Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Increasingly Curious Case of Julian Assange

I wouldn't have chosen a balcony from which to declaim; too many associations with the histrionics of Il Duce and Der Fuhrer.  But it may be that his choices as to the place from which to make a public statement were limited under the circumstances, so we must forgive Mr. Assange for this oddity.  But I think it did make him look rather preposterous, and may play to the claims made by some, including former comrades at WikiLeaks, that he is suffering from megalomania.

But he has been granted asylum by a sovereign nation, and although that nation apparently is not known for its tolerance and keeps a very tight leash on its own media and so seems a rather inappropriate place for someone with Assange's pretensions to petition, it presumably has certain rights under international law, including that of granting asylum.  It also, I think, has certain rights with respect to the inviolability of its embassy.  If Great Britain threatened that status, that is also curious, as would be a law which allows a host country to decide an embassy may be invaded under certain circumstances.  If we are to have law in such matters, it would seem to be fundamentally contrary to that law to allow host countries to unilaterally determine whether it will apply in any given case.

I think it would also be curious if what Assange says is true, i.e. that the United States is engaged in some kind of conspiracy with Sweden and Great Britain to whisk him away and punish him for revealing information it deems secret.  I don't think that because I believe these countries would not engage in a conspiracy if they thought it necessary; I am cynical regarding the intent and conduct of countries, including my own.

However, I like to credit those who make decisions for governments with a certain degree of intelligence--enough to know that extraditing Assange to Sweden merely for the purpose of turning him over to the United States would so discredit them that it simply would not be worthwhile, and would turn him into a martyr to more people than he is currently, if indeed there are any but himself who hold the opinion that he is one.  Also, I doubt that if he is a threat, he is much of a threat, any longer.  I would assume that wherever he should go and wherever he should be, he'll be very closely watched, and would think that if he goes to Ecuador his effectiveness as a conduit for secret information is seriously compromised.  And because of this and because he is not a sympathetic or heroic figure (regardless of whether he ever was one), I doubt he will be sought out as the repository for such information.

I've reviewed the legal proceedings and opinions issued by the courts of the United Kingdom regarding the validity and enforcement of the warrant by which it is demanded he be sent to Sweden, and admit to some unease as the interpretation made of the applicable treaty is that such warrants may be issued without judicial review.  That would seem to me to be dangerous, and I hope the U.S. has not signed on to anything similar. So I think a concern regarding the proceedings is legitimate, in this respect.  I'm uncertain, though, that there is any point to any authority pushing this much further.

I think the U.K. cannot reasonably be expected to do more than it has done as far as its obligations to enforce the warrant are concerned.  I don't think it can be said to be required to storm the embassy, for example, or otherwise physically prevent the grant of asylum from taking its course.  The blame would fall on Ecuador if blame is assigned.

As can be inferred easily enough, I don't like Assange.  I don't find self-appointed guardians of the human race admirable; I suspect them of megalomania, in fact.  Even his old friends are condemning him for a variety of reasons, and think he's destroyed WikiLeaks.  Because I question the viability of his claims of a great international conspiracy I think that if he asserts there is no basis for the allegations made against him in Sweden, he should contest them, formally.  Once one goes to a country, one should expect to be subject to its laws while there, and not simply to be able to run away when they are applied.

But I think prolonging this situation at this point ascribes to him more importance than he has, and is a waste of resources. 


  1. Dear Ciceronianus,

    If you or me ever find ourselves the target of a government that tortures and kills even its own citizens (some without the Rule of Law), we will rethink the actions we must do to preserve ourselves.

    For a Roman, when speaking of Rome, it is harder to see how rotten has become the empire he or she is living in.

    Best Regards,

  2. As I say, I cherish the thought that the Romans, in this case, know at least that he is not worth the trouble.

  3. Assange is a genius. From the unpromising basis of a few possibly criminal actions he has managed to exert power over the governments of four countries and seems set to escalate a minor diplomatic crisis. His (ex) supporters are hurt to have been used and discarded without scruple; they find his choice of Ecuador as a refuge difficult to understand. Rather than beneficial to mankind, his use of WikiLeaks and his subsequent actions are more like those of a dangerous meglomanic psychopath. Perhaps that is what he is. He should be deprived of the oxygen of publicity.