Opinion

The Great Debate

Assange has reason to fear U.S. extradition

No one is emerging well from the Julian Assange extradition circus playing out in London. As the Wikileaker in chief sits tantalizingly beyond the reach of British police in the Ecuador embassy, he can congratulate himself on a rare trifecta.

By holing up in some corner of a foreign field that is forever Ecuador, he is embarrassing the British government, which prides itself on upholding the law. By resisting Sweden’s demands that he return to Stockholm to face rape charges, he continues to besmirch the justice system of a country otherwise famous as a beacon of liberality and progressivism. And by picking Ecuador, he is drawing attention to his reluctant host’s cruel, despotic regime, which thumbs its nose at democratic governments everywhere.

Add to that a fourth motive – and to Assange perhaps the most important – for his failure to turn himself in: his reproach of America. The reason he cites for not answering sexual assault accusations against him by two women is that Sweden may extradite him to America, where he fears he will be tortured and put to death.

His account of the law is both misleading and inaccurate. Britain could as easily extradite Assange to the U.S. as to Sweden, but it can’t. Like the rest of Europe, Britain may not deliver to America a criminal suspected of a capital crime – spying, in Assange’s case — because America has the death penalty. The same is true of Sweden. But his suggestion that if America could capture him he would be tortured and killed is plausible. And any who doubt his seemingly absurd claim should acquaint themselves with the wretched plight of United States Army Private First Class Bradley Manning.

Manning stands accused of providing Assange with a document dump of secret information in the biggest breach of security ever suffered by America. While the world’s press has reveled in America’s discomfort, the wholesale exposure of secret diplomatic reports has made it more difficult to work toward a peaceful settlement of the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan. If found guilty, Manning deserves to be punished.

from Bernd Debusmann:

A counter-productive WikiLeak

WIKILEAKS/AMAZON

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

WASHINGTON -- Now that WikiLeaks has begun releasing a quarter of a million classified U.S. State Department cables from embassies around the world, a new era is dawning. Political change and reform are inevitable world-wide and at long last, there's a chance for peace and stability in the Middle East. Really.

This is how Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, views the effect of the dispatches that lay bare the inner workings of U.S. diplomacy, provide frank and often titillating detail of the shortcomings and foibles of foreign leaders, report on the breath-taking scale of corruption in such places as Afghanistan and Russia, and note that -- surprise, surprise -- Arab leaders in particular tend to say one thing in public and quite another in private.

"The...media scrutiny and the reaction from government are so tremendous that it actually eclipses our ability to understand it," Assange said in an interview with Time magazine on day 3 of the data dump, which began on November 28. "I can see that there is a tremendous re-arrangement of viewings about many different countries. And so that will result in a new kind of harmonization ... "

The WikiLeaks story and criminal liability under the espionage laws

The following is  a guest post by Gilead Light, a member of the white collar criminal defense group with law firm Venable LLP in Washington.  He has worked on numerous criminal defense representations, including a jury trial on charges of espionage and other national security violations.

WASHINGTON, DC – The legal pursuit of WikiLeaks, a trans-national website devoted to publishing secret government documents worldwide, is reaching a boiling point. After publishing tens of thousands of classified U.S. documents revealing details of the war in Afghanistan, the group is now promising to publish more of the same.

The alleged actions of the leaker, reputed to be U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning, are likely violations of the U.S. Espionage laws. Manning was already charged under the Espionage Act with the submission to WikiLeaks earlier this year of a classified video showing the death of two journalists in Iraq.

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