This letter was sent to Peter Pyke of Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland on 25 November 2019.
Thank you for your invitation to attend the Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland Network event on Wednesday night in Brisbane. I am unfortunately unable to attend as I will be working overseas.
While I hold serious reservations about Mr Assange’s character and his conduct, I nonetheless share some of the concerns that have been raised about his potential extradition to face an effective life sentence, or worse, in the United States.
Judging from the indictment published in May, US prosecutors appear to have levelled no specific allegation that anyone came to serious harm as a consequence of these leaks.
If their case is essentially that Mr Assange broke the law by obtaining and disclosing secret information, then I struggle to see what separates him from any journalist who solicits, obtains and publishes such information. This includes the editors of the many American media outlets that reported the material that Mr Assange provided them.
In other words, why should Mr Assange be tried, convicted and incarcerated while those who publicly released the information are afforded protection under provisions of the US constitution concerning press freedom?
Ultimate responsibility for keeping sensitive information secure rests with governments. As a former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, I am deeply opposed to the leaking of classified diplomatic or intelligence communications. They are classified for a purpose, namely to maintain our national security and that of our allies.
Nonetheless, the United States government demonstrably failed to effectively secure the classified documents relevant to this case. The result was the mass leaking of sensitive diplomatic cables, including some that caused me some political discomfort at the time. However, an effective life sentence is an unacceptable and disproportionate price to pay. I would therefore oppose his extradition.
There is also another important dimension to all this. In the very rare circumstances that the internal complaint systems within governments are corrupted, it is important that genuine whistle-blowers have the last resort of going to the media. While I do not believe that was the case with Mr Assange’s actions, I am nonetheless deeply mindful of the wider principle at stake.
The Hon. Kevin Rudd AC