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Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States, UK court rules

CIA first planned to assassinate the journalist

A British court ruled earlier today that Julian Assange can be extradited to the U.S. for espionage charges.

The charges stem from WikiLeaks' 2010 publication of American diplomatic cables and military documents from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The stories were published in partnership with The New York Times, The Guardian, and several other papers, and for a short time, the world considered Assange a hero. Then the whistleblower published Hillary Clinton's emails (a month before the 2016 election, no less) which hurt the candidate's chances and made Assange a pariah among the mainstream press and politicians.

The following year, the Trump Administration and CIA brainstormed extrajudicial means to deal with the journalistic menace, as reported by Yahoo News:

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[I]n the midst of the debate over kidnapping and other extreme measures, the agency’s plans were upended when U.S. officials picked up what they viewed as alarming reports that Russian intelligence operatives were preparing to sneak Assange out of the United Kingdom and spirit him away to Moscow...

[T]he CIA and the White House began preparing for a number of scenarios to foil Assange’s Russian departure plans, according to three former officials. Those included potential gun battles with Kremlin operatives on the streets of London, crashing a car into a Russian diplomatic vehicle transporting Assange and then grabbing him, and shooting out the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange before it could take off for Moscow. (U.S. officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed, according to a former senior administration official.)

"There seemed to be no boundaries" as to what the Trump administration might do to Assange, according to the Yahoo News report. "Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing Assange, going so far as to request 'sketches' or 'options' for how to assassinate him."

Between June 2012 and April 2019, Julian Assange had been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (he was kicked out after WikiLeaks reported on a corruption scandal involving Ecuadorian President Moreno). Assange is currently a resident of Belmarsh Prison in London.

In January of this year, a lower court ruled that Assange couldn't be extradited to the United States, citing poor conditions in American prisons and his fragile mental state. The real issue, of course, is whether or not the government can prosecute a journalist for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Barring any further appeals from Assange, it looks like that question will soon get its day in an American court.

Julian Assange is dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2019

Julian Assange is dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2019