I think we already know the answer. We need to go further and try and understand what this partially veiled, but completely serious, US and UK destruction of a modern journalist means for all of us.
Assange is an advocate for whistleblowers, a promoter of information access and information security for everyone, not just governments and major government-connected corporations. He, with the help of information security specialists, codewriters, truthtellers and witnesses around the world, received and published material that embarrassed and exposed a number of powerful organizations, including the US government and its many cronies and beneficiaries.
Why is he being tortured to death? Why is he still being subjected to new and experimental variants of BZ fresh from Porton Down, and deprived, not only of friends, relatives, and unsupervised access to his legal team, but to food and basic care?
The short answer is that he is being held on behalf of the United States and he is being chemically and physically interrogated in Belmarsh (the British Gitmo) in order to reveal his private cryptographic keys, and the names and cryptographic information relating to others within the Wikileaks information network. The arrest of Ola Bini in April with new charges filed last month, and the re-arrest and incarceration of Chelsea Manning, speak to part of the effort to find the anonymous leakers of information from the NSA vaults, specifically their hacking tools cache leaked in 2016. This is generally indicated but not completely put forth in the US indictment.
It is fascinating that the plea deals of two recent NSA "spies" - government employees who took home and "hoarded" vast quantities of NSA material were remarkably mild, when compared to what Julian Assange is going through, and how Bini and Manning have been and are being treated.
A Mr. Pho, a 67 year old who worked as a developer for NSA's Tailored Access Operations, pled guilty to one count of willful removal of defense information, and was free on bail prior to his sentencing in early 2018 to 66 months. The NSA bit-hoarder extraordinaire, Harold Martin, recently was sentenced to nine years, for his "crimes against the state." Even Reality Winner, who was tried under the Espionage Act and did not plea out, received a relatively light sentence, to be completed in a prison close to her home with promises that she can be treated for bulimia. John Kiriakou did little more than reveal what the whole country already knew about torture conducted by the CIA, and he was sentenced to 30 months of prison.
The best practice in the US, in case you are interested in this line of work, is to cop a plea. Otherwise, best you be a flag officer who swore to uphold the Constitution (like Petraeus or Clapper) or an elite politician like Hillary. Barring that, be sure you are tried publicly on weak charges, and perhaps you will avoid chemical interrogation, physical and mental torture, and indefinite detention by the US government and its lackeys. Otherwise, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, one needs the protection of a powerful non-US government to fend off US death squads. Edward has that from Russia, and Julian had that from Ecuador, but it came with a price - and no price is too high for the US taxpayer when it comes to the security of the USG.
In the case of Assange, while no damage was done to the world or to human life, the US Government experienced significant embarrassment through the release of USG hacking tools by the Shadow Brokers hacking group. Those tiered releases indicate what the NSA and other parts of the US Government (and their Five Eyes allies) were and are capable of doing, and are doing, to all of us. The 2016 retroactive legalization of UK surveillance of its citizens indicates the scope and the concern of existing governments that are engaged in self-preservation in difficult times. The updated USA Freedom Act of the same time frame reveals much the same concerns by the US state.
The Shadow Brokers revelations also suggest that another Snowden caliber leak may exist within the NSA. Thanks to Assange, Snowden and others, the NSA feels almost as technologically transparent and vulnerable as the average American. This must not stand!
Because this must not stand, Assange and those who may have worked with him will be interrogated with the full capability of the state (physical, mental and chemical torture). They will not be tried, represented or defended in a public court, and as noted here for Assange, they will never be released regardless of what is discovered through various interrogations.
Whether or not a mole, or moles, remain inside the vast US Intelligence conglomerate is, at this point, irrelevant. One or more must and will be found, and as part of that search, many people - to be found among traditional or non-traditional 21st century journalists, aggregators, bloggers, communicators, tweeters or researchers and the vast population of government employees and contractors - must be destroyed.
As with the convoluted intelligence bureaucracies of East Germany, the Soviet Union, Iran under the Shah, and a long list throughout human history, once the disease of government secrecy and hidden crime metastasizes, there is no resolution but death, destruction and eventual collapse of the system, and a slow, painful and inconsistent recovery of human society.
On the other hand, there will be no slow painful recovery for Julian Assange. He has been reduced to the mental capacity of a drug-addled rubberhead, and some of these effects will be found to be permanent. Physically he is reported to be underweight (under 100 pounds) with food and water being used as bargaining chips in his continued interrogation. Ironically, even the prisoners at Gitmo, as part of the tender care by the USG, were force-fed when they tried to starve themselves to death. Julian's government caretakers are using food and water to break him completely.
Is there any good news? NPR's Terri Gross presented an interesting historical perspective on CIA drug experimentation just last week. Well worth a listen, as all change is but evolution. Interestingly, as with the end of Sidney Gottlieb's employment, if the sponsor of evil within a government is removed, sometimes their entire cadre is cleared out. More often than not, illustrating Robert Higgs' "ratcheting effect", it is simply relocated elsewhere in the government, or even expanded among several agencies.
Modern day government power is fundamentally related to its "believability." This believability, this trustworthiness, is teetering everywhere - in part to the valiant work of honest people everywhere - and make no mistake, we are indeed everywhere. The hopeless and evil persecution of Julian Assange signals just such a believability crisis. When a building, or an institution, begins to crumble, there are many urgent jobs to do to save lives and ensure a happier future. Find one of them and start doing it.