WikiLeaks is under serious threat. The US, UK, Swedish and Australian governments are engaging in a coordinated effort to extradite its editor-in-chief Julian Assange to the United States, to face espionage charges for journalistic activities.
For twenty-one months a Grand Jury sitting in the Washington DC area has been meeting on a monthly basis, seeking to prosecute Julian Assange for espionage.
No judge or defense counsel is present at these proceedings. According to the global intelligence firm Stratfor, a sealed indictment against Assange was issued 18 months ago, in January 2011.
In connection with the case, individuals have been legally compelled to give evidence to the Grand Jury.
Google, Twitter, and other internet service providers have been issued secret court orders to divulge private information about WikiLeaks staff, volunteers and supporters.
Friends and supporters of WikiLeaks have been detained, searched and interrogated at airports, and attempts have been made to turn them into informants.
Please consult Alexa O’Brien’s timeline of US vs. Manning, Assange, WikiLeaks, and the Press for comprehensive information on the Grand Jury and associated matters.
Australia quietly changed its extradition law three months ago. An amendment passed in February makes it possible for someone to be extradited for minor offenses. This amendment weakens the security of all Australians, and facilitates Assange’s extradition from his home country, despite popular support for him there. There was no media reportage on the passage of this amendment.
Declassified Australian diplomatic cables reveal that Australian diplomats have raised no concerns over the possible extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. The Australian government asks only that it be forewarned, so as to coordinate a media response.1
The Australian government also passed the ‘WikiLeaks Amendment‘ in July 2011, broadening the powers of Australia’s ASIO intelligence agency to spy on Australian citizens and anyone associated with WikiLeaks.
At the behest of the US government, Prime Minister Julia Gillard instigated a federal investigation into whether criminal charges could be brought against Assange. Before it had been concluded that Assange has broken no laws, Gillard had already publicly called Assange’s actions “illegal” and stated that his passport may be cancelled.2
The Australian government has repeatedly delayed, censored and blocked Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for material that would reveal its internal legal deliberations over Assange’s extradition to the US and has refused to answer parliamentary questions about the extent of its co-operation.
It has given only cursory assistance regarding a highly irregular and politicized Swedish extradition request for Julian Assange under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system.
Please see SwedenVersusAssange’s Australia page for more comprehensive information on Australian complicity.
Assange has been detained under house arrest without charge for 539 days. If his May 30 Supreme Court challenge is successful, he is at risk of extradition to the US under the terms of a one-sided UK/US extradition treaty.
Long-promised reform of the UK’s extradition arrangements continue to be delayed, and this is despite the findings of two Parliamentary Select Committees that reform is urgent.
The US government is directly involved. A February FOI request revealed the involvement of Attorney General Eric Holder and other US officials in the Baker Review on UK extradition reform. The UK government has refused to publish the evidence on which the Baker Review based its findings. Other FOI requests specific to Julian Assange have been denied.
US Ambassador Louis Susman confirmed that the US would wait to see “how things work out in the British courts.” Mr Susman has been granted extraordinary access to directly address the UK Parliament and its Select Committees, arguing that reform of the UK/US extradition treaty is unnecessary.
On 8 December 2010 the Independent newspaper in the UK cited “diplomatic sources” confirming informal talks between Sweden and the US about extraditing Julian Assange.
The US/Sweden bilateral treaty has a “temporary surrender” clause which can be used for onward transfer to the US, circumventing the safeguards of a formal extradition.
Sweden was condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture in 2005 for its role in the extraordinary rendition of refugees to CIA black sites. Sweden has not refused a US request for extradition since 2000.
The Swedish Prime Minister’s chief political adviser is Karl Rove, infamous for coordinating smear campaigns while he was George Bush’s adviser. Rove is an old associate of Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was revealed as a US informant in a 1973 State Department cable published by WikiLeaks.
Senior Swedish political figures have made false and/or misleading public statements highly prejudicial to a fair trial for Julian Assange. These include Prime Minister Reinfeldt, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Sweden’s Prosecutor-General Anders Perklev, investigating prosecutor Marianne Ny and Justice Minister Beatrice Ask.
Justice Minister Ask visited US Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington on 27 February 2012, but no statements outlining what was discussed have been issued.
IRREGULARITIES IN THE SWEDISH CASE
There are numerous concerns regarding the merits and lawfulness of the Swedish case against Assange, including:
• the two complainants to the case went to the police for advice about HIV tests. They did not wish to file a complaint. One complainant has stated she felt “railroaded” by police. On hearing that police were seeking Julian Assange for rape, she became upset and did not sign her statement;
• there have been unlawful and prejudicial disclosures to the media by police and the prosecution regarding the investigation. These have generated over 4 million websearch results linking ‘Assange’ and ‘rape,’ irreparably harming his
reputation and diminishing public support for WikiLeaks;
• after reviewing the police file, Senior Prosecutor Eva Finne found the rape allegation to be false: “I consider there are no grounds for suspecting he has committed rape”;
• there have been breaches of police procedures in the investigation of the allegations, in particular: complainant witness statements were not recorded and were later revised;
• the failure to disclose details of the allegations and the evidence in English;
• the apparent failure of the Prosecutor to consider exculpatory evidence, and the withholding of exculpatory evidence from the defense and the UK courts;
• the disproportionate behavior of the Prosecutor Marianne Ny in refusing voluntary offers for co-operation and refusing to make use of the normal methods of Mutual Legal Assistance for interviewing Assange – insisting instead on an international warrant which unduly restricts his liberty. The EAW and a public Interpol Red Notice were issued two days prior to WikiLeaks’ Cablegate publication;
• the pre-trial detention conditions – incommunicado in solitary confinement – sought by the Prosecutor prior to any decision whether to prosecute, and their lack of a time limit; and
• the prospect of a secret trial, which is customary under Swedish law.
Please consult SwedenVersusAssange’s “Prosecution page for comprehensive information on the irregularities in the Swedish case.”
Under the EAW system UK courts are unable to take any of the above into account. Julian Assange has not been charged with any crime. The Swedish extradition is for questioning as part of the preliminary investigation. Neither the UK Extradition Act 2003 nor the EU Framework Directive intended EAWs to be used in this manner. Julian Assange’s extradition under such circumstances will set dangerous precedents affecting basic justice across Europe, whereby extradition is possible from the UK without charge, without evidence, at the behest of any prosecutor anywhere in Europe and without proper judicial oversight.
FURTHER AGGRESSION AGAINST WIKILEAKS
Other related acts of aggression against WikiLeaks include:
• Leading active US politicians have called for the extrajudicial assassination of Julian Assange, including by drone strike. US senators have labelled our editor-in-chief a “high-tech terrorist” and “enemy combatant” engaged in “cyber warfare”.
• The setting up of a 120-strong US Pentagon team dedicated to “taking action” against WikiLeaks ahead of WikiLeaks’ release of the Iraq War Logs and Cablegate. Similar publicly declared FBI, CIA and US State Department Task Forces are also still in operation.
• Requests from US government figures that American banking corporations Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Western Union, and Bank of America impose an illegal financial blockade against the organization, blocking the ability of members of the public to make donations, thereby shutting off 95% of WikiLeaks’ funding. In December 2010 Paypal also froze 60,000 euros of WikiLeaks donations held by the Wau Holland charitable foundation. Two days later Swiss bank PostFinance froze Julian Assange’s account, containing 31,000 euros, used for WikiLeaks Staff Defence Funds. The WikiLeaks blockade has been condemned by both the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. In July 2011 WikiLeaks lodged a complaint about the financial blockade with the European Commission for infringement of EU Anti-Trust laws. We are still awaiting an answer, due by August 2012.
• The US government has also pressured internet providers to cease services to WikiLeaks.org. On 1 December 2010 Amazon removed WikiLeaks from their storage servers, and on 2 December the DNS service pointing to the Wikileaks.org domain was disrupted.
• WikiLeaks’ volunteers and associates have endured constant harassment, being detained at US border points, having their electronic devices seized and secret so-called 2703(d) orders issued for their Twitter records. The latter only came to light when Twitter challenged the injunction against letting individuals know their records were being turned over to federal authorities. It is not yet known how many other internet service providers received similar 2703(d) orders relating to WikiLeaks – so far, only Google and ISP Sonic.net have been confirmed.