The prosecution of Julian Assange is investigated on FOUR CORNERS

Four Corners
Source: ABC

FOUR CORNERS: HERO OR VILLAIN

THE PROSECUTION OF JULIAN ASSANGE

“I suppose very flawed personalities often are the engineers of history and I think Julian Assange is one.” Editor

Julian Assange is one of the most influential figures to emerge this century. The Australian born founder of WikiLeaks has harnessed the technology of the digital age to unleash an information war against governments and corporations.

“There had, I think at that point, never been a leak of sensitive material on this scale.”  Former newspaper editor

WikiLeaks has collaborated with anonymous sources to release highly classified and often deeply embarrassing information to the world.

The organisation exploded onto the world stage in 2010 when it began publishing a series of spectacular leaks laying bare the conduct of the United States.  At the centre of it all was Julian Assange.

“Everybody wanted to meet him.   It was like having an audience with him…It was rockstar combined with a James Bond type of vibe.”  Former colleague

The leaks sparked ferocious debate over the right to know and the right to keep secrets.

“I don't see Julian Assange as this great crusader of transparency. I see him as a reckless narcissist.”  Former State Dept official

Now Julian Assange is in the fight of his life.    In April this year he was dragged, protesting, from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, nearly seven years after seeking diplomatic protection.

“Julian Assange was the most hunted man on earth when he came to our embassy. It was his last resort.”  Former Ecuadorian diplomat

He is facing extradition to the United States on espionage charges stemming from the spectacular 2010 leaks by Private Chelsea Manning.

“I do think that there is a very strong case against Julian Assange for what he did.” Former US Assist Secretary of State

Everyone has an opinion about Julian Assange, but now you will hear from those who have been on the inside.

“They tried to break him down. Every moment, every movement, every minute of Julian’s stay was recorded.”  Former Ecuadorian diplomat

On Monday Four Corners investigates the prosecution of Julian Assange in key interviews with those at the heart of WikiLeaks and those who have sought to bring him to US justice. These insider accounts give powerful insights into how these momentous events have unfolded.

“There was this big discussion inside the government on whether Julian Assange could be prosecuted either for the publication of the materials that Chelsea Manning stole, or for helping her steal it.” Former US Dept of Justice spokesperson

A picture emerges of a polarising figure lauded or dismissed as a hero or a villain.

“He's quixotic, charming, brilliant, intolerable, maverick, difficult, impossible, narcissistic, entrepreneurial, vindictive. I mean, we could go on all night.”   Former Editor & collaborator

Over two parts, the program examines the conduct of Assange, and WikiLeaks.   The first episode investigates the Manning leaks that are now central to the charges.  The second interrogates Assange’s role in the 2016 US Presidential election and the aggressive pursuit of the WikiLeaks founder by the Trump administration.

“The FBI wanted to come here and question me about the relationship between Julian and Chelsea Manning. And it is about the illegal reception and publication of secret information.”  Former colleague

With the legal fight in full swing, Assange’s supporters, even some of his critics, warn that his prosecution marks a very dangerous new chapter for freedom of speech and the public’s right to know.

“A line has been drawn in the sand and either you are going to support Julian and fight this retribution and those indictments, or you basically step back and the lights will go out. That's how serious it is.”  Friend and colleague

Four Corners is replayed on Tuesday 23rd July at 1.00pm and Wednesday 24th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.

Hero or Villain: The prosecution of Julian Assange, reported by Michael Brissenden, goes to air on Monday 22nd July at 8.30pm and part two will air Monday 29th July at 8.30pm