TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Donald Trump has not only continued his predecessor’s crackdown on whistleblowers, but ramped up the effort, John Kiriakou told RT. He said Julian Assange should sit tight unless he wants to end up in a US jail.
Hopes that WikiLeaks co-founder Assange will be able to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy after five years of effective imprisonment have reemerged amid reports he has been granted an ID card, and potentially citizenship, by the Latin American country on Wednesday.
However, the UK Foreign Office rejected the request by the Ecuadorian government to grant the Australian diplomatic status, meaning he would not be immune from prosecution if he leaves the embassy, British media report, citing a Foreign Office spokesman.
Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst turned whistleblower, told RT the UK government has likely been under “great pressure” from Washington to make sure Assange is snatched the moment he steps outside the embassy and is eventually extradited to the US.
“It’s a worst kept secret in Washington that Julian is likely slated to begin working his way through the US judicial process if he ever leaves the embassy. And I think the Americans told the British under no terms should Julian leave the embassy on his own free will,”Kiriakou said.
Pointing out that the UK’s official reasoning for arresting Assange, namely for breaching his bail conditions by seeking asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy, is “very weak,” Kiriakou argued that “nobody in the British Foreign Office would care if his name was not Julian Assange.”
The refusal of the UK government to let Assange go after the initial sex assault investigation by Sweden was dropped indicates the UK has been doing the job for the US.
“The British are quietly and secretly working with the Americans to make sure Julian is arrested and send to the United States for trial which I think is a travesty,” Kiriakou said. Judging by Trump’s first year in office, he has been following into the footsteps of Barack Obama in his crusade against whistleblowers, he added.
NSA whistleblower Reality Leigh Winner, who was denied bail and has been held in jail in Georgia since June for leaking a classified report into alleged Russian meddling in the US elections, is just one example of the Trump administration tightening its grip over the issue, Kiriakou said.
“Even Barack Obama didn’t ask that any of us be held without bail, so I think that this is really a continuation of a very dangerous and a wrong-headed policy to target whistleblowers.”
“Julian is one of the biggest international whistleblowers and I think that they want his head on a platter,” he said.
Under the current US administration and UK authorities keen to do Washington’s bidding, there is little chance Assange can leave the embassy and be secure, Kiriakou argued.
“Julian has to try to be as patient as possible. The Ecuadorian government has to be even more patient than Julian and hope that there’s a change in government either in the UK or in the US that’ll allow him to just leave the embassy and go to the airport and fly to Ecuador.”