Julian Assange: evidence that a man can be a journalist and an asshole at the same time

Not that that proposition was ever seriously in question.

Assange’s Ecuadorian asylum has been withdrawn, and he has been arrested by London police.

Video of the arrest showed a gray-bearded Assange being pulled by British police officers down the steps of the embassy and shoved into a waiting police van. Assange appeared to be physically resisting. His hands were bound in front of him.

Ecuador, which took Assange in when he was facing a Swedish rape investigation in 2012, said it was rescinding asylum because he of his “discourteous and aggressive behavior” and for violating the terms of his asylum.

My feelings are complicated on this one.

Should he be extradited to the US for crimes against the state? Hell no. You can still argue that he was working as a journalist in Wikileaks, and you may not like that he was revealing state secrets, but I think government should be transparent. It’s fair to say he has an anti-US bias, but it shouldn’t be criminal to dislike a government.

But at the same time, he’s been accused of rape, not just doing journalism. He should be extradited to Sweden and face a court for that. But apparently Sweden has let the investigation lapse; they could reopen it.

The UK should arrest him for skipping bail. That’s also clear cut, he did. I guess he faces potentially a year in prison for that.

By all accounts, he was an unpleasant guest at the Ecuadorian embassy, so I can’t blame them for getting fed up.

My preferred scenario: Sweden gets him to try him for rape. He is found guilty or exonerated by a fair trial. Assange is done, we can forget him at that point.

Worst case scenario: The US gets him, and tries him for espionage, which apparently carries a potential death sentence (which is barbaric in itself). Once again, the US expresses its contempt for journalism, and an alleged rapist is a martyr.

Please don’t extradite him to the US. I don’t trust our courts.


  1. doubter says

    It looks like he won’t be extradited to the US. Here’s a quote from the CBC’s article:

    “Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said Assange’s diplomatic asylum was withdrawn for repeated violations of international conventions. Ecuador received a guarantee from Britain that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty, Moreno said.”

  2. says

    I don’t know about an espionage charge, but he did conspire with Vladimir Putin to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Mueller may have a sealed indictment of him, as a matter of fact.

    The espionage in question was actually committed by Chelsea Manning, and she did not get the death penalty. The hacks of John Podesta and the DNC were in fact illegal but I don’t know if he has any part of that conspiracy, just what was later done with the material.

  3. consciousness razor says

    Journalist? Maybe “publisher” is okay, if you’ve got a thing for euphemisms. But “journalist” seems like quite a stretch.

  4. mastmaker says

    There’s also (enough) evidence that he got hold of information damaging to Clinton and then conspired to delay releasing the information to do a calculated maximum amount of damage to Clinton campaign. This – in itself – may not be a crime, but it certainly downgrades his journalist credentials, and makes him a partisan political operative, with lot less protections.

  5. says

    It’s not in the UK government’s power to guarantee that Assange won’t be extradited to the US. Now he is in UK custody, the US could make an extradition application, which would go through the normal court procedure in which the UK government can’t/won’t interfere.
    What the UK government can and will do is require a commitment from the US government that he won’t face the death penalty if convicted. If they don’t receive such an assurance, the Home Secretary could prevent his extradition.

  6. doubter says

    @ FossilFishy #5: Perhaps the US took the death penalty off the table as a sentence. Canada will extradite suspects to the US when they do that.

  7. F.O. says

    On what grounds the US has the authority to trial an Australian citizen out of US soil?

    He’s a massive asshole.
    He still deserves a fair trial for the rape accusations, but however it goes, I won’t waste tears on him.

  8. prostheticconscience says

    Agree that Assange should get a fair trial on the rape charges, and that should be the end of it. But we all know that’s not what’s going to happen. He’s going to be extradited to the US and thrown into solitary confinement for his role in publishing the Collateral Murder video.

    LOLing at the centrists on here with Russiagate brainworms. Russiagate is QAnon for shitlibs. Read Matt Taibbi’s work on it.

  9. says

    @F. O.

    I don’t know what grounds they might have in this specific case. However, imagine that some corporation in the US illegally imports plutonium without a license. Imagine, then, that the board of directors are effectively in conspiracy to illegally import the Pu. If, in the course of their conspiracy, they enlist an Australian to help them launder money to conceal the payment to the source of the Pu, and the Australian is at all times outside the national boundaries of the US, since the criminal conspiracy takes place primarily within the US and breaks US law, when the US indicts the conspirators it can legally indict the co-conspirator who was outside the national boundaries but committing crimes where the crimes occurred within the boundaries of the US.

    Similarly, if there are other conspiracies – conspiracies to conduct espionage or whatever the US is alleging – if the conspiracy takes place primarily within the US and breaks US law, conspirators outside the US can be indicted. It’s not entirely unlike paying a man in Chicago to murder someone in Lansing and then being prosecuted in Michigan. You were outside Michigan when you hired the hitter, but the murder takes place in Michigan. You can be charged in Michigan (though you could also be charged in Illinois). The difference is that hiring a murderer is illegal in Illinois, It may not be illegal to talk about importing Plutonium to the US when one is in Australia. There may not even be a law criminalizing conspiracy in Australia (or the UK) to export to a third-party country in violation of its import laws. But Illinois legalizing hiring a hitter no more makes one unprosecutable in Michigan than Australian law makes one unprosecutable in the US.

    I’d have to know the details of the charges and the alleged relationships to provide anything more than just a general idea of the legal rationale for charging Assange in the US, but I hope that answers your question as asked.

  10. says

    Crip Dyke. We are talking about reporting on the government here, not about importing plutonium. There is a thing in the Constitution about that it is right up there among the first additions to the document, you might have heard of it. If what he did is illegal then what the Washington Post and the NYT did with the Pentagon Papers is also illegal (it isn’t).

    Also Manning is being held for refusing to cooperate with the grand jury concerning Wikileaks, Manning knows nothing about the 2016 election which is what has given so many the hate on Assange.

    As far as the Swedish charge so far Sweden has done nothing, as far as I know to extradite Assange. Although given the US demand for extradition it does appear that Assange’s fears concerning his being arrested for one thing and then extradited to the US for something else entirely are not totally unfounded.

  11. says

    The question from F. O. wasn’t about the nature of the charges and their constitutionality. I don’t actually know what statute the US is alleging was broken.

    The question that WAS asked was about how the US could claim jurisdiction to prosecute a foreign citizen acting outside US boarders. I’m answering that question.

    Your question about the legitimacy of the underlying charge deserves an answer, but it’s a very different question from what was asked and requires information I don’t have.

    Have you got a copy of the arrest warrant and/or indictment we could look at? That’s the information we would need to answer questions about legitimacy and constitutionality of underlying charges.

  12. cartomancer says

    Judging by the footage, it would appear he has not aged well in his confinement. Unless the Metropolitan Police have accidentally collared an elderly necromancer lurking in the Ecuadorian Embassy building instead.

  13. says

    He went on and on about how evil Hillary Clinton was and how she had to be stopped, so he used Wikileaks to help swing the election to Trump. It’ll be ironic if Trump is the president who ends up sentencing him to death.

  14. says

    Oh come on, Crip Dyke you know what is going on with the US at any rate. Sweden may be considering reinstating the rape charges, the UK is going to go forward on the bail jumping thing.

  15. Eirik van der Meer says

    When the allegations in Sweden first came out I picked up on a story that at least one of the alleged victims had ties to Swedish military intelligence. But I can’t find anything on that now, was that a red herring or am I remembering things wrong? If correct it is more than a bit suspicious. But I don’t want to make light of rape allegations either.

  16. chrislawson says


    I wouldn’t trust the UK on this. They have a tradition of breaking promises to suck up to the US. In a particularly close parallel example, the UK assisted the illegal US “extraordinary rendition” program, and repeatedly lied about it to their own people.

    And they don’t need to extradite Assange to the US directly. They can extradite him to Sweden, where the original charges were laid, and leave it to Sweden to extradite him to the US.

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    prostheticconscience @ 9

    Riiiiiight, it’s just a coincidence that this “brainworm” resulted in 37 indictments including actual Russian spies and top members of Trump’s campaign team. Nope, nothing there at all.

    Just admit it, your petulant 2016 anti-HRC temper tantrum helped put a fascist in power.

  18. says

    How did he conspire to hack a computer, when Manning already stole the data (did the “hack”) before approaching Assange with it? And Manning had authorized access to the system where the data was stored?

    Never mind, they’re just going to throw some shit against the wall and hammer enough nails into it to make it stick.

  19. chrislawson says

    Matthew Rigdon@14–

    To be fair, there is a very good argument the Hillary Clinton did need to be stopped, at least with respect to her hawkish and plutocratic leanings. Unfortunately for Assange, any points he might have earned her are outweighed by his refusal to acknowledge that Clinton was in a two-horse race against the much more hawkish and plutocratic Republicans.

  20. Ed Seedhouse says

    @13: “Judging by the footage, it would appear he has not aged well in his confinement.”

    He looks worryingly similar to Bobby Fischer in his dotage.

  21. wcorvi says

    I think 99% of ‘state secrets’ in the USA are because they are embarrassing to the one(s) who make them secret.

  22. Akira MacKenzie says

    Unfortunately for Assange, any points he might have earned her are outweighed by his refusal to acknowledge that Clinton was in a two-horse race against the much more hawkish and plutocratic Republicans.

    Don’t forget the latter is notoriously racist, xenophobic, sexist, in bed with Christian Theocrats out to ban abortion and make life hell for LGBTQs, utterly incompetent and possibly illiterate.

    But hey “her emails.”

  23. says

    I’d be willing to bet at least a small amount of money on the following:
    • The UK will extradite him to Sweden rather than trying him, so that they can hold the charge in reserve in case Sweden can’t make anything stick.
    • Sweden will not reinstate the charges, because the charges had already been dropped once before and the only reason to bring them back again was for the political convenience of the US political establishment. They will, instead, extradite him to the US after a brief waiting period to make sure he drops out of the news.
    • Either Trump will pardon him specifically to outrage Democrats (because that will be a good distraction from the other stuff he’s doing), or else he’ll instruct his legal team to push for the death penalty (partially because he likes the idea of being able to kill people, and partially because he can then spread his palms to the media and say “the Democrats claim this guy was working for me, but I pushed as hard as possible to punish him, so I must be innocent”). The Democratic Party and its loyalists will push for the death penalty, too, because when it comes to anything related to Hillary Clinton they have no sense of irony and are unable to recognize their own hypocrisy.

    His “crime” is publishing information which was inconvenient to establishment politicians, mostly by revealing that they were liars and hypocrites. Whether you like his choice of establishment politicians or not, this is exactly the kind of thing that should worry us when it is “punished” by the government. The fact that the Democrats are howling for blood just highlights how utterly void of principle they are — which, of course, tends to justify Assange.

  24. Scott McKinley says

    It sounded to me that he was wanted for hacking charges and nothing to do with the 2016 election by the US. It sounds like the issue is if he helped hack / pushed to break the law or if he just suggested he needed more information as a journalist and left it up to Manning on how to handle that. Either way, this crime does not carry the death penalty. However, my worry is that this is used to get him here and then more charges are added.

  25. thirdmill301 says

    Julian Assange is probably personally responsible for the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. If hell existed, he should rot there. And I’d prosecute him for computer hacking too. Being a journalist does not include the right to commit breaking and entering, and computer hacking is the cyber equivalent.

  26. thirdmill301 says

    Ronald Couch, the issue isn’t that he was reporting on the government. The issue is the manner in which he did it. Something that is otherwise a crime doesn’t become legal simply because you’re doing it for a good cause.

    And even granting that he did some good by revealing some pretty shameful things the US government was doing, he also made it far more difficult for US intelligence agencies to do their legitimate jobs, like tracking terrorist organizations such as Al Quaeda and ISIS. I’m for as much transparency as possible, but so long as real terrorists do exist, their targets really do need to be able to keep some things secret.

  27. says


    Well, when people start waving pitchforks and get the old mob mentality out of storage, I kind of assume they want retribution, not law.

    But anyway: you would want somebody who did that to be on trial, and preferably restrained from further harming the public, right?

  28. says

    Beats me why anyone is mentioning the death penalty. No one has been executed on espionage related charges since the Rosenbergs. Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen are believed to have gotten US assets killed with their treachery, and they’re both sitting in prison.

  29. says


    I’d prosecute him for computer hacking too


    Well, when people start waving pitchforks and get the old mob mentality out of storage, I kind of assume they want retribution, not law.

    That’s just weird. “I’d like someone to be brought before the court to face the normal prosecutorial process, which given the US includes a significant amount of concern for due process even if the system is known to be flawed and racist” == “I’d like to pull someone out of their home, threaten them with pitchforks and do them violence”???

    How did you get that? Oh right. You “assumed”. Oh, well.

    you would want somebody who did that to be on trial, and preferably restrained from further harming the public, right?

    The point of saying you want to prosecute someone rather than saying you want to restrain someone is that you’re not committed to an outcome, you trust the process to figure out whether or not any particular type of restraint is justified. One might say that the trust in the US criminal justice system (called “criminal” for a reason) is naive, but this statement is weird (again!) because the first part (want somebody … on trial) was clearly stated by thirdmill & there’s no question here, while the second part is not only not present in what thirdmill said, but rather any “preference” for restraint is contrary to the evidence shown by the preference for a process (a trial) rather than an outcome.

    In any case, you two keep talking. I don’t mean to speak for thirdmill or shut down any conversation, but I am surprised at both the pitchforks thing and the restraint thing.

  30. says

    …he can then spread his palms to the media and say “the Democrats claim this guy was working for me, but I pushed as hard as possible to punish him, so I must be innocent”

    I’m not sure Trump would be capable of making as coherent an argument as this. He’d probably switch to talking about his wall halfway through.

  31. says

    So many people here are outraged about 2016 and that doesn’t appear to be what the US wants him for. You don’t like the guy because he helped screw over Clinton (say anyone remember who the head of the FBI was at that time?) so he should be punished. You don’t care about the First Amendment, you only care that the guy helped screw over Clinton. You are a bunch of hypocrites, no better than those Republican hypocrites you are always making fun of.

  32. thirdmill says

    Ronald, the First Amendment protects the right to publish, but it does not immunize criminal behavior used to gather the information that is being published. If I’m a journalist, and I break into someone’s house, and install hidden cameras and listening devices, steal their private papers, and get a really interesting story as a result, there will be no First Amendment issue if I’m then prosecuted for burglary and trespass. If you hate the person I’m writing about you may not care that I committed burglary and trespass, but those are still crimes, and the fact that I’m a journalist does not give me legal protection.

    Vicar, make whatever assumptions you like, but Crip Dyke pretty much nailed it. If I were a mob and pitchfork guy, I’d be advocating that he be strung up bon the nearest tree without a trial, but that’s not what I said. I said he should be put on trial. As he should. American prosecutors have convinced a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe he committed a crime, and there should now be a trial to determine if those prosecutors can prove it to the satisfaction of a jury. That doesn’t sound like mob mentality to me.

    As for wanting to restrain someone who’s harming the public, there are times when someone poses a significant public threat and has to be immediately stopped with no due process, for example a school shooter in the middle of an active shooting. Had it been possible to prevent Wikileaks, I would have favored doing so. But that is not our current situation, in which the damage has already been done and so far as anyone knows there is no further continuing threat. In the absence of an immediate threat, we can now allow the legal process to run its course.

  33. Hj Hornbeck says

    We’re forty comments in, and nobody’s bothered to link to the indictment? I’m disappointed, quite frankly.

    7. On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications, as designated according to Executive Order No. 13526 or its predecessor orders.

    Assange broke someone’s password in order to access classified information, Journalists don’t do that. Also, that’s all he’s been charged with at this point; anyone saying otherwise is either spouting conspiracy theories, or somehow got access to sealed court documents. If the US DOJ starts throwing out bullshit charges, I’ll be more than happy to condemn them. Until then, the arrest looks legit.

  34. DrVanNostrand says

    First of all, the basis for the indictment being used to request extradition has been widely reported. It is basically a conspiracy charge for his work with Chelsea Manning, and has a maximum penalty of 5 years. If the facts of that indictment are true, there is no doubt he violated the law and is subject to prosecution. If those facts are established, the issue becomes very subjective; the difference between a whistle-blower and someone who steals and distributes vital confidential information. My opinion has always been that the value of the information he distributed about American war crimes and illegal surveillance practices vastly outweigh the largely hypothetical harms asserted by our intelligence agencies. He is a target of the US government because he committed the only unforgivable sin: making the US government look bad.
    He should absolutely be subject to the sexual assault charges in Sweden now that he has left the Ecuadorian embassy. I don’t believe Sweden will charge him now, because I don’t believe they were ever interested in pursuing those charges. Sweden stopped pursuing those charges long before Wikileaks became a high profile organization. Assange offered to go back to face those charges on the condition that he not be extradited to the US. They refused. He offered to be interviewed by investigators in the UK. They refused. I am very sympathetic to his argument that he is willing to subject himself to prosecution in Sweden, but not extradition to the US. We have tortured and indefinitely detained people that we have designated as terrorists on flimsy grounds. In the most optimistic of scenarios, he would almost certainly be held in ‘protective’ solitary confinement for years awaiting trial. Under a lawless regime like Trump’s, it’s entirely possible he could be held without charge indefinitely for supporting terrorism.
    Finally, many people, especially Republicans, are trying to use this case to essentially outlaw all journalism that results in the release of classified information. This is a critical part of journalism that has resulted in the exposure of crimes like Iran-contra and Watergate. A reporter encouraging someone to release classified information that may be harmful to the US government is an important first amendment right. The bar for criminalizing that behavior needs to be seriously fucking high. Assange has done nothing of that magnitude.

  35. says

    @#35, Crip Dyke:

    They’re charging him for an act that revealed war crimes. Frankly, that was something more heroic than anything most people will ever do, and, just from a statistical standpoint, probably a better accomplishment than anything you have ever done. (I freely admit that it’s a better thing than anything I’ve ever done.)

    But it is absolutely the fact that Democrats are more often than not hoping he will be punished as stiffly as possible not for his crimes but because he dared to publish documents that Hillary Clinton did not want published. You can see it in the discussion here, you can see it in the discussion in most Democratic forums, you can see it in Amanda Marcotte’s gloating piece over on Salon… principle means nothing, and don’t let me hear any of these people complain about Trump’s lack of respect for the rule of law again. It’s partisanship pure and simple.

    @#39, thirdmill:

    Answer the question: if somebody had caused ISIS to make major headway, would you want them restrained and put on trial?

  36. wzrd1 says

    For once, I’m not previewing opinions and claptrap.
    Full disclosure, I am a person with a US security clearance.

    Now, I have a major problem, just precisely fucking when, did the US suddenly become the global empire, where our law is everyone’s law.
    We enforce US law, upon foreign nationals, outside of war, despite the individual never coming, at the time, under our dominion.
    I have major problems with that, it’s a global overstep into potential third world war embrasure of that which is not yours.

    That said, if he were within the US, at the time of offense or contact or similar legal train of events that were perfected under US jurisdiction, then attempted to move away before harm was caused, that’s guilty knowledge.

    But, no. We have a non-US subject, charged with a felony, based upon actions far outside of the US, by a US citizen.
    And somehow, that magically, goes beyond treaty obligations, into Empire, with the naked emperor.

    Hence, Manning was rightfully convicted, his (at the time) conviction should have ha around a dozen individuals convicted, due to their enabling a crime, rather than obeying US law an military regulation.
    Pending deleterious personnel action, access to classified or trusted information is to be terminated, pending future adjudication.
    Never attempted, they should’ve had adjacent cells and endured what he did, at that point, when he became she, yeah, it’s constitutional, but still a torture for morons that share cell space in the secure wing.
    Violate national security law and regulations, you get your own special wing, call it solitary confinement, without it being legally solitary confinement, just de facto.

    Oh, hate splitting hairs? So did I, right until the properly split, per perfect 20/20 hindsight, found that saved hundreds, to thousands from confinement, until the case was adjudicated.

    The kid was wrong, with a capital R. That’s how wrong things went, the kid never should have retained access, due to the law and hence, military regulations.
    So, a fuck ton of bastards didn’t do their job, but went unpunished and due to their dereliction of duty, a massive spill of classified data.
    There are comments and evidence I’d usually use in this conversation, but alas, that goes into classified land, so, just isn’t going to happen.
    Long and short, the kid’s access should have been terminated once flagged for deleterious personnel action, that’s both law and regulation.
    That that happened while we were ignoring some attacks, germane, but also not open to discussion.
    Yeah, it was complicated.

    Long and short, Manning never should have gotten into a position to gather an copy information.

    Shorter version, it’s precisely zero surprise that various ambassadors and ministers either hate one another or worse, hold them into lower contempt than skin oils washed off when washing one’s hands.
    Every participant in that game knows that, polite lovingness or being friends, entirely fiction. There are contacts, who serve as an emergency hotline and things get weird. I loathe weird, loathe war more…

    I’m still trying to ascertain when Assange managed to fall upon US dominion, save if the court insists that the entire universe is US dominion.
    There, I do have a major problem. A foreign citizen committed a lawful act within their land, that is a major crime to us, making friends slaves.

    As much as I loathe what he did, largely over how he did it (there is a lawful way, where he’d never be successfully prosecuted, but alas, he removed such protections and went to foreign press first.
    I’ve been faced with similar dilemma conditions, reported to Congress, via a specific SCIF.
    Classified data is to be treated as such, always.
    Well, until a subpoena is issued.

    Welcome to my world, where I can speak of some things, some are, erm, nebulous, some prohibited.

  37. says

    @The Vicar

    They’re charging him for an act that revealed war crimes. Frankly, that was something more heroic than anything most people will ever do, and, just from a statistical standpoint, probably a better accomplishment than anything you have ever done.

    Sure. I doubt I’ve done anything that heroic.

    But it is absolutely the fact that Democrats are more often than not hoping he will be punished as stiffly as possible not for his crimes but because he dared to publish documents that Hillary Clinton did not want published. You can see it in the discussion here, you can see it in the discussion in most Democratic forums, you can see it in Amanda Marcotte’s gloating piece over on Salon

    But here we part ways. i don’t think that “you can see it in the discussion here”. In order to see that, you’d have to – at minimum – know which thread participants are democrats, wouldn’t you? How do you tell that? And if you can’t, in what way could your statement possibly be true?

    Further, while “Amanda Marcotte’s gloating piece” is something I’m sure I can look up without too much trouble, other references here are vague. “Most Democratic forums”?

    Would it be too much trouble to quote which specific comments in this thread are democrats committing the fault you’re alleging? And could you maybe provide a link/s to one or two democratic forums where the thread participants are hoping Assange will NOT be punished for his crimes, if any, but ARE hoping that he WILL be punished for his influence on the 2016 presidential election?

    I’m open to your claim being true about those forums, but I’m going to need more than your word because of the credibility hit from you seeming to imply that you know the political party registrations of people in this thread, and that people in this thread are arguing he doesn’t deserve to be punished for his crimes (again, if any) but that he does deserve to be punished by the government for his impact on the 2016 election. I don’t see this, though again, I’m open to being persuaded if my interpretation of some comment or other is off and if more people than I know have made their political party registration clear.

    Of course, this is just an internet comment thread and you’re under no obligation to reply to me. I don’t want this to seem like a demand. I just want you to understand that your statements don’t seem obviously, facially true, so I’m going to hold off believing them until some more specific evidence comes in.

    I just want to say to all the others in this thread that, if you’re like The Vicar and believe that I or others in this thread are defending Assange, making light of the US constitutional guarantees of free expression and freedom of the press, or motivated to punish Assange for reasons other than actual criminal activity, it would be really helpful if you actually quoted what makes you think these things. The accusations are entirely too vague to even know if one should rebut them, yet I get the feeling that someone probably should as they don’t seem obviously true and should get pushback until evidence is presented.

  38. KG says

    Although given the US demand for extradition it does appear that Assange’s fears concerning his being arrested for one thing and then extradited to the US for something else entirely are not totally unfounded. – Ronald Couch@11

    Assange’s claim, back before he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, was that if extradited from the UK to Sweden on the rape charges*, he would be in dange of being extradited from Sweden to the USA. This was always bullshit, because the UK is far more likely to extradite him to the USA than Sweden is. Assange is a consummate shit, but did the world a great service by revealing American war-crimes, whether in doing so he broke American law or not. If Swedish prosecutors reactivate the case as it has been reported they could legally do and request his extradition, he should be extradited there atfter serving any sentence for the bail offence here. He should not be extradited to the USA from anywhere, as (a) his alleged offences are political in nature, whatever the legal terminology used and (b) it is impossible to believe he would receive a fair trial.

    BTW Vicar@27, I’ll take your bet, if we can agree terms. Never mind what happens after he’s extradited from Sweden to the USA (since you’ve given two completely opposite options), let’s just take your first two predictions. My bet is that the British authorities will charge him with breaking bail and get that trial (and sentence, if there is one) over before extraditing him anywhere. The second clause can only beciome relevant if he is extradited to Sweden (before or after any bail case in the UK). I predict that in that case, he will be prosecuted in Sweden for sexual offences, and will not be extradited to the USA. (We’d need to agree some endpoint here. Suppose he’s convicted and sentenced to 10 years in a Swedish prison, without any commitment either to extradite him to the USA afterwards, or not to? Would I have to wait for his release to claim a win?)

    *There’s zero evidence these are anything other than legitimate (i.e. the complainants did complain of Assange’s actions, of their own accord), or that Sweden’s government has interfered with the judicial process.

  39. thirdmill301 says

    Vicar, if the person providing aid to ISIS is under the jurisdiction of a nation that makes it a crime to provide material support to terrorist organizations, as does the United States, then yes, they should be prosecuted. Not strung up by an angry mob, but indicated and given a jury trial.

    wzrd1, the jurisdictional basis for the US to prosecute Assange is that his conduct harmed the United States. Suppose I am an Australian citizen, and from the comfort of my flat in Sydney I hack into the Pentagon’s computers and steal a million dollars from the US government, Are you really suggesting that the Americans can’t prosecute me because I didn’t physically have to come to the United States to commit a crime?

    Or suppose I am a French citizen who, from the comfort of my Paris flat mail child pornography to someone in the United States. Is it your position that the US cannot prosecute me for conspiracy to import child pornography into the United States? If that is your position, then we just disagree.

  40. KG says

    Correction to my #46,

    Assange has already been convicted of violating his bail conditions, and is to be sentenced next week, so my proposed bet with the Vicar on his first prediction can’t go ahead exactly as I stated it – it makes no sense to bet on the British authorities charging him, since they already have. But I don’t think this affects the substance of the bet – that Assange’s domestic offence (the bail violation) will be fully dealt with before extradition to anywhere.

  41. mountainbob says

    PZ, if you don’t “trust our courts” but call Assange a “journalist” when he incited and aided another to violate U.S. laws to illegally compromise U.S. defense secrets, then your judgement seems to be impaired.

  42. Porivil Sorrens says

    All US defense secrets should be compromised, and doing so is a heroic act, not a criminal one.

  43. says


    if you … call Assange a “journalist” when he incited and aided another … to illegally compromise … secrets, then your judgement seems to be impaired.

    What? There might be a lot that Assange has done that isn’t journalistic. I mean, even journalists have lives, more’s the pity.* But encouraging the underlings who work in the halls of power to reveal the workings of power when the most powerful are telling those underlings not to spill the beans? That is quintessential journalism.

    And, yes, the most powerful often criminalize such tipping of legume containers. Set aside that they do this while scattering whole bulk-aisles of dehydrated pulses and expecting impunity in the process. The laws on the books themselves do not make journalist’s “incitement” to share secrets non-journalism.

    It might very well be a felony. The fact that it is a felony (if indeed it is) does not change the fact that it is also a vital and core function of journalism. It’s up to the source to determine if they believe that the information contributes more to society in its sharing or in its concealment. The reporter, not knowing what is in the information until it is disclosed, can’t be responsible for this decision. Nor can a reporter be determined to be a journalist when advocating for open access to information that the reporter hasn’t seen but which would not compromise national security, but determined not to be a journalist when advocating for access to similarly unknown information that would compromise national security.

    Even if the national security implications are obvious once the information is in hand, you don’t get to retroactively deny someone the label of journalist at that point.

    Finally, as prebuttal to any attempt on your part to change your argument from prerelease advocacy for openness to the actual decision to publish once the information is in hand, the publication might be bad for the United States. It might be partisan. It might serve an agenda. It might get sources killed or methods compromised. All those criticisms might be legitimate in any given case. But the publication of the information is also a journalistic enterprise, and the decision to publish the information also does not make someone “not a journalist”.

    I think it’s very weird that with all the legit criticisms you could make, you instead try to argue that “inciting” and “aiding” the release of previously undisclosed information is somehow not the behavior of a journalist.

    *That’s sarcasm, folks.

  44. says

    @Porivil Stevens:

    All US defense secrets should be compromised, and doing so is a heroic act, not a criminal one.

    I get where you’re going here, and I read this more as a statement of philosophy than of fact, but I would rather preserve the “criminal” nature of the act when discussing these sorts of disclosures. The fact that Manning (as one example) broke the law and faced jail is a large part of any argument that her actions were heroic.

    So I would rather say that compromising military secrets can be a heroic act even though or even because it is also a criminal one.

    I also quibble with “all … secrets” since there’s no justification for compromising, say, presidential security against assassination or the identity of covert agents whose missions are to observe dangerous activities or situations. On the other hand, I think an argument could be made for releasing the technical specifications of a drone that is often used for assassinations while flying in foreign airspace even if that same drone might on other occasions be used to safely and harmlessly perform observational missions that we all might agree are in the public good.

    Given the uniquely aggressive and lethal nature of US military action around the globe, I do agree that US military secrets are much less often “defense” secrets than the military secrets of other nations.

    Of course, I would argue that the moral response to that is not to commit yourself not to disclose information and then later disclose it against your oath. I would argue that the moral response to that is to decline to participate in the US military. Still, it’s possible that a combination of growing moral awareness of the implications of US military activity coincides with gaining information of activities that must morally be disclosed. Ideally those with such a growing moral awareness quit before this occurs, but this is obviously going to happen in some cases. I feel sympathy for such people because there is no moral way to resolve such a dilemma. On the outside I would argue for a bias in favor of disclosure, but I understand that someone who made an oath might want to keep it. Indeed, I would want to keep it if it were my oath.

    Yeah, what I want more than anything is a new crop of US politicians that radically reform US military and intelligence so that we aren’t a threat to world peace. In the meantime, I’d love for potential recruits to choose other employment without the moral problems of a US military that plays offense instead of defense. I’d love for the military to be simply starved of talent until they are forced to reform themselves morally in order to attract truly valuable employees.

    I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon though.