Jesselyn Radack’s Testimony to The Belmarsh Tribunal D.C. on The Case of Julian Assange

The following is the full text of Jesselyn Radack’s testimony to the Belmarsh Tribunal, on January 20,  2023 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

I’m Jesselyn Radack, I’m an attorney and I head the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. At WHISPeR, we provide pro bono legal representation to whistleblowers and media sources. I’ve defended most of the media sources in the U.S. who have been investigated and charged under the Espionage Act. 

Defendants cannot get a fair trial under the Espionage Act. In addition to the Espionage Act having no public interest defense, these cases are plagued by secrecy and defined by their Kafkaesque features. For example: 

  • I have been shut out of my own client’s unclassified hearings. 
  • The parts of hearings and trials that are public often include code words and substitutions that make the proceedings difficult for the public to understand. In one case, the government attempted to prevent defense attorneys from using the word “whistleblower” or the word “newspaper.”
  • The government routinely uses the classification rules to withhold exculpatory information from defendants. In Chelsea Manning’s case, the government withheld a damage assessment showing that her disclosures did no real harm to national security. 

Most recently, I represented whistleblower Daniel Hale as he navigated an Espionage Act prosecution in the most conservative federal court in the country – the exact same court that would try Assange.

Daniel is a veteran of the US Air Force who participated in the US drone assassination program. After leaving the Air Force, he became an outspoken opponent of the US targeted killing program and exposed how the U.S. deceives the public about the targeting, effectiveness, and casualties of the drone program – consistently exaggerating the accuracy of strikes and under-reporting civilian deaths. Daniel’s house was searched in 2014. Like Julian Assange, he lived under a Sword of Damocles for a better part of his adult life. In May 2019, drone whistleblower Daniel was arrested and indicted on allegations that he disclosed classified documents about the U.S. military’s clandestine drone program, believed to have been the source material for a series in The Intercept called “The Drone Papers”.

Daniel pleaded guilty to a single count under the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 45 months in prison. Daniel’s case is a prescient warning of how an Espionage Act case against Assange would proceed.

At sentencing, the judge recognized Daniel as a “whistleblower” and recommended that he be placed in a minimum security medical prison. But the Bureau of Prisons instead sent him to an Orwellian “Communications Management Unit” nicknamed “Gitmo North”. There are only 2 such facilities in the country. Created in the aftermath of September 11th, they were intended to house terrorists. Daniel is a pacifist with no priors. Until recently, he was housed with “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout. So when the US gives “assurances” that Assange won’t be put in a Supermax, don’t be fooled. Because he’ll end up in a far worse place.

In the CMU, Daniel is far more isolated from his support network, unable to receive the medical care he needs, and has more restrictions on his communications, reading materials, and visitors than prisoners on death row.

Earlier this year, Daniel applied to be transferred to the type of treatment program he was recommended for at sentencing, but in the CMU, the counter-terrorism unit gets a veto over such therapeutic programs. His application was denied. They still label him a threat. Meaning, even if Assange were to reach an acceptable plea agreement, Daniel’s case proves that the U.S. government can still use the prison system to retaliate. 

Assange is under attack for publishing information in the public interest, which is threat enough to the First Amendment in and of itself. But, from my extensive experience fighting the injustices in cases brought under the draconian Espionage Act, it’s abundantly clear that the Assange prosecution is also a threat to the most basic constitutional principles of fairness and due process. The charges must be dropped.