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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Julian Assange - leaking in America and Sweden

The Assange story becomes more and more convoluted – with sex and lies making it difficult to focus on the real issues. So, in the true spirit of this blog,  let’s step back; get the story line; and then try to identify the issues.
Most recent writing on Assange focuses either on the sexual issues; on his wider political mission; or the diplomatic complications of his most recent refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in LondonWe need to pull all the issues together.
This post sets out some basic facts. The next one will focus on the ideological and political context in Sweden which has created such a maelstrom from an act which, in all countries other than Sweden it seems, would be regarded as a private misdemeanour.
  • Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by Assange "to bring important news and information to the public... One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth." Another of the organisation's goals is to ensure that whistleblowers and journalists are not jailed for emailing sensitive or classified documents. An online "drop box" was designed to "provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists."
  • It has nothing to do with Wikipedia
  • Wikileaks’s main data bases are in Sweden.
  • in early 2010 Wikileaks began releasing cables which had been sent by 274 of the US consulates, embassies, and missions around the world. Dated between December 1966 and February 2010, the cables contain the diplomats' assessment of host countries and their officials. According to WikiLeaks, the 251,287 cables making Cablegate the world's largest release of classified material.  
  • The first document, the so-called Reykjavik 13 cable, was released by WikiLeaks on 18 February 2010, and was followed by the release of State Department profiles of Icelandic politicians a month later. 
  • WikiLeaks starts negotiations with media partners in Europe and the United States to publish the rest of the cables in redacted (edited) form, removing the names of sources and others in vulnerable positions.
  • April 2010. Julian Assange visits Sweden to discuss an offer of protective co-operation from the Pirate Party, a political movement devoted to maximum freedom on the Internet. After only a brief existence, the upstart party had surprisingly won a place in the European Union Parliament, and had suggested that WikiLeaks would be safer from repressive measures if it were sponsored by a parliamentary party. It is just weeks after WikiLeaks astounded the world and severely damaged the image of the United States by issuing “Collateral Murder”, a military video documenting an appalling war crime by the seemingly inhuman crew of a U.S. helicopter gun ship in Iraq.
  • In August 2010 Assange visited Sweden to formalise the deal with the Pilot Party. During this visit he spoke at a Conference arranged by the Social Democrats and had sex with two women one of whom was an SD supporter and who subsequently used a police friend to check what power they had to force Assange to take a medical test (since unprotected sex apparently took place).  The main instigator is horrified when the police say they will charge Assange with rape – and refuses to sign the interview sheet. A warrant for his arrest for rape is issued (but rescinded within a day by a higher authority on the basis that there is no case to answer) An SD politician fighting a difficult election gets the case opened up a few days later and leaks to the press (He has a legal partnership with an ex-Minister who allowed American rendition).  Assange waits in Sweden for 5 weeks for clarification; is told there are no charges against him; leaves the country on 27 September. That same day a warrant is issued for his arrest.
  • On 28 November 2010, the first 220 cables were published by El País (Spain), Der Spiegel (Germany),Le Monde (France), The Guardian (United Kingdom) and The New York Times (United States). WikiLeaks had planned to release the rest over several months, and as of 11 January 2011, 2,017 had been published.
  • The US government reacted angrily to these disclosures – and a Grand Jury is apparently in existence collecting information (with FBI help) for a prosecution.
  • On 30 November 2010 Swedish Prosecutor Ny (the third to be involved in the case) issues a European Arrest Warrant for Assange and authorises an Interpol Red Notice concerning him. This is reserved for terrorists – but even Gaddafi was given only an Orange notice
  • Assange uses every legal means to resist extradition to Swedenfearing that their close cooperation with the USA will lead to his extradition to the USA where he has become a hate figure – with some politicians openly calling for his assassination.
  • he spent almost 500 days in "protective custody" while fighting the case with the English legal system (this means with friends with an electronic tag on his ankle) 
  • when he finally lost the battle to be extradited to Sweden, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
Although I'm a fan of Scandinavian systems, the Swedish bureaucrats were exposed a decade ago for their eugenics programme which compulsorily sterilised more than 60,000 women from the 1940s through to the 1970s. In the late 1980s, I experienced personally the heavy-handed nature of their police when I tried to enter a night club with a Swedish Professor and his academic colleagues. More later.............................. 

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