Julian Assange may never be free

It sounds a lot more exciting than it is: “Swedish prosecutors have dropped three investigations into Julian Assange. The allotted five years had expired to bring sexual coercion charges against the WikiLeaks founder.” But it looks like Assange may well be spending a few more years in Ecuador’s London embassy as “prosecutors said they would continue with investigations into a further allegation of rape against Assange, also made in 2010. That charge will remain valid until 2020.”[1]

Even if Assange no longer faced accusations in Sweden, I doubt he would be safe. He sought—and gained—asylum[2] due to fears that the apparently dubious allegations against him[3] were in fact a cover for a plot to extradite him on to the U.S., where it is clear the government is going after WikiLeaks, its founder, and its supporters in every way possible.[4]

The issue was complicated by the facts that the Swedish accusations involved allegations of non-consensual sex and that some activists saw only this as the issue issue. Paradoxically, because Sweden’s record of law enforcement against sexual assault and rape is so poor,[5] the extraordinary lengths Sweden went to in seeking Assange’s extradition only reinforced the suspicions that this was really about facilitating a handover to the U.S.[6] As if that wasn’t enough, after Assange sought refuge, Britain’s government unwisely threatened to invade Ecuador’s embassy to capture him.[7] None of these suspicions were allayed by Sweden’s refusal to question Assange in the London embassy[8] until it was too late. Rather, Sweden insisted on extradition from Britain[9] and Britain threatened to go to seemingly unfathomable lengths to comply.

If any of this reminds you of the fiasco in which European Union countries denied airspace to a plane that was carrying Bolivia’s president Evo Morales back from Russia and that was suspected to be carrying Edward Snowden,[10] creating, to put it mildly, a diplomatic incident,[11] that might be because both the Bolivian jet diversion and the British threats to invade Ecuador’s embassy are naked displays of power apparently exercised at the behest of the United States even when they were absolutely senseless. Both of these incidents not only suggest a lack of proportionality in U.S. national security attitudes but expose European countries as vassal states in the U.S. empire—something to remember whenever there are, as has now happened so many times, revelations about U.S. spying on Europe, especially when, despite politicians’ expressions of fury and even the occasional arrest or expulsion, governments principally act out of fear of jeopardizing their ‘security relationship’ with their master rather than in the interest of protecting their citizens’ and even their politicians’ privacy. In all of this, we may notice that the U.S. never seems particularly concerned about jeopardizing its ‘security relationship’ with its vassals—even when these so-called ‘leaders’ are so bold as to ‘demand’ talks, they come away empty-handed.[12] When the U.S. bothers to respond at all, it is with utter disdain for Europeans’ evidently naïve expectations of privacy.[13] We must be “practical,” after all,[14] and do something instead about all these journalists who keep stirring up unrest[15] rather than playing their regularly annointed role.[16]

There should be no mistake. The U.S. does what it wants. Its vassals do what the U.S. wants. Police surround the Ecuadorian embassy at no small expense to the British taxpayer.[17] But somebody else will likely be waiting for Assange should the police ever leave.

  1. [1]Deutschewelle, “Sweden: Prosecutors drop inquiries into Julian Assange,” August 13, 2015, http://www.dw.com/en/sweden-prosecutors-drop-inquiries-into-julian-assange/a-18647085?maca=en-newsletter_en_from-the-heart-of-europe-2098-html-newsletter
  2. [2]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Wikileaks’ Julian Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador embassy,” June 20, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18514726
  3. [3]Rolf Hillegren, “Swedish Prosecutor: Time to Close the Assange Case,” trans. unknown, Radsoft, January 12, 2014, http://radsoft.net/news/20140112,00.shtml; Rixstep, “Assange: Police Docs Published in Swedish MSM,” December 6, 2012, http://rixstep.com/1/20121206,00.shtml; Guy Rundle, “Rape case against the WikiLeaks chief ‘weak’,” Telegraph, February 5, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/sweden/8306348/Rape-case-against-the-WikiLeaks-chief-weak.html; Dick Sundevall, “Now we publish the preliminary investigation of Julian Assange,” trans. Google, Para§raf, December 6, 2012, http://www.magasinetparagraf.se/bilden/forundersokningen-avseende-assange
  4. [4]David Carr and Ravi Somaiya, “Assange, Back in News, Never Left U.S. Radar,” New York Times, June 24, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/world/europe/wikileaks-back-in-news-never-left-us-radar.html; Democracy Now! “Julian Assange on Being Placed on NSA ‘Manhunting’ List & Secret Targeting of WikiLeaks Supporters,” February 18, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/18/julian_assange_on_being_placed_on; Philip Dorling, “Revealed: US plans to charge Assange,” Sydney Morning Herald, February 29, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/revealed-us-plans-to-charge-assange-20120228-1u14o.html; Philip Dorling, “US senator calls to prosecute Assange,” Sydney Morning Herald, July 2, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/national/us-senator-calls-to-prosecute-assange-20120701-21b3n.html; Philip Dorling, “US in pursuit of Assange, cables reveal,” Age, August 18, 2012, http://www.theage.com.au/national/us-in-pursuit-of-assange-cables-reveal-20120817-24e8u.html; Philip Dorling, “US calls Assange ‘enemy of state’,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/us-calls-assange-enemy-of-state-20120926-26m7s; Tony Eastley, “Pilger says the US wants Assange,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, February 2, 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2012/s3421114.htm; Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher, “Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters,” Intercept, February 18, 2014, https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/02/18/snowden-docs-reveal-covert-surveillance-and-pressure-tactics-aimed-at-wikileaks-and-its-supporters/; Kevin Gosztola, “Ecuador Endorses Julian Assange’s Fears, Grants Asylum,” ShadowProof, August 16, 2012, http://shadowproof.com/2012/08/16/ecuador-endorses-fears-of-julian-assange-grants-asylum/; Birgitta Jónsdóttir, “Evidence of a US judicial vendetta against WikiLeaks activists mounts,” Guardian, July 3, 2015, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/03/evidence-us-judicial-vendetta-wikileaks-activists-mounts; Paul Lewis, “Ecuador seeks to stop ‘evil’ of Julian Assange US extradition,” Guardian, July 26, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jul/26/ecuador-julian-assange-extradition-us; Press Association, “Ecuador grants WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum,” Guardian, August 16, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/aug/16/julian-assange-political-asylum-ecuador; Kim Sengupta, “Assange could face espionage trial in US,” Independent, December 8, 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/assange-could-face-espionage-trial-in-us-2154107.html
  5. [5]Amnesty International, Case Closed: Rape and Human Rights in the Nordic Countries Summary Report (March, 2010), http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ACT77/001/2010/en/5ba7f635-f2c3-4b50-86ea-e6c3428cf179/act770012010eng.pdf
  6. [6]Axelsson, K. & Longstaff, L. (2012, August 23). We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited. Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/23/women-against-rape-julian-assange; Democracy Now! “Naomi Wolf vs. Jaclyn Friedman: Feminists Debate the Sexual Allegations Against Julian Assange,” December 20, 2010, http://www.democracynow.org/2010/12/20/naomi_wolf_vs_jaclyn_friedman_a; Naomi Wolf, “J’Accuse: Sweden, Britain, and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worldwide,” Huffington Post, December 13, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-wolf/jaccuse-sweden-britain-an_b_795899.html
  7. [7]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Julian Assange: UK ‘threat’ to arrest Wikileaks founder,” August 16, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19259623; Juan Cole, “Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to invade Ecuador Embassy re: Assange (or, Whitewashing Iran for the US National Security State),” Informed Comment, August 16, 2012, http://www.juancole.com/2012/08/ayatollah-cameron-threatens-to-invade-ecuador-embassy-re-assange-or-whitewashing-iran-for-the-us-national-security-state.html; Eduardo Garcia and Alessandra Prentice, “Britain threatens to storm Ecuador embassy to get Assange,” Reuters, August 16, 2012, http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/16/wikileaks-assange-ecuador-idINL2E8JFH5K20120816; Rosa Prince, “FCO ‘risks breaching international law’ over Assange embassy crisis,” Telegraph, August 16, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/9479250/FCO-risks-breaching-international-law-over-Assange-embassy-crisis.html
  8. [8]Tim Sampson, “Swedish authorities will question Julian Assange at London embassy,” Daily Dot, March 13, 2015, http://www.dailydot.com/politics/swedish-authorities-question-wikileaks-founder-sexual-assault-allegations/
  9. [9]Hasan Suroor, “Sweden presses for Assange extradition,” Hindu, February 3, 2012, http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article2854154.ece
  10. [10]Associated Press, “Bolivian plane suspected of carrying Snowden rerouted,” Salon, July 2, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/07/02/bolivian_plane_suspected_of_carrying_snowden_rerouted_ap/; Mercopress, “Evo Morales’ plane rerouted on suspicion Snowden on board,” July 3, 2013, http://en.mercopress.com/2013/07/03/evo-morales-plane-rerouted-on-suspicion-snowden-on-board.
  11. [11]Alexander Besant, “Bolivian leader threatens to close US embassy after plane scandal,” Global Post, July 5, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/bolivia/130705/bolivian-leader-threatens-close-us-embassy-after-plane; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Mercosur ‘to recall’ envoys over Bolivia Snowden plane row,” July 12, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-23297581; Thalif Deen, “Denial of Airspace to Bolivian Leader Resonates at U.N.,” InterPress Service, July 11, 2013, http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/denial-of-airspace-to-bolivian-leader-resonates-at-u-n/; Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, “Latin America in row over Bolivia jet,” Independent, July 5, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/latin-america-in-row-over-bolivia-jet-8691181.html; MercoPress, “Spain calls for calm over Bolivian plane incident, but anticipates ‘no apologies’,” July 5, 2013, http://en.mercopress.com/2013/07/05/spain-calls-for-calm-over-bolivian-plane-incident-but-anticipates-no-apologies; MercoPress, “OAS condemns Morales plane incident and urges EU countries involved to apologize,” July 10, 2013, http://en.mercopress.com/2013/07/10/oas-condemns-morales-plane-incident-and-urges-eu-countries-involved-to-apologize; William Neuman, Rick Gladstone, and Melissa Eddy, “Barring of Bolivian Plane Infuriates Latin America as Snowden Case Widens,” New York Times, July 3, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/world/snowden.html; Samantha Stainburn, “France apologizes to Bolivia for blocking president’s plane; Bolivia calls it ‘virtual kidnapping’,” Global Post, July 4, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/130704/france-apologizes-bolivia-blocking-president-s-plane
  12. [12]Al Jazeera, “Report: US and UK spied on Italian government,” October 24, 2013, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/24/magazine-us-and-ukspiedonitaliangovernment.html; Jacob Appelbaum et al., “Embassy Espionage: The NSA’s Secret Spy Hub in Berlin,” Spiegel, October 27, 2013, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/cover-story-how-nsa-spied-on-merkel-cell-phone-from-berlin-embassy-a-930205.html; Jacob Appelbaum, Holger Stark, Marcel Rosenbach and Jörg Schindler, “Berlin Complains: Did US Tap Chancellor Merkel’s Mobile Phone?” Spiegel, October 23, 2013, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/merkel-calls-obama-over-suspicions-us-tapped-her-mobile-phone-a-929642.html; James Ball, “NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts,” Guardian, October 24, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/24/nsa-surveillance-world-leaders-calls; James Ball, “US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to ‘unmask’ Britons’ personal data,” Guardian, November 20, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/20/us-uk-secret-deal-surveillance-personal-data; James Ball and Nick Hopkins, “GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief,” Guardian, December 20, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/20/gchq-targeted-aid-agencies-german-government-eu-commissioner; Maik Baumgärtner et al., “America’s Willing Helper: Intelligence Scandal Puts Merkel in Tight Place,” Spiegel, May 4, 2015, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/bnd-intelligence-scandal-puts-merkel-in-tight-place-a-1031944.html; Sven Becker et al., “Indispensible Exchange: Germany Cooperates Closely with NSA,” Spiegel, July 8, 2013, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-reveals-cooperation-between-nsa-and-german-bnd-a-909954.html; Manuel Bewarder, Florian Flade and Thorsten Jungholt, “Victim Of U.S. Spying, Germany Must React With Care,” Worldcrunch, July 16, 2014, http://www.worldcrunch.com/opinion-analysis/victim-of-u.s.-spying-germany-must-react-with-care/diplomacy-de-maiziere-merkel-relationship-nsa-spying/c7s16487/; Priyanka Boghani, “Germany summons US ambassador over reports of cell monitoring,” Global Post, October 24, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/131023/german-chancellor-merkel-calls-obama-over-repo-0; Dave Boyer, “In Germany, Merkel has blunt words for Obama on right to privacy,” Washington Times, June 19, 2013, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/19/germany-obama-defends-us-internet-snooping/; British Broadcasting Corporation, “US ambassador to Germany summoned in Merkel mobile row,” October 24, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24651975; British Broadcasting Corporation, “NSA spying: France summons US envoy over Wikileaks claims,” June 24, 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-33253639; Madeline Chambers, “Germany asks top U.S. intelligence official to leave over spy scandal,” Reuters, July 10, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/10/us-germany-usa-spy-official-idUSKBN0FF1GU20140710; Deutschewelle, “Germany demands US ‘answers’ on phone tapping,” October 27, 2013, http://www.dw.de/germany-demands-us-answers-on-phone-tapping/a-17186115; Deutschewelle, “Merkel fronts Bundestag on NSA spying, Ukraine,” November 18, 2013, http://www.dw.de/merkel-fronts-bundestag-on-nsa-spying-ukraine/a-17237835; 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