Julian Assange told journalist Journalist Charles Glass that he regrets that “WikiLeaks can no longer expose war crimes and corruption as in the past”.
Charles Glass visited Assange just before Christmas at Belmarsh prison in London where the WikiLeaks founder has been incarcerated for over four and a half years as the US government pursues extradition.
“Now is an important time for whistleblowers to send documents to WikiLeaks.”
However, Assange shared his regret that WikiLeaks can no longer expose war crimes and corruption as in the past. He believes that the U.S. government’s war on WikiLeaks has had a considerable impact in convincing whistleblowers to steer clear of submitting documents to the organization. Assange also fears that “other media outlets are not filling the vacuum.”
Assange faces 18 criminal charges in the U.S., 17 of which fall under the country’s Espionage Act. All the charges involve the publication of classified documents from the U.S. government in 2010 and 2011.
The U.S. government has lumped WikiLeaks with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and various terrorist groups. A counterintelligence strategy document signed [PDF] by President Donald Trump in 2020 singled out “ideologically motivated entities, such as hacktivists, activists, and public disclosure organizations” as “significant threats.”
Crown prosecutors, who insist that Assange should be extradited for engaging in acts of journalism, cast WikiLeaks as a criminal enterprise:
“Wikileaks is in the business of encouraging individuals to hack into computers. WikiLeaks’ very purpose and design was to recruit persons to break the law — by circumventing classification restrictions and computer and access restrictions.”
Glass himself experienced firsthand the lengths that the U.S. would go to render WikiLeaks inoperable. He is one of four Americans who sued the CIA for targeting them when they visited Assange while he was living under asylum in the Ecuador embassy in London.
Under CIA director Mike Pompeo, the agency labeled WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” Treating WikiLeaks as a rival spy service enabled the CIA to mount “offensive counterintelligence” operations free of any oversight.
Actions undertaken, as Yahoo! News reported in 2021, included the targeting of WikiLeaks’ “digital infrastructure.” Agents had a green light to provoke “internal disputes within the organization by planting damaging information.” Sources further alleged that the CIA was allowed to steal the electronic devices of WikiLeaks staff and that agency officials allegedly sketched out plans to kidnap or poison Assange.
Glass’ prison visit before Christmas was the first time that he had seen the former WikiLeaks editor-in-chief at Belmarsh. He last visited Assange six years ago.
“You’re pale,” Glass told Assange. And with a “mischievous smile,” Assange joked, “They call it prison pale.”
The report from Glass further elaborated on Assange’s health:
“His paleness is best described as deathly, and the reason he looks so unwell is because he has not seen the sun since he was transported to the prison on April 11, 2019.
“Warders confine him to a cell for 23 out of every 24 hours. His single hour of recreation takes place within four walls, under supervision.”
The food that is available at Belmarsh consists of “porridge for breakfast, thin soup for lunch, and not much else for dinner.”
It is difficult for prisoners to obtain healthy food, even during time with visitors. Glass tried to buy Assange a sandwich, but the booth that sells food and drinks to visitors was all out of sandwiches.