Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg joined other leading journalists, attorneys and human rights defenders to call on the Biden administration to drop its extradition request and indictment against journalist and WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, citing the grave threat Assange’s prosecution would pose to journalism worldwide.
“Every empire requires secrecy to cloak its acts of violence that maintain it as an empire,” Ellsberg testified during the Belmarsh Tribunal held on January 20 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The tribunal is named after London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, where Assange has been held for nearly four years, fighting extradition to the United States. The Belmarsh Tribunal, inspired by the Russell-Sartre tribunal of the Vietnam War, was sponsored by Democracy Now!, Defending Rights & Dissent, Courage Foundation, DiEM25, The Intercept, The Nation and PEN International.
Assange is charged with violations of the Espionage Act for exposing evidence of U.S. war crimes and faces 175 years in prison if convicted.
The right to strike is on trial in the Supreme Court. At stake is a 64-year-old precedent that shields workers and unions from state lawsuits while they pursue unfair labor practice claims in the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If unions have to defend against costly lawsuits, it will likely discourage them from going on strike.
On January 10, the high court heard oral arguments in Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174. The case involves a 2017 strike called by a Teamsters local against Glacier Northwest, a ready-mix concrete company in Seattle. Eighty-five truck drivers walked off the job. Sixteen of them whose trucks had been loaded with cement but hadn’t made their deliveries returned the trucks to the employer, leaving the trucks running to prevent the concrete from hardening. Glacier was unable to deliver all of the concrete and had to dispose of it. The trucks, however, were not damaged.
“The current U.S. government, the one of Joseph Biden, of all those that the Cuban Revolution has known, is the one that has most aggressively and effectively applied the economic blockade,” Carlos Fernández de Cossío, vice minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, declared in a speech on December 14. “It is the one that punishes the most, the one that causes the most damage to the daily life of Cubans and the economy as a whole.”
Fernández de Cossío cited the disruption of Cuba’s fuel receipt by sea, and economic depression resulting in the “extraordinary flow of Cuban migrants” as examples of the severe harms that Cubans have faced due to the Biden administration’s implementation of the blockade.
In his address at a conversation series on “Cuba in the Foreign Policy of the United States of America,” held on December 14 at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana, Fernández de Cossío took aim at the Biden administration’s enforcement of the blockade against Cuba, stating, “there can be no doubt that the economic blockade is the defining factor in the bilateral relations” between the United States and Cuba.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in for his sixth term as prime minister of Israel. While his prior tenures resulted in the commission of war crimes against the Palestinian people, Netanyahu’s new regime promises to be the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history.
Netanyahu won reelection despite facing criminal charges for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
In order to secure a sixth term, Netanyahu made a devil’s bargain with the extreme right-wing religious elements in Israel. Aside from Netanyahu’s largely secular Likud Party, all other parties in his new coalition are religious, with two of them representing ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis, or Haredim.
For the first time in the history of the United States, a committee of Congress has recommended to the Department of Justice that it prosecute a former U.S. president. The bipartisan Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol unanimously referred four federal criminal charges against Donald Trump to the Justice Department.
One of the charges — “Incite,” “Assist” or “Aid and Comfort” an Insurrection — has not been used since the Civil War. It would lay the groundwork to disqualify Trump from running for president. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits anyone who has committed “insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States” from holding elected office.
The select committee also urged the Justice Department to charge Trump with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Conspiracy to Make a False Statement.
Nearly two years have passed since the International Criminal Court (ICC) began investigating war crimes committed in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. But the ICC has yet to take concrete steps to move the investigation forward.
Frustrated with the glacial pace of the ICC’s investigation and the lack of clarity about how and when the investigation will proceed, three Palestinian human rights organizations issued a joint statement to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (the management body of the ICC) on December 6, saying, “We have not seen any concrete step in this investigation, no action by the Prosecutor to break the vicious cycle of impunity.”
They added, “The situation on the ground is deteriorating year after year, month after month, day after day. We feel that we have been left alone in our struggle. And Palestinian victims are losing hope.”
Award-winning journalist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison for 41 years in a case infused with racism. The 68-year-old is a former Black Panther and the author of a dozen books, including the celebrated Live from Death Row. After his 1982 conviction in the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner, Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death. In 2011, his sentence was reduced to life without the possibility of parole. Abu-Jamal has a serious heart condition and other life-threatening health problems.
Faulkner stopped Abu-Jamal’s younger brother William Cook on the morning of December 9, 1981. Abu-Jamal, who was driving a taxi, coincidentally drove by and came to his brother’s assistance. Following a shootout, Faulkner was shot and killed. Abu-Jamal was shot in the stomach.
On December 16, Judge Lucretia Clemons in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas will decide whether Abu-Jamal will receive a new trial. His attorneys, Judith Ritter, Samuel Spital and Bret Grote, argue that if the jury had heard newly discovered evidence that was withheld from him and not presented at his murder trial, Abu-Jamal would not have been convicted. On October 26, Clemons indicated her intent to deny Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial but she will make a final decision on December 16 after hearing from the parties in the case.
On December 7, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could deliver control of elections to partisan state legislatures and spell the end of state court oversight of voting rules — a form of judicial review that has been in place for more than two centuries. As a result, protections for the right to vote that are enshrined in nearly every state constitution will be in jeopardy.
Former appeals court judge J. Michael Luttig, a highly respected conservative, called this “the most important case for American democracy” in U.S. history.
In a stunning development earlier this week, The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, DER SPIEGEL and El País signed a joint open letter calling on the U.S. government to dismiss the Espionage Act charges against Julian Assange for publishing classified military and diplomatic secrets.
“Publishing is not a crime,” the letter states. “The U.S. government should end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.”
This forceful statement in support of Assange comes in a moment when other powerful advocates globally have also stepped forward in defense of the WikiLeaks publisher. Both Brazilian President-elect Lula da Silva and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are calling for dismissal of the charges against Assange. “May Assange be released from his unjust prison,” Lula said.
Assange’s appeal of the order to extradite him to the United States is pending in the U.K. High Court. For the past three and a half years, Assange has languished in a London high-security prison while he fights extradition to answer charges under the Espionage Act. Assange faces 175 years in a maximum-security U.S. prison if convicted.
Recent exposés have uncovered an emerging pattern of improper lobbying of right-wing Supreme Court justices by wealthy evangelicals. They reveal serious threats to the independence of the judiciary. But equally alarming is that the Supreme Court is unconstrained by a code of judicial ethics.
From 1995 to 2018, the right-wing evangelical nonprofit Faith and Action executed “Operation Higher Court.” It was an organized and systematic campaign “to wine, dine and entertain conservative Supreme Court justices while pushing conservative positions” on social issues pending before the court, Politico reports.
Faith and Action “would rehearse lines” in order “to influence the justices while steering clear of the specifics of cases pending before the court.” Faith and Action reportedly arranged for 20 couples to travel to Washington, D.C. to wine and dine Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
In 2014, Alito dined with evangelical lobbyists who left with inside knowledge that Burwell v. Hobby Lobby would go their way. Sure enough, three weeks later, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Hobby Lobby, holding that corporations that claim religious objections can refuse to fund contraception required by the Affordable Care Act. Alito wrote the majority opinion.
Alito authored the court’s decision once again in 2022, this time in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Four months before Dobbs came down, Alito’s draft majority opinion was leaked to Politico. The final opinion largely tracked the draft.
It is likely not a coincidence that both decisions served the conservative evangelical agenda and both were leaked by people with advance knowledge of the results. Although the right-wing members of the court had probably already made up their minds in these two cases, the leaks were apparently designed to strengthen their resolve.