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Shredding Asylum: The Arrest of Julian Assange

The man seemed like a bearded emissary, a holy figure nabbed in his sleep. He looked similarly pale as to how he did in 2013, but he cut a more shocking figure. Most prisoners would have had room to move in a compound.

The Ecuadorean embassy in London only offered modest space and access to sun light. Hospitality of late was in short supply. Julian Assange had been ill. His advocates had bravely insisted that he needed treatment. “As a journalist who has worked as media partner of @Wikileaks since 2009,” reflected a near grieving Stefania Maurizi, “it has been so painful to watch Julian Assange’s health completely declining in the last 9 years as a result of confinement with no end in sight, tremendous stress, threats.”

Sir Alan Duncan of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was happy to offer it, provided Assange step out of the embassy. But Assange’s time had finally come. The embroiling of the Moreno administration in the INA Papers affair suggested that the president needed an out. Images of Moreno’s family skirting around the internet in various fora during days of plenty, and the suggestion that he had been profiting from a Panama offshore account, put Assange back in the picture.

Who better to blame than a man in confinement, whose communications had been restricted, whose health was failing? WikiLeaks duly received a tipoff from a “high level source within the Ecuadorean state” that the offshore scandal would be used “as a pretext” to remove difficult tenant. The writ and run of asylum has been shredded, and the conduct of Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno is worth noting. In his address explaining the abrupt termination of Assange’s stay, Moreno was a dissembling picture.

Assange, he had been assured by UK authorities, would come to no harm. He would not be facing torture or the death penalty (a reassuring red herring, given that the death penalty is off the table in extradition matters dealing with the UK in any case). He had been “discourteous” and “aggressive”, WikiLeaks “hostile and threatening” to Ecuador. Ecuador had been “generous” and “respectful of the principles of international law, and of the institutions of the right of asylum.”

Self-praise tends to increase in volume the more guilt is assumed, and Moreno made it clear that the law of asylum was a “sovereign right of the Ecuadorean state”. It was Assange who was the violator of diplomatic protocols, refusing to abide by “the norm of not intervening in the internal affairs of other states.”

Specific reference was made to the leaking of Vatican documents in January 2019; Assange was still “linked” to WikiLeaks. He blocked security cameras; he used “distorting” equipment. He even “confronted and mistreated guards”. He communicated via a mobile phone “with the outside world.” And he dared taking his case through Ecuadorean legal channels. Moreno’s justification received much steam from UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who claimed that Assange was “no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years.” (Psychological slip, perhaps?

Is it Assange allergic to the truth, or the security establishments he wishes to prize open?). Both Moreno and Ecuador were to be thanked for their cooperation with the Foreign Office “to ensure Assange faces justice.” President Donald Trump has been even more brazen on the subject of Assange’s arrest, feigning an attack of amnesia. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.” During the 2016 campaign, WikiLeaks had been very much Trump’s “thing”, praised some 140 times for revealing email correspondence from the Democratic National Committee. “Oh, we love WikiLeaks,” he cheered at a North Carolina rally. No longer. Critics of WikiLeaks and Assange have always presumed exaggeration.

The narcissist had nothing to fear accept model British justice, the same justice that has gone to extraordinary lengths over the years to affect various, high profile miscarriages. Skipping bail was tantamount to a parking offence; face the music. Instead, WikiLeaks was shown to be correct: Assange is facing the full force of an extensive investigation against a publisher by the self-touted leader of the free world. Ever since the publication of Cablegate, WikiLeaks has been the subject of a multi-organisational investigation by US prosecutors and defence personnel keen to sketch a legal basis for targeting the organisation. Assange has figured prominently.

Despite the niggling problems associated with the Free speech amendment, legal personnel have been stretching the grounds on how to circumvent it. Some few hours after Assange was bundled out of the embassy and into a van by the London Metropolitan Police, a US extradition request was revealed. He would not be prosecuted as a journalist, which would bring up press freedom issues, but as a hacker under the single charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. “Assange, who did not possess a security clearance or need to know, was not authorized to receive classified material from the United States.”

The golden thread in the argument is Chelsea Manning, and four databases “from departments and agencies of the United States.” Both Manning and Assange had entered into an agreement to crack “a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network”. The alleged conspiracy “was to facilitate Manning’s acquisition and transmission of classified information related to the national defense of the United States so that WikiLeaks could publicly disseminate the information on its website.”

Stripped bare, the issue for Assange is this. Dislike him, loathe him, and feel your skin crawl before him. Fantasise about what he might or might not have done in Sweden. Sanctify and scribble hagiography about him. Speculate about how he might have been as a tenant of asylum. He remains a publisher and a journalist, unconventional, daring, a vigilante of sorts who sought to etch himself into history while giving the world a very cogent, thrilling idea: opening the darkened corridors of corrupting power and holding them accountable. As the Centre for Investigate Journalism states, “Whatever your view of its philosophy of radical transparency, WikiLeaks is a publisher.

Any charges now brought in connection with that material, or any attempt to extradite Mr Assange to the United States for prosecution under the deeply flawed cudgel of the Espionage Act 1917 is an attack on all of us.” Edward Snowden added a concurring voice: Ecuador’s invitation for the UK secret police “to drag a publisher of – like it or not – award winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.” Even if he has never been fully accepted within the fraternity of the press, he has, in many ways, led its change.

His forensic style of journalism, with its techniques of placing original documentation upon sites for readers to consult, has brought greater scrutiny of sources. His embrace of secure systems for sending classified material, and his pioneering of international cross-border collaborative reporting, transformed the nature of modern journalism.

But pioneers tend to find themselves in the colosseum facing the hungry lions of state. The pursuit of Assange, as British Labour’s Diane Abbott quite accurately assessed, was not done “to protect US national security” but “because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces.”

Former Greek finance minister and rabble rousing economist Yanis Varoufakis saw the clouds lift on the sham. “The game is up. Years of lies exposed. It was never about Sweden, Putin, Trump or Hillary. Assange was persecuted for exposing war crimes.” Punish Assange, punish the press. Punish Assange and condemn the Fourth Estate.


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  1. Perkin Wetkecks

    The USA is the REAL axis of evil. It does things it lambasts other countries for doing. It’s law officers and judiciary are handpicked by men like Trump, Bush, and -yes- Clinton, to do what THEY want them to do. It invades and devastates countries for their resources, abuses their citizens, and sets its all under the pretext of Freedom and Democracy. And Australia and Britain are its handmaidens.

  2. Zathras

    Despite all their implied political support, this is what invariably happens to whistleblowers.

  3. Phil Gorman

    Straight to the point, as usual, Binoy. Julian Assange’s likeability, personality disorders or character are not at issue here.

    The real issue is the public’s right to know and a publishers right to dig on our behalf. To argue that Assange is not a publisher is disingenuous nonsense. If Assange is to be judicially lynched so should the Guardian and New York Times.

    If we care about democracy we have to resist this creeping authoritarianism.

  4. helvityni

    Isn’t Assange an Australian citizen…? Isn’t our Government coming to his rescue…?

  5. Perkin Wetkecks

    Anybody who is thrown to the mercy of the US judicial system is doomed.
    Australia fights for justice for the most undeserving Australian characters caught up in scandals overseas, but it lets Assange rot without demur for doing the right thing. Whistleblower are heroic; what we allow Assange to endure mocks our democracy and also mocks what Australians think themselves to be.

  6. New England Cocky

    “Assange was persecuted for exposing war crimes.” Punish Assange, punish the press. Punish Assange and condemn the Fourth Estate.”


  7. Perkin Wetkecks

    If he was before an AFL
    Tribunal he’d be cleared.
    Mind you, an AFL tribunal would give the Yorkshire Ripper two matches…

  8. Aortic

    Just saw the wonderful John Pilger attest rightly that had Assange been any other Australian the government would be using all resources to bring this citizen back unharmed to his country. It is obviously not doing so and for Theresa May to gloat and rejoice in the fact of his gangster like capture is an absolute disgrace. As noted it denotes without argument the insidious influence of the USA in this matter and their paranoia with matters that may impinge on the sensitivity of their wonderful ” freedoms.” As Plato said, ” Democracy passes into Despotism.”

  9. DeQuincey


    “A threat to WikiLeaks’ work — which is publishing information protected under the First Amendment — is a threat to all free journalism. If the DOJ is able to convict a publisher for its journalistic work, all free journalism can be criminalised.”

  10. Wat Tyler

    Pilger is an embarrassment to Australia because he exposes what bullshit our self-image is. It’s hard to think of any world event in which AustralIa can boast of its contribution for a very long time – since Korea, probably. Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, full-throated support of Israel under Netanyahu (that is not a criticism of the Jews, btw – I admire them, but not Zionism), uncritically siding with the USA in all its appalling interferences, and standing by and watching Assange be crucified for doing the right thing. For f-cks sake, we appealed to Indonesia about drug runners (after first dobbing them in, of course).
    Poor fellow my country? It is a poor fellow right now.

  11. Alcibiades

    We are NOT sovereign.

    Their government, one does not consider it ‘ours’, via PM Morrison & FM Payne have spoken. Consular assistance has been provided, he will suffer his fate in foreign lands under foreign laws. Their government will make no inquires nor representations on behalf of an Australian citizen to the UK, US or Swedish government. “He will receive no special treatment”, says Scott NoMoralsNone.

    Yet, the UK Leader of the Crowns Loyal Opposition, Labours Jeremy Corbyn steps up and declares the process unfolding an attack on journalism & press freedom in prosecuting & extraditing Assange. An overt attempt to suppress any reporting or coverage of US war crimes & atrocities. Demands the extradition of an Australian citizen be opposed by the UK government.

    Yet our Australian neoliberal, suborned & beholden parties & ‘Leaders’, Liberal & Labor both, go yeah/nah. We’re alright, Jack.

    Our rights as Australian citizens are not even given the pretense of protection, they are malleable, & purely transactional.

    Assange did not testify nor speak in the bail Hearing. He was not questioned. Yet it was over in minutes, with the entirely objective, neutral, non-partisan Judge declaring publicly towards the press, ” He’s narcissistic & only concerned with self interest”. Guilty beyond reasonable doubt … the patently visceral partisan ‘declaration’ based on what evidence before the bench ?

    Blind Justice ? Unbiased ? Bollocks. Stitched up well & proper.

    Our former Lords in the UK, now US vassals too, are past masters of the art of the perversion of justice, & the judicial railroad for scapegoats to set an example re opposition to Empire.

    The Birmingham Six, Guildford Four & Maguire Seven, & so on.

    We are not sovereign.

  12. Jack Cade

    Worse. We have no honour. Not any longer.

  13. Phil.

    Assange’s fate is sealed he will disappear into the US prison system or they will kill him they have form for it.

    All governments make bullshit a science.

    We will see what Assange knows if he carries out his threat to release everything. For mine probably SFA they wont have an answer for.

  14. Alcibiades

    Jack Cade,
    As a long suborned, occupied, exploited, non sovereign vassal State, how could we have honour ?

    Assange will be extradited, if not the US first, then definitely Sweden, convicted of supposed sexual assault (another stitch up), imprisoned as a convict, thence extradited to the gentle mercies of the US National Security State. Disappeared into solitary confinement, discretely enduring torture & cruel & unusual punishments, and regardless of any ‘diplomatic’ assurance, railroaded with every charge they can invent, subsequently sentenced to the term of his natural life in Federal Super-Max.

    An example.

    Assange is doomed by a conspiracy between the US Rogue Empire & a major & minor vassal (UK & Ecuador), not to mention the Swedish Deep State.

    The Rogue Empire State of the good ol’ US of A must never be publicly exposed by it’s own documents, without a reckoning,

  15. Zathras

    Assange has been charged by an American Grand Jury primarily for his part in publishing this leaked video (among others) – but what he’s really being punished for is exposing the crimes of the rich and powerful.

    “The American war against Iraq was among the more idiotic and gratuitous slaughters in human history. It was premised on lies, prosecuted by criminals and fools, outsourced to professional murderers and it isn’t over.

    In addition to those murdered directly and indirectly in the war, several million refugees were scattered across the Middle East, including over a million into Syria. ISIS grew from the ranks of the disbanded Iraqi army. This fiasco appeared as it was to all the world, the gasp of a dying empire sunk under the weight of its ignorance and arrogance.”

    All we can hope for is that Wikileaks is holding something of great significance back that may be released when we know of Assange’s fate.

    To the government, he’s just another David Hicks – collateral damage and the price we pay for trying hard to become a member of that elite club of global gangsters.

  16. paul walter

    Pilger is ok, Assange is ok.

    The American lying fascists are scum.

  17. Dianna Arton

    Assange, “narcissistic” for simply wanting to evade a USA set on vengeance for having its stained and malodorous underside exposed.

    I don’t think I particularly like Assange, maybe he doesn’t respect women all that much, which is beside the point, he won’t get a fair hearing, but he will be lauded in the future for Wikileaks and the audacity of poking a stick into to USA’s WASP nest.

  18. Perkin Wetkecks

    The US has ‘intervened ‘ in the political affairs’ of over 80 nations since WW 2, Including Australia, but we prefer not to acknowledge that. They are flagging intervention in Venezuela.
    I don’t recall them intervening in the slaughter in Rwanda, 25 years ago.
    Winston Churchill once said the US always tries to do the right thing ‘but only after all else has failed’. I don’t recall them doing the right thing.
    The interesting thing is, these mightiest, most ebullient, least honourable empire builders in history invariably get their arses kicked by their victims.
    The story is that Venezuela’s government is possibly the least corrupt in all
    the Americas. Carter says so; the UN rapporteur says so. Who demurs? The Koch Brothers! Why? Because they want Venezuela’s oil, and first Chavez and then Madura rejected their bribes. The US cannot afford to let Venezuela off the hook.
    From Korea, through Vietnam to Iraq and Afghsnistan, the US has lied its way into wars and dragged its vassal states along with it. Next, they will arm Japan…
    What has all this to do with Assange?
    The US cannot afford the truth getting out. Simple, no?

  19. paul walter

    No. The new Ecuadorian prez must have been paid a colossal bribe to get rid of Assange.

    How obscene, his first name is Lenin.

  20. Alcibiades

    The Martyrdom of Julian Assange – Chris Hedges, Truthdig

    The arrest Thursday of Julian Assange eviscerates all pretense of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. The illegalities, embraced by the Ecuadorian, British and U.S. governments, in the seizure of Assange are ominous. They presage a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes, especially war crimes, carried out by corporate states and the global ruling elite will be masked from the public. They presage a world where those with the courage and integrity to expose the misuse of power will be hunted down, tortured, subjected to sham trials and given lifetime prison terms in solitary confinement. They presage an Orwellian dystopia where news is replaced with propaganda, trivia and entertainment. The arrest of Assange, I fear, marks the official beginning of the corporate totalitarianism that will define our lives.

    Under what law did Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno capriciously terminate Julian Assange’s rights of asylum as a political refugee? Under what law …

  21. paul walter

    Yep..qualatively and quantitatively on the way to a dictatorship.

    There has been a lot more censorship on the internet over this also.

    Welcome to the Electronic Panopticon.

  22. Diannaart

    Panopticon, not so sure about that … from which single point is all being surveyed?

    Censorship on the Web is only temporary, everything is copied, filed, hidden and saved … although fragmented … a good algorithm can retrieve and recreate.

    Just a thought, may well be wrong.

  23. paul walter

    Happy to go with Chris Hedges at this time.

    You can go the Peter Dutton route is you think she’s apples.

  24. gethsemane

    When the saints come marching in Assange will be in that number. As for the rest of us, we must hang our heads in shame and be marched off to join the goats.

  25. Perkin Wetkecks

    Assange won’t get justice in the USA. The USA doesn’t do ‘justice’. He will
    be charged with espionage; ‘un-American activities’, which are all TOO American, actually. If they didn’t speak English we’d see the USA for what it really is. Donald Trump is an All-American boy, in truth. A vicious, vindictive, mendacious bully whose god is mammon.

  26. Perkin Wattleneck

    Lambert Simnel.
    Thank you, brother.
    If the USA and likeminded regimes had their way, there would be nomAIM, no, no The Saturday Paper. And don’t for one moment think that they wouldn’t dare. USA 2019 is no different from the USA that crippled Chile.

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