How Australia can end the Assange stalemate

Dec 5th 2012
The Drum Opinion

Australia can help Julian Assange negotiate his legal problems while remaining consistent with the norms of international law and with the level of assistance that would be offered to other Australians, writes Donald Rothwell.

This week Julian Assange, the Australian founder of Wikileaks, passed the second anniversary of his legal troubles arising from a Swedish issued European Arrest Warrant.

However, notwithstanding the twists and turns in his legal battles, and ultimately his success in seeking diplomatic asylum from Ecuador, Assange’s situation is no closer to resolution. He remains at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and refuses to leave because he fears being eventually extradited to the United States to face various charges associated with the publication by Wikileaks of US diplomatic cables.

To date there is nothing on the public record to suggest the US has commenced legal proceedings against Assange and his extradition to the US has not been sought. The US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, has publicly stated the US is not seeking Assange’s extradition.

Provided Assange remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy, he enjoys certain protections under international law. The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides under Article 22 that diplomatic premises such as an embassy are ‘inviolable’. As such, the embassy cannot be entered by the British authorities without consent.

However the UK has indicated that it does not recognise Ecuador’s granting of asylum and if Assange were to leave the Embassy he is liable to arrest and extradition to Sweden.
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Assange statement regarding CNN’s Erinn Burnett show comment on Ecuador

Thursday, 29th November 19:00 GM

Today there have been reports misquoting Julian Assange in relation to Ecuador as a result of an exchange with CNN’s Erinn Burnett. To those who watch the segment the meaning is clear. Those that have drawn attention to the quote have clearly done so with the intention of misrepresenting what in context was clear in its meaning. Said comment occured within the context of a CNN interview about Mr. Assange’s new book, Cypherpunks. CNN had agreed to ask Mr. Assange about the topic of the book, namely the abuse of mass surveillance by the United States and other mass surveillance powers. The CNN interviewer tried to move the debate away from the scrutiny of the abuses of the United States mass surveillance, by attacking Mr. Assange over Ecuador’s media reform. Since the subject was the abuse of mass surveillance and Ecuador is not known to be an abusive surveillance power, Mr. Assange said Ecuador’s was “not significant” in this context and the conversation should return to topic.

To avoid any doubt, Mr. Assange stated that Ecuador was personally significant to him and that developments within the region were of general international significance. The threats to Latin America by US mass surveillance are extreme as nearly all communications between Latin American and the rest of the world pass through the United States. These and other topics are discussed in Mr. Assange’s book “Cypherpunks” which was published by OR Books this month. Readers are encouraged to watch the segment, which is available on the internet.

You can watch the video of the full interview here Continue reading

Released: WikiLeaks cash blockade ‘ordered’ by American ‘hard-right’

Published: 27 November, 2012, 17:35 | RT

WikiLeaks has released European Commission documents which allegedly show ‘hard-right US politicians’ orchestrated an ‘extrajudicial’ banking blockade against the whistle-blowing site.

(A screenshot from

In the heavily redacted documents, MasterCard Europe “admits” US Congressmen Joseph Lieberman and Peter T. King were involved in conversations with MasterCard in the United States, WikiLeaks said Tuesday.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tweeted on Tuesday  “it is concerning that hard-right elements in the United States have been able to pressure VISA & MasterCard,” adding “there is no sovereignty without economic sovereignty.”

The exact nature of Lieberman and King’s dealing with MasterCard remain unknown, though both lawmakers have historically taken a hard line against the organization. King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, had previously sought to classify WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization, claiming they should be prosecuted for violating the Espionage act.

King, who said Cablegate was even worse than “a physical attack on Americans,” was behind a failed ploy to add Wikileaks to the US Treasury Department’s Specially Designated National and Blocked persons List.

Liberman, one-time chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also went after WikLeaks by introducing the so-called SHIELD Act (Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination) in 2010. The act would have made it a federal offense to publish information “concerning the identity of a classified source or informant of an element of the intelligence community of the United States,” or “concerning the human intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government” if said publication was in opposition to US interests.

Lieberman also boasted of inciting Amazon to cut its services to WikiLeaks.
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Neocons in Congress behind Wikileaks financial blockade

27/nov/2012 by RTAmerica

Wikileaks is no stranger due to attacks due to its anti-secret stance and recently the website released documents showcasing who was behind its financial blockade. MasterCard Europe disclosed that US Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representative Peter King played a significant role in cut off funds to Wikileaks. RT’s Liz Wahl has more.

RT America LIVE

WikiLeaks Press Release: European Commission enabling blockade of WikiLeaks by U.S. hard-right Lieberman/King, contrary to European Parliament’s wishes

European Commission enabling blockade of WikiLeaks by U.S. hard-right Lieberman/King, contrary to European Parliament’s wishes

Tuesday 27th November, 1300 GMT

European Commission documents released today by WikiLeaks show that hard-right U.S. politicians were directly behind the extrajudicial banking blockade against WikiLeaks. In the heavily redacted documents, MasterCard Europe admits that Senator Joseph Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King both “had conversations” with MasterCard in the United States. Lieberman, the then-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, boasted of instigating Amazon’s cutting of service to WikiLeaks – an action condemned by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on 7 December 2011.

Senator Lieberman tried to introduce the SHIELD Act into the Senate and advocated for prosecuting the New York Times for espionage in connection with WikiLeaks’ releases. Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, tried to formally designate WikiLeaks as a foreign terrorist organization, have its staff listed as ’enemy combatants’, and have WikiLeaks put on a U.S. Treasury blacklist. On 13 January 2011 the U.S. Treasury announced it would not do so because there was no evidence that WikiLeaks should be on such a list. While Lieberman and King were unsuccessful in these methods of legally cutting WikiLeaks from its popular donor base, they were successful in doing so extra-legally via VISA and MasterCard, which together hold a monopoly of 97 per cent of the market of EU card payments. Continue reading

Response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs – Kellie Tranter

Response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs

November 12, 2012 By Kellie Tranter

6 November 2012

Dear Ms Tranter

Thank you for your letter of 11 October 2012 to the Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding freedom of expression in the field of journalism.  I have been asked to reply to you on the Minister’s behalf.

Australia is committed to promoting and protecting freedom of expression and opinion.  The Australian Government supports the work of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr Frank La Rue, and agrees with his observation that the right to freedom of expression and the free flow of information is a foundation for every free and democratic society.  These rights, along with the freedom of association, are guaranteed in international human rights laws.

The Australian Government also recognises the important role that civil society and non-government organisations play in the promotion and protection of human rights.  We agree with the Special Rapporteur’s views that states should ensure that human rights defenders and journalists are not subjected to threats of acts of violence, harassment or reprisals for addressing human rights issues. Continue reading

U.S. WikiLeaks Criminal Probe ‘Ongoing,’ Judge Reveals

By David Kravets  – 11.07.12

A 2-year-old federal grand jury probe into the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks is still “ongoing,” a federal judge in Virginia revealed Wednesday in a brief ruling.

It’s the first official confirmation since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum by the Ecuadorean government in August that the grand jury investigation is continuing.

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of Alexandria, Virginia, noted the investigation in a legal flap surrounding three WikiLeaks associates who lost their bid to protect their Twitter records from U.S. investigators. The three had asked the court to unseal documents in their case. In May, O’Grady ordered the documents remain under seal for six months. On Wednesday he renewed that order, based on a government filing.

“For reasons stated in the memorandum of the United States, unsealing of the documents at this time would damage an ongoing criminal investigation,” O’Grady ruled. (.pdf)

The Justice Department served Twitter with a records demand in December 2010 as part of the investigation into WikiLeaks.

The targets of the records demand are WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account, and the accounts of three people connected to the group: Seattle coder and activist Jacob Appelbaum; Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s parliament; and Dutch businessman Rop Gonggrijp. Jonsdottir and Gonggrijp helped WikiLeaks prepare the release of a classified U.S. Army video published last year, “Collateral Murder,” and Appelbaum was the site’s U.S. representative.

The court order Twitter complied with sought the full contact details for the Twitter accounts (phone numbers and addresses, even though Twitter doesn’t collect these — only an e-mail address), account payment method if any (credit card and bank account number), IP addresses used to access the account, connection records (“records of session times and durations”) and data transfer information, such as the size of data files sent to someone else, and the destination IP (though this isn’t technically possible in Twitter).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union unsuccessfully fought the Twitter order, arguing in part that it violated the account holders’ First Amendment rights. The groups lost, and the judge refused to stay his order pending appeal.

The order requiring Twitter to turn over information also showed that the authorities were seeking other information, including mailing addresses, billing information, email addresses, credit card and bank account numbers, and IP address information from other internet service providers.

The ACLU and EFF sought to unseal the government’s request for these records, but Judge O’Grady allowed the government to keep under seal those court orders.

The only person who has been charged with any crimes connected to WikiLeaks, is former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, whose long-delayed trial is scheduled for February. Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom. Ecuador has granted Assange asylum, claiming that if Assange is returned to Sweden to face questioning in a sex crimes investigation he’ll be shipped to the United States to face prosecution in connection to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks Press Release – Comment on the US Election

WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) – Posted Wednesday 7th November 2012 from Twitlonger

Four more years in the same direction cannot be tolerated.

WikiLeaks comment on U.S. election:
Wed Nov 7 06:22:37 UTC 2012

Obama promised a more open government. But instead his administration has built a state within a state, placing nearly five million Americans under the national security clearance system, replete with secret laws, secret budgets, secret bailouts, secret killings, secret mass spying, and secret detention without charge.

Four more years in the same direction cannot be tolerated.

The Obama administration continues to conduct a “whole of government” investigation of “unprecedented scale and nature” into WikiLeaks and its people. It has fuelled the extrajudicial banking blockade against the WikiLeaks and has held an alleged WikiLeaks source, Bradley Manning, for 899 days without trial, in conditions that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, formally found amounted to torture.

Mr Assange has been formally found to be a political refugee over the Obama administration’s behavior, U.S. ambassadors publicly warned countries such as Switzerland not to offer him asylum.

The Obama-Biden campaign brags of having prosecuted twice as many national security whistleblowers as “all previous administrations combined”. This must change.
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Leaky geopolitics: the ruptures and transgressions of WikiLeaks

The unfurling of violent rhetoric and the show of force that has lead to the arrest, imprisonment, and impending extradition of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, serve as an exemplary moment in demonstrating state-sanctioned violence. Since the cables began leaking in November 2010, the violent reaction to WikiLeaks evidenced by numerous political pundits calling for Assange’s assassination or execution, and the movement within the US to have WikiLeaks designated a ‘foreign terrorist organization’, amount to a profound showing of authoritarianism. The ‘Wikigate’ scandal thus represents an important occasion to take stock and think critically about what this case tells us about the nature of sovereign power, freedom of information, the limits of democracy, and importantly, the violence of the state when it attempts to manage these considerations. This forum explores a series of challenges inspired by WikiLeaks, which we hope will prompt further debate and reflection within critical geopolitics.