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Julian Assange: Former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper says ‘justice served’ for ‘illegal’ act

Latika M Bourke 
The Nightly
Julian Assange has walked out of a US District Court as a ‘free man’ after pleading guilty to espionage and is now on his way to Australia.

One of the United States most respected voices in the national security community, Jim Clapper has said he believes justice has been served for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Clapper, a retired lieutenant general with the US Air Force held various positions with US intelligence agencies, beginning in the mid-nineties when he directed the Defence Intelligence Agency.

At the time Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of secret US cables in 2008, Clapper was under secretary of Defence for Intelligence and then went on to be Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence.

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He told The Nightly that Assange put human sources in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk.

“What he did was wrong and illegal,” Clapper said.

“A federal grand jury saw fit to indict him for 18 counts of espionage.

“Our concern in the intelligence community was the compromise of Iraqis and Afghans who were helping the US, or compromise of sources and methods.”

Clapper said he believed that the Australian had served his time.

“That said, I believe justice was served; this is my own personal view, and does not reflect the collective view of the US intelligence community.

“He served over five years in a UK jail, and seven years of confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy before that, so he has done his time.

“This is a class example of the need for transparency versus the need for security.

“There are compelling arguments on both sides.”

Assange walked out of Belmarsh prison and boarded a flight out of the UK on Monday after years of appealing his extradition to the United States to face charges relating to the WikiLeaks publications more than a decade ago.

He pleaded guilty in US territory in the Pacific before boarding a flight to his native Australia where his wife Stella Assange had already landed.

UK sources said the breakthrough was made easier because the UK government is in purdah, meaning it was easier for British officials to organise the complex logistics involved with the extradition.

It provides an important reprieve for Labour Leader Keir Starmer who has been keen to burnish his security credentials to the British public and allies, to contrast with the hard-left positions of former Leader Jeremy Corbyn who was a major supporter of Assange’s.

The Labour leader, who is widely expected to win power on July 5, would have been under huge pressure from the left wing of his party to stop Assange’s extradition to the United States, in an echo of the dynamic in Australia, that propelled Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to successfully lobby US President Joe Biden for the Australian’s release.

Australian QC Geoffrey Robertson told UK media that he believed the Biden Administration had “thrown in the towel” ahead of the UK election.

“Because they know, as everyone else knows, that we are going to have a Starmer government next week and they couldn’t rely on a Labour government to put him on a plane,” Robertson told the Telegraph.

But in never-before-reported comments, the opposition’s foreign spokesman David Lammy told this correspondent in an interview that a Labour government would not seek to reverse Assange’s extradition.

“I don’t see a reversal of that at this stage, no, it’s not been top of my in-tray so I see no case for reversal,” he told me in an interview in late 2022.

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said that Assange was released on bail after a secret court hearing last Thursday.

Prosecutors said they were first made aware of the plea deal in March this year.

Stephen Parkinson, Director of Public Prosecutions said Assange’s case had taken up considerable time and resources from the English criminal justice system over the the 14 years of its involvement in the saga.

“The intended outcome of the plea agreement will be to accomplish the primary objective of delivering justice,” he said.

“It will also save the continuing substantial resource outlay involved in litigating this matter further in England.”

Assange was pursued by the Trump Administration and in particular former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo, who has endorsed Trump for re-election and not ruled out serving in a second Trump Administration, has not commented on Assange’s release.

But images of the WikiLeaks founder walking free and en route to Australia, riled Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence who said that Assange should have been “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The Biden administration’s plea deal with Assange is a miscarriage of justice and dishonours the service and sacrifice of the men and women of our Armed Forces and their families,” Pence said.

“There should be no plea deals to avoid prison for anyone that endangers the security of our military or the national security of the United States.

“Ever.”

Figures around the world welcomed Assange’s release, including Mexico and Brazil’s leaders.

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