Assange, the Vindictive Empire, and a slim ray of hope
Six weeks ago Ecuador President Lenin Moreno somehow managed to wrangle $10 Billion in international loans. How was he able to influence the U.S.-controlled IMF and World Bank to do that?
Moreno had an asset to sell that Washington desperately wanted.
Just days into 2019, the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who had originally granted Assange asylum in 2012, shared via Twitter a document showing that Ecuador’s current government, led by Lenín Moreno, was “auditing” Assange’s asylum as well as Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship, which he had been granted in late 2017.
...WikiLeaks subsequently shared Correa’s tweet and noted that this seemingly unusual reevaluation of Assange’s asylum was directly related to the Moreno administration’s efforts to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a total of $10 billion. Per WikiLeaks, some of the conditions set for Ecuador’s receipt of the IMF loan included U.S. government demands of “handing over Assange and dropping environmental claims against Chevron” for the oil giant’s role in polluting Ecuador’s rainforest and poisoning many of its indigenous inhabitants.
According to a leaked U.S. Army manual published by WikiLeaks in 2008, the IMF was considered by the U.S. government to be a “financial weapon” to be used in “unconventional warfare” scenarios.
Moreno has since slashed thousands of government jobs while dropping the lawsuit against Chevron.
Meanwhile, Washington is ready to pounce on Assange.
A U.S. prosecutor has inadvertently revealed that Julian Assange, the founder and former editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been secretly charged by the U.S. government, confirming long-held suspicions that the U.S. has had criminal charges waiting for Assange should he be extradited to the United States.
The revelation comes just hours after a report in the Wall Street Journal revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to indict Assange in such a way that it would trigger his extradition to the United States to stand trial, following sensitive negotiations with foreign governments, most likely the governments of the United Kingdom and Ecuador.
It looks really bad for Assange. What chance does one person have against an entire vindictive empire?
Assange looks destined to be thrown into a dark hole.
Yet it turns out that the excessive cruelty, ruthlessness, and lack of justice in the United States, instead of being a strength, could give Assange a way out.
Whatever the U.S. authorities’ reasons for keeping the indictment under seal, they’ll be forced to disclose the charges against him when they ask the U.K. to extradite him, at least to the British extradition judge. In accordance with the two countries’ extradition treaty, they’ll need to show they have a reasonable suspicion against Assange.
The judge then will have a lot of discretion in how to proceed. Assange may walk, for example, if the judge decides the U.S. case against him is politically motivated.
There is absolutely no question that the case against Assange is politically motivated, but a UK court ruling that way would be a first.
But that isn't all.
The U.K.-U.S. extradition treaty, signed in 2003, gets a lot of criticism in the U.K. because, as then-Attorney General Dominic Grieve told a 2012 parliamentary hearing, “There is a lack of public confidence in the U.S. criminal justice system.” Activists and politicians have called for amendments, demanding a higher evidentiary standard and more protection for people handed over to the U.S. But the treaty has withstood the criticism, and attempts by suspects to argue, for example, that the U.S. penitentiary system is so cruel as to violate European human rights protections have been struck down both by British courts and the European Court of Human Rights.
Still, the U.K. does occasionally refuse U.S. extradition requests. According to government evidence submitted to the U.K. Parliament, out of 106 such requests between 2007 and 2014, 14 were turned down, two of them on human rights grounds.
The Assange case calls for another such refusal. If, as is likely, the U.S. wants the WikiLeaks founder for publishing stolen government secrets, Human Rights Watch General Counsel Dinah PoKempner expects him to be tried under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917, which has no exemptions for those who reveal classified information in the public interest.
Extraditing someone to face an unfair trial under the U.S. Espionage Act would be unprecedented and extremely controversial. It's still long odds for Assange, but the legal case against extradition can be easily explained.
most of the big leaks WikiLeaks has published meet any reasonable definition of public interest journalism, the kind that resulted in the publication of the Pentagon Papers or the Washington Post’s reporting on Watergate. Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights stipulates the right to a fair trial, and there’s an argument to be made that depriving Assange of the public interest defense would make his U.S. trial unfair.
It all makes so much logical and legal sense that if it wasn't for the politics you could see a UK court saying, "No, we won't send Assange off to his doom."
But we all know that this is first and foremost about politics, so all this talk about laws and justice just sounds naive, right?
Except for one thing, Britain may be about to have an unprecedented change in political leadership, and Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to interfere in the legal process.
USA and others don't like any scrutiny via wikileaks and they are leaning on everybody to pillory Assange. What happened to free speech?
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 8, 2010
There are a lot of if's here. A lot of things have to go right for Assange.
But this isn't a hopeless situation.
And if Assange can beat the odds, someone else might be a little interested in the outcome.
If such a European court decides that WikiLeaks generally has worked in the public interest and not as a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” as Mike Pompeo dubbed it when he was director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, that could create an opportunity for another U.S. fugitive, Edward Snowden, to leave Russia and find refuge somewhere in the European Union.