WikiLeaks Watch 12/15/2010

Yesterday, a UK judged reversed the earlier court decision denying bail to Julian Assange. Under the conditions of the granted bail, Assange was required to post around 350K in cash, wear an electric ankle bracelet, and confine himself to the residential estate of Vaughan Smith, the owner of the Frontline Journalist Club that Assange had holed up at before his arrest. However, Swedish authorities appealed the bail reversal which keeps Assange in prison for at least the next 48 hours until the appeal hearing is heard.

Assange’s incarceration has attracted plenty of “celebrity support” that will easily come up with the cash to meet the monetary terms of the bail. Vaughan Smith, “the maverick British establishment,” gives this reason for offering up his digs to Assange:

Having watched him give himself up last week to the British justice system, I took the decision that I would do whatever else it took to ensure that he is not denied his basic rights as a result of the anger of the powerful forces he has enraged…My decision wasn’t any more about whether WikiLeaks was right or wrong, for good or bad. It was about standing up to the bully and the question of whether our country, in these historic times really was the tolerant, independent and open place I had been brought up to believe it was and feel that it needs to be.

The continued zeal being displayed by the Swedish authorities vis a vis the pursuance of these “sexual misconduct” against Assange continues to suggest US influence behind the Swedish prosecution effort. Although many note that the Swedish “sexual misconduct case” against Assange would not even be a “crime” in Britain, it should be pointed out the UK 2003 Extradition Act makes this a moot point. Extradition is now commonplace in Britain, even over trivial matters. The Guardian’s legal affairs editor, Afua Hirsch, points out that just this month, Jacek Jaskolski, a disabled 58-year-old science teacher, was extradited back to Poland over a 10-year old bank overdraft. In Britain, this would be a minor civil issue, but in Poland, bank overdrafts are a criminal issue. So, back to Poland Jaskolski went. The 2003 Extradition Act, of course, is “9-11, anti-terrorism” inspired legislation.

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There are reports that the US government has convened a secret grand jury indictment of Julian Assange. However, as of now, these reports are grounded more in speculation than fact. However, Swedish Authorities, have posted a statement clarifying the the EU legal formalities/requirements it would have to follow if in the extradition of Assange to a non EU country(read: the United States). The gist: the original executing country,Britain,would have to agree to allow Sweden to extradite Assange to the United States.

But, it should be noted that the UK 2003 Extradition Act, in part codifies the US-UK Extradition Treaty of 2003. The US-UK Extradition Treaty 2003 was ratified by the United States Senate in 2006. Britain would be treaty-bound to oblige the US Request for Extradition of Assange from Sweden. Of course, under the same treaty, the US could directly request Britain to extradite Assange into US custody right now. That this has not happened implies that there is no secret US grand jury indictment of Assange as of yet.

The question to be begged, of course, is what US crime Assange would be guilty of? US media apparently is now waking up to the implications if Assange were charged under the 1917 Espionage Act. This would mean any US Newspaper that had published, extracted, or commented on the “classified material” in the leaks would likewise be guilty. More and more politicians are publicly expressing comfort with that exact position and the need for enforcing censorship. Incoming Tea-Partier Allen West is quoted as recently saying:

And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to be able to do this and then also supporting him and applauding him for the efforts. So that’s kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.”

However, the prospect of turning every American and News Organization that has commented on the contents of WikiLeaks’ leaks into spy, which would be the legal implication if Assange were tried under the 1917 Espionage Act, probably is a bridge too far even for our corrupt political class. So instead, look for new laws next year that will actually do just that, but they won’t apply retroactively. In the meantime, the US is probably searching for ways to grab Julian Assange outside of the the 1917 Espionage Act. I find reports that the US government may be trying to go back to Assange’s days as the hacker, “Mendax,” in seeking him for questioning regarding old cases, that are still under US extradition, regarding breaches of US military networks back in the 90s and early 2000s credible. The US could extradite Assange under the pretext of a “person of interest” for questioning in such matters, detain him, wait for the US legislature to pass new legislation regarding the press and leaked classified information, and when WikiLeaks releases new “leaks” in the aftermath of the passage of such laws, arrest and charge him then. I have no doubt those shitbags in Washington are looking at that as a possible course of action.

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Radical Libertarians have been warning that “GOP Tea Party Libertarianism” was joke and that it portended some negative consequences. WikiLeaks is likely going to end up being the catalyst that demonstrates just how bad of joke it was. I think the influx of these “Tea Party Patriots” into the GOP greatly increases the likelihood that we are going to end up with laws that make publishing, commenting, or supporting Wikileaks material and/or WikiLeaks itself a crime.

These “libertarians” such as Don Boudreaux who think the primary battle is over marginal tax rates are solely mistaken. If you do not understand that libertarianism was birthed from a class critique of a permanent war economy, then you have no true understanding of the libertarian critique of political economy. My advice to these libertarians is to take a break from marginal tax rates for a second to consider the devastating effects of censorship on political economy. And I have to just laugh about the “concern” over the “Debt Commission.” Remind me why any libertarian worth his/her salt should give a rat’s ass about the fiscal stability of a “censorship regime.” WikiLeaks is the battle…

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Glenn Greenwald documents the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning. Julian Assange, in his persecution by the US Government, has become a global cult of personality of sorts, a celebrity of sorts. And that protects him. But WikiLeaks is nothing without the actual leakers, and the ultimate heroes are people of conscious like Bradley Manning. We fight for Julian Assange to avoid the fate of Bradley Manning, but Bradley manning is already suffering the fate of Bradley Manning. And that fate is torture. The US Government tortures. And Ken Loach, Bianca Jagger, Michael Moore, or Vaughan Smith or not standing vigil over Bradley Manning. And they couldn’t even if they wanted to.

In an old post at Freedom Democrats, I noted that in all this talk about “Going Galt” by Tea Party Patriots, they seemed to have forgotten that John Galt was tortured by the US government in Atlas Shrugged. John Galt was not a “Patriot.” For all this talk about “Going Galt,” the only one in the United States who actually has is Bradley Manning. In that action, there is no political glory, no celebrity…only the utmost misery.

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