United States’ former national security agency chief has faced questions about calls for the Australian government to intervene in the impending extradition of Julian Assange.
United Kingdom Home Secretary Priti Patel last month approved the Wikileaks founder’s extradition to the US where he is wanted on 18 charges, including espionage and hacking.
If convicted, lawyers for the 50-year-old Australian have said he could face a jail term of 170 years. US lawyers said he would more likely face four to six years in jail.
to intervene in the case to prevent Mr Assange from being handed over to the US.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Friday, former four-star Admiral Michael Rogers – who headed the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command under presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump – was asked about his view on making such a request of an ally.
“There’s a group of federal MPs across the government, the opposition, and the crossbench who are calling for the Australian government to formally ask the US to drop the charges against Julian Assange,” SBS World News Chief Political Correspondent Anna Henderson said.
“What is your view of the risks and challenges associated with that, for a foreign government to make that request of an ally? And, do you think that at this point, the US would entertain considering that, given your background?”
Admiral Rogers said that allies “should not necessarily feel constrained”.
Former US National Security Agency Chief Admiral Michael Rogers addresses the National Press Club in Canberra on 22 July, 2022. Source: AAP / LUKAS COCH
“If you make the determination that it is in the best interests of your nation, you shouldn’t necessarily feel constrained,” he said.
“We went to the United Kingdom, for example, and said, look, we [The United States] believe he should be extradited. They could have said, ‘this is problematic for us’. Or, they could have said, ‘why are you asking me?’ … That’s not what happened. We made the request. It went through their process.”
Admiral Rogers added he believed that “every individual is afforded the due process of the legal framework”.
“That is true for him. And I accept that. I believe that, because I think that makes us stronger as a society.
“But I also believe in the importance of accountability. So he should get his time to make his argument. And we’ll see what a court believes.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said
But he said he also wouldn’t be pressured into publicly intervening in the case, instead opting to deal with the matter through diplomatic channels.
“There are some people who think that if you put things in capital letters on Twitter and put an exclamation mark, that somehow makes it more important. It doesn’t,” Mr Albanese said last month.
Former attorney-general George Brandis has also
AUKUS needs to be an ‘engine for innovation’
Speaking to National Press Club on Friday, Admiral Rogers said the US, UK and Australia need to use the trilateral AUKUS alliance to create a fundamental shift in the nations’ capabilities as America’s technological supremacy lags
“We are not optimised for the world of the 21st century. The structures in the US we created all reflect the time when the US was the leader in technology,” he said.
“AUKUS is about much more than just acquisition.
“We need to make AUKUS an engine for innovation. We should not be using this to reinforce the status quo. We should be using this as a vehicle to enhance a better outcome potential using different approaches.”
Admiral Rodgers also called for greater technology sharing in light of Canberra’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines through AUKUS.
“The undersea domain is the one area arguably, from the US perspective, where we believe we have and can sustain supremacy,” he said.
“We have been very careful about sharing technology within that environment because we think that’s a core warfighting and operational advantage for us.
“If we’re willing to share that kind of technology with Australia, could you explain why we have all these other restrictions on things that are much lesser to me in terms of risk?”
Ahead of the address, Admiral Rogers told the ABC shifting priorities had also resulted in a renewed Indo-Pacific pivot.
“For a long time, particularly the post 9/11 environment, the US was dealing with a counterterrorism challenge that was not centred in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
“That focus took resources, time, attention, leaders’ decision bandwidth. We shifted that focus.
“But we have to acknowledge circumstances have changed. The Indo-Pacific region remains a cornerstone for the future for this world and we need to be fully integrated.”