Julian Assange Evicted, Arrested in London


Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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51 Responses

  1. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    Wow! End of an era. Maybe the end of wikileaks too, I’d thought that was pretty much a one man band.Report

    • Avatar Philip H says:

      i doubt it. He had co founders who have been keeping the site alive and running with him in the embassy. Its partly how they were able to get the 2016 email cache. On NPR yesterday, Leon Panetta (Sec Def and CIA Director under Obama) said he thought this was end of the beginning of Wikileaks. I suspect he’s right.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I wonder if he’s got any dirt on anybody.

    Might as well let it all out now…Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    History class, 2050:
    “Professor, this can’t be right! The text says that the Crisis of 2020 was set off by a chain reaction of events stemming from a hacker who…refused to clean his cat box?”Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    A fun question I saw on the twitters:

    Those who supported a pardon for Chelsea Manning, do you support a pardon for Julian Assange?

    (The question of whether people who opposed a pardon for Chelsea Manning also oppose one for Assange strikes me as less interesting because I imagine that it’s pretty easy to oppose both on a handful of principles but, sure, we can ask that question too in order to make sure that both sides are covered.)Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      I don’t know if I’m quite the target population for this question (I did not want to see Chelsea Manning pardoned, but I think Obama was right to grant her clemency), but I see some important differences.

      1. There were a lot of mitigating circumstances in Manning’s case that don’t apply to Assange, including the fact that she was under a ton of psychological strain when she made the decision to leak the documents, and that she was treated abominably when she was held before trial.

      2. Assange’s alleged criminal conduct here seems pretty tenuous based on what I’ve seen so far. No matter what you think of Manning’s motives and actions, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t an extremely clearcut violation of the law.

      Also, Assange just seems like a much bigger jerk who did other bad things, even if they aren’t clearly criminal. I don’t if this should matter, but with something discretionary like a pardon, I also don’t know if they shouldn’t matter.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      On a personal level, I want Manning free and I’d love to see Assange twist in the wind.

      On a principled level, if she deserved a pardon, he probably does. To a certain degree they did the same thing.

      By contrast, what actually are the principles involved in a pardon? What factors is the president supposed to consider? To me, Manning seems like an idealist, whereas Assange seems like a manipulative sociopath.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, the fundamental problem with pardons-in-theory, as I see it, is that you’re pardoning someone who is guilty of what they are accused of.

        I mean, ideally, we have a system where someone who is actually innocent has been found so by the system, right? (Please keep in mind, we’re still in theory-land.)

        So when Theory-land President signs a Theory-land pardon, he’s pardoning someone who is guilty.

        So the question comes down to why in the heck we have a system where an executive might pardon someone who is guilty.

        I’m guessing it’s a holdover from when we still had Kings worth mentioning.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          So the question comes down to why in the heck we have a system where an executive might pardon someone who is guilty.

          Because systems can fail, and people are imperfect at both writing laws and implementing them.

          We can end up with absurd results, like someone being sent to prison for life for stealing a pair of socks (which as memory serves was a result of California’s 3 strikes law).Report

          • Or the reasonably common case of the husband-and-wife dealer team. When they’re caught, the husband, who does all the business with the next link up the chain, rolls over on him and gets a reduced sentence, while all the weights falls on the wife who has no one to give up.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      As @pillsy points out, Manning’s sentence was commuted, but she was not pardoned. I am basically simpatico with that result because of the cruelty that had been involved in her punishment — but she did commit the crime and there were likely real consequences paid by other people than she for her having done so.

      As for Assange, on the legal merits, I find it difficult to celebrate his arrest — and difficult to mourn it, either. I’m interested in seeing how the government proffers to distinguish between his operations and those of a regular press outlet. I don’t know enough about the extension of jurisdiction over him to know whether or how the US government can assert its power — did he commit a US crime in a US jurisdiction? We might condemn an Australian national committing some other crime in some other country (Sweden, wasn’t it? Cannot remember where his servers were located ) but that by itself does not appear to be a matter for the U.S. courts to address. “Technicalities” like jurisdiction matter, and the rule of law is such that unpopular people like Assange have the same access to the same law as everyone else.Report

      • I have less than zero respect or sympathy for either. Having said that I am very skeptical of them getting a conviction on the Assange indictment as currently written, unless Manning really does have something additional and rolls on him, which I doubt. Even then there is some really complicated legalities involved. Might be mute anyway if the Brits don’t extradite, so we will see.Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        1) I expect the Brits to Extradite if only because they don’t want him making a spectacle of their judicial system.

        2) Assange is no different professionally the the team that received and sorted the Panama Papers. While those are not directly revealing of US state secrets, they had the same high embarrassment factor. To my knowledge no one is looking to prosecute those journalists. Ergo . . .

        3) the Assange arrest is all about the US intelligence apparatus getting its knickers in a twist because one o fits own called them out for their bad behavior though a third party (Assange). While he is also a pompous blowhard, that’s not a crime.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    A tweet that makes a great point after getting the preamble out of the way:


    • Avatar pillsy says:

      I think the key factor here isn’t whether Assange is a journalist, but whether what he did crosses a bright line that journalist could stay on the right side of.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I admit that the libertarian remnants in me are wondering about why Assange ought to be subject to US law… he wasn’t on US soil when he did it, he’s not a US citizen…

        Ah, well. “Don’t mess with the US” is a lesson that we need to re-teach periodically, I guess.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          I think it makes sense if you consider the law also covers much more unambiguously awful and criminal conduct.Report

        • The Ledeen doctrine lite. Better a crappy little person than a whole country.Report

        • Avatar Stephan Cooper says:

          It’s not unusual in international criminal law to be subject to a state’s jurisdiction for aiding a criminal act within that state’s jurisdiction remotely, which is the substance of the conspiracy to a computer system charge. Getting said individual in your power is an extradition problem, not a jurisdictional one.

          A lot rides on that one accusation of providing direct aid for the purpose of breaking a password protection in the extradition request.

          The merits of the American extradition request are taking up way too much bandwidth on this story though. As of right now he’s been held for sentencing as a convicted absconder from the UK justice system, awaiting a sentencing hearing in late May for said conviction. the bail he pretty flagrantly violated was on a properly made out Swedish extradition request not the American one being pressed right now. The American extradition request is superfluous to the reasons he was arrested and currently held. The reason he’s in custody right now is for being a convicted bail jumper and accused rapist, not journalist/hacker.Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        Others have crossed that bright line too and not been arrested for it. Hounded – sure. Harassed in the court of public opinion – you bet. But never arrested. Journalists don’t need to stay away from this stuff, especially as our other checks and balances on the executive branch whither under the weight of partisan politics.Report

      • Avatar InMD says:

        What the hell is the bright line though? Don’t piss off the government and the most reactionary actors in it?Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          The one that seems relevant in this case is offering to help Manning crack a password. Stuff I’ve read seems divided on how much of a stretch that is, but it really does seem to me that there’s a big difference between publishing information that someone else stole and actually helping them steal it.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Walking into the room, my boss tells me “Julian’s been found dead in his cell. Assumed suicide.”

    My response was something like “well, he definitely seemed the type”.

    My boss then laughed and said “yeah, I made that up because I wanted to see what you’d say. You weren’t surprised at all!”

    So that got me thinking two thoughts:
    I should rickroll that same joke.
    I should keep an eye out for whether Assange commits suicide.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      I’m of n minds about the pardon, but one of those minds is that maybe it’s a good thing for someone to have the power to look at a criminal conviction and say, “Nyah.”Report

  7. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I’m ambivalent about Assange and his arrest.
    One the one hand his overweening sympathy for Russia and general assholishness is disturbing, but I can get myself to set that aside.

    I can sympathize with people who leak information as whistleblowers, but part of the sympathy is rooted in the idea that they are actually leaking something of such compelling public interest that it overrides our desire for government secrets.

    Manning can sorta fit that, and some of Wikileaks info did, but increasingly is just seems like Assange is trying to drape his work on behalf of Russia under the cloak of righteousness.Report

  8. Avatar Jesse says:


    When the Guardian editors told him they would redact the names of Afghans mentioned in the cables whose lives would be otherwise endangered, Assange said: “Well, they’re informants. So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.”

    Yeah, I don’t really give a damn what happens to Assange. Manning & Snowden at least both have valid arguments. Assange did one good thing nearly a decade ago, and has spent most of the past ten years being a lackey for Putin.Report

  9. Avatar bookdragon says:

    Assange wasn’t hiding in the embassy because of political charges; he was hiding from rape charges. Sweden eventually dropped the case because they had no hope of interviewing him for the investigation (apparently he was unwilling to answer questions even over the phone and Ecuador was shielding him from any contact).

    Guess what? He didn’t quite outlast the statute of limitations. That expires in 2020. Sweden reserved the right to refile the charges if he became available and the victim’s lawyer has said they intend to pursue that.

    So, I don’t care what our basis is for charging him. Send him to Sweden. The multiple charges stemming from raping a minor would put him in jail there for up to 35 years.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      The charges aren’t “raping a minor”, the younger of the two women was 26. The charges are “minor rape”, which may be a mistranslation. There are some really weird aspects to this case, the women didn’t go to the authorities to report a crime, they just wanted him tested for VD.

      Given who has pressed for it to go forward (i.e. sometimes Assange) and who has not (the women, the Prosecutor), this feels like something the authorities dug up in the spirit of “find something to deal with him”. There’s a very good chance the Sweds don’t have a case and have never had a case, certainly they’ve behaved that way.

      It’s noteworthy that Assange has claimed the problem wasn’t that the Sweds would do something to him, but rather after he was held by them (or anyone) he’d end up in the hands of the US gov.


  10. Avatar pillsy says:

    So, I don’t care what our basis is for charging him. Send him to Sweden. The multiple charges stemming from raping a minor would put him in jail there for up to 35 years.

    I didn’t realize they could refile charges. This seems like a much better option than any of the other ones on the table.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I agree with this.

      All the benefits of punishing Assange for embarrassing USG.
      None of the costs of punishing Assange for embarrassing USG.Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        Yeah well, punishing someone for embarrassing the USG would seem to be a slope whose angle of repose is significant and yet unknown, and for which much slippery lubricant already exists. In other words prosecution for revenge or to score political points or to send messages is so completely wrong.Report

  11. Avatar Tracy Downey says:

    This is the first time I’m reading about Assange.

    Hoping Snowden is next.

    Everyone is innocent before proven guilty. May justice prevail.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      Yes what a great day for democracy that will be. I know I can’t wait until all of the people who want us to know what the government actually does behind closed doors are safely in prison.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David says:

        So much this.

        I don’t think L’ffair du Assange is the crucible of democracy, but rather the slow unwinding of norms.

        And we keep being told how important norms are.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          I don’t think it is either but I find the sentiment very disturbing. Like.. what’s the perspective exactly? That people shouldn’t be allowed to know what the state does? Is the shallow prattling on cable news the limits of what people should be allowed to hear?Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            I think Assange (much more so than either Snowden or Manning IMO) is absolutely the worst possible poster child for holding the US government to account through transparency.

            At the same time people aren’t wrong at all that prosecuting him could send us further down a road that’s been getting progressively darker and creepier for over a decade.

            So I guess what I’m trying to say is I hope the Swedes get him.Report

            • Avatar InMD says:

              There’s the precedent but there’s also the practical problems of finding out what the government does.

              Serious question. Do you think the establishment media is really capable of reporting on issues that piss off the national security state or intelligence services anymore? I honestly don’t and I don’t think any of those organizations are capable of policing themselves or being policed by Congress.

              Maybe Assange sucks as a person. I don’t really have a strong opinion on that but I also don’t think it matters. Like, not remotely with respect to the issues in play. We’re worse off without him.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Do you think the establishment media is really capable of reporting on issues that piss off the national security state or intelligence services anymore?

                No, but I don’t think Assange is either.

                It’s part of the reason he makes an appealing target for the security state to use as an example and/or set a precedent.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Whose justice exactly? Assange is an Australian citizen, and since he didn’t do anything in the US there’s no reason for US law to apply here. I’m not sure where you Americans get off thinking you can apply your law across the whole planet, but I doubt you’d find it amusing if some other country tried to do it to you.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        That question raises an interesting point. Because of the internet, and too many people/organizations who foolishly attach certain computers/networks to it, it is increasingly possible to commit serious crimes from thousands of miles away, never setting foot in the country where the crime “occurs”.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          In this case it depends on the accusations. We can’t expect foreign actors to honor classification of documents. In that sense, Assange is in the clear (as is The Intercept). It’s Snowden and Manning that are liable as far as that goes. And in the case of a hack, it’s the person that illegally penetrated the security.

          But from what I gather the accusation is that Assange participated in the illegal extraction of the information. There does need to be a way to enforce that, and I would expect that Australia and the US would have some sort of agreement in that regard.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            Not even participated, but conspired to commit illegal computer access. Conspiracy charges always make me nervous. Oscar Gordon and I discuss on this site from time to time ways and means for terrorist acts (he under a pseudonym, me under my real name). When does it quit being discussion of an interesting systems design problem and become a chargeable conspiracy?Report

          • Avatar James K says:

            Most countries don’t have a crime called “conspiracy”, as far as I’m aware it’s fairly unique to the US. And if he can be found to have committed a crime that was a crime where it was done, then I am entirely OK with him being prosecuted for that, though I would wonder why the country he was in wasn’t calling for extradition rather than the US.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I think it’s more than a question of whether it was illegal where the person is. I suspect there are international agreements involving such extradition. At the very least, we can look at precedent.

              If a person hacks into a US bank and steals money, are they beyond the reach of US law and subject? If they commit fraud? Can they only be tried in their home country? If the country they are in has an agreement with the country where the crime occurred that allows such extradition, then it seems to me it’s square, no?

              I could see us having specifics when it comes to fraud or cybertheft and not conspiracy, though. If there is no applicable (existing) agreement here, that would be questionable. I don’t know the specifics here.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              Wikipedia says the US, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

              Damn. Still paying for the paranoia of some of the British royal families.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If you don’t like it, move to Somalia.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        So let’s say a private actor in, say, Juarez launches a projectile over the border and destroys property in San Diego. Where did the actual crime occur? Where the perpetrator launched the missile or where the property was damaged? Who has jurisdiction, Mexico or the.U.S.? Both? Neither?Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          Both. Jurisdiction exists over _all_ locations that a crime is committed within.

          You act in one country and cause something in another? Yeah, they can get you for both. Hell, you stand in one country, shoot _through_ another county, and kill someone in a third, and they _probably_ can get you in all three, although the middle one is slightly iffy. The two ends are not.

          This had some interesting implications for electronic crimes at one time, but I think courts now generally frown on the argument that crimes were committed in a location that phone lines merely happened to pass through.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          We don’t even need creative scenarios. Fraud occurs across international lines quite regularly.

          What do we do when that occurs?Report

          • Avatar Brent F says:

            Either country can enforce, depending on their own domestic interpretation of jurisdiction. Plenty allow extraterritorial enforcement so long as there is sufficient nexus between domestic jurisdiction and the offence. The biggest hurdle then is extradition if the state who has the offender disagrees with their interpretaton of jurisdiction by the requesting state.Report