Renowned human rights attorney Jesselyn Raddack, known for her work protecting whistleblowers and journalists, on Thursday spoke out about the injustice in cases brought under the Espionage Act. Speaking at a National Press Club event calling for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Raddack talked about her extensive experience defending media sources who have been investigated and charged under the Espionage Act, which she believes prevents defendants from getting a fair trial.
Raddack, who is the director of national security and human rights at Expose Facts, has defended the most number of media sources in the U.S. who have faced charges under the Espionage Act. She highlighted how these cases are played by secrecy and defined by esoteric features. She mentioned how in one case, the government tried to prevent defense attorneys from using the word whistleblower or newspaper.
Raddack’s recent high-profile case was representing a U.S. Air Force veteran named Daniel Hale who participated in the U.S. drone assassination program. After leaving the air force, Daniel became an outspoken opponent of the U.S. targeted killing program and called out the targeting ineffectiveness, casualties, and exaggerating the accuracy of drone strikes and under-reporting civilian deaths. In 2014, his house was searched, and in 2019 he was finally arrested and indicted on allegations that he disclosed classified documents to the U.S. military clandestine drone program, believed to have been the source material for a series in the Intercept called the Drone Papers.
At sentencing, the judge recognized that Daniel Hale was a whistleblower and recommended that he be placed in a minimum-security medical prison. However, the Bureau of Prisons instead sent him to an Orwellian Communications Management Unit nicknamed Gitmo North, which was created in the aftermath of 9/11 to house terrorists. Raddack believes that Daniel’s case is a warning about how an Espionage Act case against Assange would proceed. She pointed out that even if Assange were to reach an acceptable plea agreement, the U.S. government could still use the prison system to retaliate against him.
Raddack emphasized that Assange is under attack for publishing information in the public interest, which is a threat enough to the First Amendment in and of itself. From her extensive experience fighting the injustice in cases brought under the Espionage Act, Raddack believes that the Assange prosecution is also a threat to the most basic constitutional principles of various and due process. She called for the charges against Assange to be dropped immediately.
Raddack’s speech highlighted the need to protect whistleblowers and journalists, who play a crucial role in holding the powerful accountable. Her work defending those who speak out against government wrongdoing is a reminder of the importance of protecting free speech and ensuring that those who risk their safety to expose the truth are not silenced or punished for doing so.