As most know by now Ecuador has granted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asylum from extradition to Sweden for questioning in alleged sexual abuse. The asylum was granted based on the fear that if Mr. Assange was extradited to Sweden there was no guarantee that the Swedish government would not then turn extradite him to the US where he would face serious charges and possibly execution.
Mr. Assange had exhausted his appeals through British courts in June then fled to the Ecuadoran Embassy requesting asylum. Yesterday that request was granted setting up a diplomatic stand off that could lead to a violation of international law with the British threatening to strip Ecuador of its diplomatic status and storm the embassy to arrest Mr. Assange. The British are claiming that they have the right to do so under a law passed in 1987 and do not recognize the right of asylum, which is, to put it politely, a load of bull pucks. In 1999, the British refused to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to Spain where he was wanted under an international warrant for crimes against humanity. Ian Welsh noted that Pinochet had women raped by dogs so Britain’s concern about the importance of extradition and rape allegations are just untrue. Besides, Mr. Assange has not been charged and his fears about extradition to the US are legitimate.
As Kevin Gosztola at FDL points out that there is a “grand jury empaneled in Alexandria, Virginia in the Eastern District that is investigating anyone who can be connected to the WikiLeaks organization”:
Now, The Saturday Age, based in Australia, has published a report that features some critical details on the United States government’s plans for Assange. It describes Australian Foreign Aaffairs Department documents that were obtained under freedom of information laws and show the Australian diplomatic service “takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.” Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, sought “high-level US advice on ‘the direction and likely outcome of the investigation’ and “reiterated’ an Australian government request for “early advice of any decision to indict or seek extradition” of Assange.
The diplomatic cables identify “a wide range of criminal charges the US could bring against Assange, including espionage, conspiracy, unlawful access to classified information and computer fraud.” They indicate, “Australian diplomats expect that any charges against Assange would be carefully drawn in an effort to avoid conflict with the First Amendment free speech provisions of the US constitution.”
Additionally, Australian diplomats have apparently been informed of “several connections between Manning and WikiLeaks,” which prosecutors have uncovered that would form the “basis of a conspiracy charge.” The diplomats have found any investigation would “target” the “founders, owners or managers of WikiLeaks” for espionage.
At emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler pointed out that the cause this current overreaction stems from the embarrassment Mr. Assange caused the US by releasing diplomatic cables revealing details on the targeted assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and some breaches of diplomatic guidelines by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
If the Brits enter the embassy it will only expose publicly what has become true but remains largely unacknowledged: the US and its allies find international law and protocols to be quaint. That was obviously true under Bush, with the illegal Iraq war and his disdain for the Geneva Conventions. But Obama, too, continues to do things legally authorized only by the most acrobatic of legal interpretations.
Which is why I consider it so apt that one of the most embarrassing-albeit frankly rather minor-details that WikiLeaks published about the Obama Administration is that Hillary ordered her staff to help intelligence officers collect intelligence on their counterparts, including credit card data and biometrics. [..]
While other cables exposed the Obama Administration to far more legal trouble-such as the one apparently showing that we were targeting Anwar al-Awlaki before we believed him to be operational-it was the exposure of diplomatic spying that seemed to piss the Obama Administration off. Exposure as cynical power brokers, not idealistic world citizens.
Not a single person has been hurt by Wikileaks, zero, but the US would like to prosecute and possibly execute a man because he embarrassed the government by revealing violations of human rights and international law.