. War on Terror — transnational corporations’ strategic petrodollar hegemony for the conquest of territory.
“Vault 7,” the largest publication of confidential documents on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency exposed the agency’s excessive power with its ability to hack any Android or iPhone, as well as Samsung TVs and even cars, to spy on citizens. It shed further light on militarization of the internet with the penetration of intelligence agencies like the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, that came to light after the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations. Information that was brought back to historical archives revealed the unaccounted power inside the U.S., and it’s hijacking of a republic into a national security and surveillance state.
In Defense Of American Ideals
The original vision of America was articulated by Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. With ideals of equality and liberty for all people, he laid out a foundation of government based on individual rights and the rule of law. Despite the founder’s hypocrisy and contradictions — manifested in the genocide of natives, enslavement of blacks and suppression of women — it has been said that the Declaration of Independence was a promise; the Constitution was the fulfillment.
In recent years, in order to fulfill this promise, the younger generation of America came forward. Former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, the source behind WikiLeaks’ release of the largest trove of state secrets in U.S. history, indicated that she risked her personal liberty in order to “have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.” Inspired by her courage, Snowden also engaged in an act of civil disobedience to defend those ideals.
One person’s act of courage becomes contagious, creating waves of whistleblowers. The U.S. Empire came on in full force to attack those truth-tellers, by charging them under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act of 1917 is the outdated law created after World War I for wartime prosecutions. This is now weaponized to punish the publisher.
Assange has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of conspiring with a source to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for his reporting on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the torture at Guantanamo Bay. He now faces the risk of extradition to the U.S., where he would receive no fair trial. If convicted, he would be sentenced for up to 175 years in prison and be held under extremely inhumane conditions through Special Administrative Measures, known as the darkest corner of the U.S. federal prison system.
On October 31, 2008, before the tsunami of WikiLeaks disclosures began challenging the government’s secrecy, the ideals that inspired American independence were quietly being rekindled. Called “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” the white paper written by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto presented a new design for a store of value — a way to preserve the virtue of liberty more securely.
Thomas Jefferson in proclamation of America’s independence to the world wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This self-evident truth described by his words didn’t require any proof of its validity by anyone. It was based on each person’s heart-knowing, recognized by a 17-century prominent French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal when he noted; “the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”
Acknowledging the intrinsic value of individual liberty enshrined in the document, 56 delegates each through his own volition signed the Declaration. Trusting their truth confirmed in the heart, they united, putting their lives and livelihoods on the line to revolt against the British monarchy. In a similar way, early adopters of Bitcoin, each recognizing the virtue inherent in the technology, came together in freedom to uphold the value of then nascent cryptocurrency.
Whether it be religious doctrines of salvation, campaign slogans of politicians or a promissory note, we no longer want to believe. We want to know — we want to verify the truth on our own. In Bitcoin’s decentralized timestamp, each person through running a full node can participate in validating bitcoin transactions. Bitcoin educator and developer Jimmy Song elucidated on the genius of consensus algorithm at a core of Bitcoin technology:
Through the imagination of computer science, ideals that were kindled in each individual’s heart can now be proven. The self-evident truth of equality can be made universal.
The Constitution Of The Heart
In Jefferson’s vision of free society, the source of legitimacy is placed in this heart that knows this self-evident truth of equality of all people. It is from this foundation of knowledge that the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people are recognized. In Bitcoin, this premise of equality is implemented as a method of decentralization to secure fundamental rights.
Now, around this protocol of peer-to-peer digital cash, a new model of governance is emerging, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed. From wallet providers, merchants, miners and developers, each are obeying the supreme authority within themselves to participate in a grand scientific enterprise of proof-of-work to shape a course of history rooted in the consensus of We The People.
In over 10 years of existence, the Bitcoin protocol has maintained its integrity, showing its resilience against both internal and external attacks. It has survived through the block size debate; heated disputes over scaling that turned into a political battle. Legal scholar and smart contract pioneer Nick Szabo noted that the power of math can withstand brutal force:
In mid September, with hash rates rising to a record high 143.138m terahashes per second, the security of the network is becoming ever stronger. Every 10 minutes, the heart of Bitcoin beats, confirming our social contract through which each of us freely choose to oblige ourselves to one another.
Call For Cryptographic Direct Action
The crisis of legitimacy that came to light through the WikiLeaks publications has shown that the governments of the world have failed to protect human rights, repeating the injuries of the past. The patronage network of global elites with their printing presses infinitely fund their illegal wars, piling up debts and stealing from future generations. These authoritarian regimes have degraded the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, keeping the entire population in a never-ending cycle of death, slavery and the pursuit of misery.
In order to free people from their control of narratives, Assange, through his work with WikiLeaks, has helped his sources reveal history that belongs to civilization. With the shield of strong cryptography, he fiercely fought to protect whistleblowers and he sacrificed his liberty to defend the network of contagious courage.
As the conscience of truth-tellers became defenseless before the Espionage Act, Assange too has been broken down by the government’s aggressive political prosecution. The evidence read into court on the last week of his extradition hearing included U.S. intelligence sources’ plans to poison or kidnap Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy, as well as their alleged spying activities on Assange and his lawyers.
Now, once again, from London’s maximum-security prison, Assange calls on his fellow cypherpunks: “Cryptography is the ultimate form of nonviolent direct action… It is time to take up the arms of our new world, to fight for ourselves and for those we love.”
As the legal theater at the criminal court in Central London carried on its mockery of justice, showing the tyranny of the Old World of fiat, it is a duty of cypherpunks to write software to build just systems for a New World.
Cypherunks write code. Sovereign individuals run the code of their own choice and use the nodes to receive transactions to create economic activity. Together, we engage in nonviolent direct action, to take back our own power, as authors of our own lives. Now history has begun. Through our collective cryptographic defense, we can end this illegal prosecution of Julian Assange and truly realize justice and liberty for all people.
Author’s Note: Get informed about Assange’s extradition case at AssangeDefense.org and learn how to get involved to stop his prosecution at Don’tExtraditeAssange.com. Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris has launched a crowdjustice campaign to fund his legal defense. You can contribute to her cause here and also please consider donating to the WikiLeaks Official Defense Fund.
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