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On Assange, government defiant in face of reality

The government’s insistence on ignoring the Obama administration’s investigation of Julian Assange is becoming increasingly untenable as public evidence mounts of a grand jury and a continuing campaign by the US government against him.

In a response to a recent letter from Melbourne QC Julian Burnside, acting for Assange, acting Attorney-General Jason Clare refused point blank to respond to direct questions about whether the government had asked the Obama administration if it was conducting an investigation of Assange’s journalism as editor of WikiLeaks. Instead, Clare resorted to the government’s standard line that the US has not laid any charges against Assange.

While the existence of a sealed indictment of Assange remains formally unconfirmed, an investigation of Assange was confirmed by the Obama administration on the public record late last year through an agent giving evidence at the pre-trial hearing of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, currently enduring an almost Kafkaesque military trial in which his ability to call witnesses or raise exculpatory evidence has been severely circumscribed.

On June 30 this year, a Department of Justice spokesman again confirmed that there continues to be an “investigation” into Assange for his journalism. We also know there is a grand jury investigating Assange via several subpoenas, including that of David House, who recently published a transcript of his appearance on June 15, 2011 before the grand jury (much of which is hilarious), based on notes that Department of Justice prosecutor Patrick “phalanx of attorneys” Murphy demanded House stop taking.

And as Crikey recently reported, this year has seen several activists and journalists stopped and interrogated for their connections to Assange (Four Corners followed up some of this last night).

With so much evidence now on the public record of an investigation of Assange for his journalism and of a grand jury process, the Australian government’s refusal to say anything other than a obstinate insistence that no charges have been laid has become a straight refusal to acknowledge reality. Clare’s letter carefully and tightly frames a response to Burnside’s direct questions about whether the government has inquired about the investigation or the grand jury by talking only about the “issue” of whether charges have been laid. “The Minister for Foreign Affairs has raised this issue … The Attorney-General has also raised this issue,” Clare says.

That issue, of course, is a cover for either gross deception by the government as to the advice it has received from the Obama administration, or a wilful blindness as to its intentions.

Clare also clearly states for the first time the government’s belief that there is no grounds for the view that the “temporary surrender” mechanism that exists in a treaty between Sweden and the United States (but not between the UK and the US) has less appeal or procedural rights than standard extradition. Clare says:

Temporary surrender is not an alternative to extradition but an option for a requested State to interrupt its own legal proceedings or sentence and allow extradition of a person for the duration of criminal proceedings in the country seeking the extradition (hence ‘temporary’). All protections available to the person whose extradition is sought apply equally to an extradition that is a temporary surrender.”

This is a key point in dispute between the Australian government and Assange’s lawyers, who insist there is doubt over whether the Swedish government would be required to observe standard extradition protections for a temporary surrender, or whether Assange could be handed over by Sweden to the United States before he has time to appeal against surrender, given the close relationship between the current Swedish government (with its prime ministerial consultant adviser, one Karl Rove) and the United States. There are many lawyers who agree with the government’s interpretation.

For Assange, however, the stakes are much higher than a mere legal point of difference; it may involve an extended prison sentence for his journalism or even his life.

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  • 1
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Now I know that I will be howled down as either naive or ignorant on this site for this but let’s say there s an active investigation and a “sealed grand jury” into Assange in the US at the moment, that does not mean that they will find he has a charge to face, or that if they do find he has a charge to face & that if he returned to Sweden he would be extradicted, or that if he was extradicted he would be found guilty of a crime, or that if found guilty he would serve time in jail.

    At every point in the process so far and into the future he has had access to legal representation and due process, if he is charged he will not face the same charge or the same process as Manning and even if the US govt does have a vendetta against him they do not have control of the judicial system.

  • 2
    Scott
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Agreed Jimmy. The deification of Assange and the conspiracy theories that continue to haunt the halls of crikey (I can understand from Guy Rundle, but now BK?) are getting tiresome. To quote from the greats…”He is not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”

  • 3
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Exaclty Scott - On this site there is the constant assertions that somehow he will be black bagged and even somehow disappeared en route from England to Sweden despite him being particularly famous. I mean it’s not like we are expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

  • 4
    Nudiefish
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, of course, all crazy conspiracy theories. After all, we are all well aware that the United States has never involved itself with third-party “rendition” seizures.

    Wait a second…..?

  • 5
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Nudiefish - Name 1 “third-party “rendition” seizure” where the victim had previously been on the front cover of time?

    Or name one where the victim already had an Australian, UK, Swedish and US legal team in place?

  • 6
    Apollo
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    All this is because BK thinks ‘journalists’ are a special protected specie above all standard of conduct.

    That’s why he supported B olt’s prattle against Aboriginal personalities as ‘free speech’ without the need for integrity, duty of care and safety standards.

    Like as if those Indigenous people never have dark skin family and relatives and suddenly they discovered they have Aboriginal blood and decided to claim heritage to get some benefit.

    As if those people could pass people’s eyes and pretended they are not Aboriginal from the physical features and as if there isn’t a large population of white people whispering behind their back that they are b — -ng or nig — - and not pure white even if they’d faced no discrimination or racism in their life (which is unlikely). People like to pretend their isn’t racism in Australia, it makes them feel good.

  • 7
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    The US is currently murdering it’s own citizens in foreign countries - why do the dingbats here think that Assange should be treated like a criminal.

    Remember how wrong you same nutbags were about David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib.

  • 8
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn - Who siad anything about treating Assange like a criminal? All I am saying is that he should be treated like anyone else, if it can be shown that he has a case to answer, he should answer it in a court of law and be afforded the same entitlement to a defence as anyone else.

    As for Hicks and Habib how was I wrong? And to compare Assange to them is a very big stretch, they were anonymous and captured in a war torn country with no real rule of law as “enemy combatants” with no access to legal representation . Assange is in one of the best democracies in the world with one of the best legal systems (or was until he went to Ecuador), has a very high profile and a massive legal team that spans 4 countries.

  • 9
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Treated like anyone else? What are you smoking Jimmy? He has been under house arrest in Britain for over 500 days based on precisely no more than a prosecutor wanting to ask questions he could have asked over the frigging phone.

    Did you bother to watch 4 Corners to see how bogus the whole thing is.

    We all whinge that journalists need to be protected yet Assange can be hung out to dry and not helped by our own government.

    Give me a break.

  • 10
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn - He has been under house arrest in a very comfortable country home while his legal team fought (and lost) an extradiction charge. The only difference I see there with anyone else is that most peole wouldn’t have been so comfortable or been able to afford the defence team he had.

    If he returns to Sweden and answers the questions he will either be charged and afforded the same trial as anyone else or thanked and sent on his way. If the US actually do find a charge they can level on him his extradiction will be subject to the same legal proceedings as anyone else and if he loses that he will face the same process in the US as anyone else.

    If the charges are so clearly bogus what has he to fear?

  • 11
    jj mick
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Lets all be serious. When it comes to the relationship with the US Australian nationals will (and are) always sold out by their own government. David Hicks comes to mind as does a young lad from the Central Coast who broke the source code for Microsoft software and had a plane show up to take him away )to the US) never to be heard of again. Does one really think that Julian Assange has a fighting chance? I doubt it.

  • 12
    Mike Shaw
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy, you are sounding more like Bob Carr and Jason Clare, but perhaps a bit more deluded, atleast they know what they are doing.

    …will be subject to the same legal proceedings as anyone else and if he loses that he will face the same process in the US as anyone else….”

    Are you serious? It’s not just a mere point of law at stake here Jimmy, its an example to be made of Assange and possibly many ” lesser lights ” to come after him. The Govt mantra that he has not been charged is a total cop-out and as we know, leaves a gaping hole to cover their back-sides if he is indicted.

    Would you really trust the US Govt to give Assange a fair and equitable hearing this matter? Your answer would tell me a lot about you.

  • 13
    zut alors
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    If Assange ends up handcuffed on US soil you can bet your bippy Faux News will whip the nation into a lathered frenzy calling for blood. Several of their rabid commentators have already suggested his termination. Obama will then be in a political fix - he won’t be well placed to let America’s greatest traitor off the hook, particularly as the US election draws close.

  • 14
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    @ JIMMY - Are you for real??? The American justice system is very, very flawed. It relies on who gets VOTED in as a judge to which court. It is all soooo political. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the US has anything like the separation of powers doctrine, which operates in Oz. Assange is most unlikely to get a fair trial. After all, he exposed/embarassed/told the world the truth about, the “great” US of A!!! Added to that is the utterances of various politicians who want him exterminated - either by verdict of a court, or by extra-judicial killing. All on the public record!

    And where is our government? Missing in action - cowards! I have two passports, Australian and British. Guess which one I use when overseas?

  • 15
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Mike Shaw- What charge is Assange supposedly facing in the US? What court will it be heard? And how has he been treated differently to this point?

    As for me trusting the US to give Assange a fair trial if there was one country where I would want to eb able to use the “freedom of speech” defence it would be the US and given the federal court just struck down Obama’s legislation on terror and detaining without charge I think he will get a fair trial.

    Zut Alors - FOrtunately it will be up to neither the right wing media nor Obama to “get him off the hook” as they aren’t part of the US judicial process.

    JJ Mick - Who is this unnamed person who had a plane roll up to his door never to be heard of again? Where are his family? Sounds like an urban legend to me.

  • 16
    Edward James
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    In NSW Federal State and Local politicians are all the peoples representatives. But those like me who are paying attention know our trusted elected reps are just no dam good! 0243419140 Edward James

  • 17
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Now that’s interesting - moderated for telling a few home truths about the great US of A!!!!

  • 18
    Gone Are The days
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Assange is in one of the best democracies in the world “

    Next please!

  • 19
    Edward James
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    what were the few home truths !

  • 20
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Gone are the days - Would you prefer to be arrested in the UK or Afghanistan?

  • 21
    Gone Are The days
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy presents the logic of the illogical question. But he might like to consult the Birmingham 6 in that regard.

  • 22
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Gone Are the Days - Why not just go back to convicts being sent to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread? No society is perfect but that doesn’t mean some are better than others.

    And did any of the Birmingham 6 appear on the front cover of time prior to their arrest? Or did they have even half the legal team Assange has assembled, or the various celebrity benefactors prior to even being charged?

    I think people are getting a bit carried away with the hardships Assange has supposedly faced.

  • 23
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    It’s not about his frigging hardships Jimmy, it’s about a massive abuse of power.

    I wonder if Roxon didn’t appear on 4 Corners because she had just been told the case against Hicks was bogus.

  • 24
    Buddy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy my concern is this : if they can do this to Asssange, and I do firmly believe they will attempt to, then what of the rest of us. Asssange is high profile, but yet they appear to be making evey effort to construe laws he may have broken in an effort to silence someone whose only ‘crime’ appears to have been releasing documents to the world.
    Asssange is. Ost likely an egotist and slightly too much in love with his own importance, but he is fast becoming for me the litmus test. And if he loses, we all stand to lose much more than we can imagine.

  • 25
    Gone Are The days
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, so now no society is perfect Jimmy?!?! Only in a democracy, eh?

    Well, maybe not Time magazine Jimmy, but they did appear on the front page of every major tabloid newspaper in Britain…is that enough?

    The issue has nothing to do with Assange being pampered compared to the treatment the rest of us might recieve…and I agree with you slightly on that, but the issue is unequivocally freedom of speech and expression and the possible wrongful imprisonment for exposing a major super-power for it’s hypocracy. A crime that you and I would have no aversion to.

  • 26
    zut alors
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Re Roxon : at the end of Four Corners Kerry O’Brien said they had approached Nicola Roxon to comment on Assange’s situation but she wasn’t available as she was on holidays. And then, minutes later, she popped up for a whole hour on Q&A filling in for a government colleague - she was in the ABC’s main Sydney studio but dodged being available for a five minute interview by O’Brien in an adjacent studio.

    Convince me our government gives a toss about protecting Assange. In fact, as Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd was the only government politician who gave any hint of support - he refused to rescind Assange’s passport which was McClelland’s publicly declared intention (as the then Attorney-General).

  • 27
    Mike Shaw
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    ( Convince me our government gives a toss about protecting Assange. ) - Zut Alors

    That’s what it gets down to. And if you or I or any other Australian were in the same position, then I fear that our Govt would serve their US masters first and us a belated second. To date, there is no evidence to the contrary.

    @ Gone Are The Days

    I agree, and I could n’t care if Assange had warts on his nose let alone his personality. To defend Assange is to defend truth and justice.

  • 28
    Pedantic, Balwyn
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I reckon Assange is complete a@#ehole for releasing information that could destabilise relations between nations and more importantly put lives at risk.

    However, I do feel a certain sympathy for his situation having watched 4 Corners.

    If 4 Corners was totally factual, Assnge has every right to feel concerned about a return to Sweden.

    What I don’t understand is why the poms don’t extradite him from the UK. If the USA really wants him; there is nothing in international law to stop the UK extraditing a fugitive or possible criminal (doesn’t have to be convicted) to a foreign country with whom they share an extradition agreement.

    That being the case, Assange is too cute by far!

  • 29
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Now I know that I will be howled down as either naive or ignorant on this site for this but let’s say there s an active investigation and a “sealed grand jury” into Assange in the US at the moment, that does not mean that they will find he has a charge to face, or that if they do find he has a charge to face & that if he returned to Sweden he would be extradicted, or that if he was extradicted he would be found guilty of a crime, or that if found guilty he would serve time in jail.

    On the other hand, the deplorable treatment of Bradley Manning strongly suggests the idealistic view above is, at best, naive.

    After the Four Corners special last night, it seems Assange has every right to be nervous. The whole thing stinks to high heaven of something weird going on, and the USA’s behaviour in these sort of things for the last decade has been highly questionable, at best.

  • 30
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Obama will then be in a political fix - he won’t be well placed to let America’s greatest traitor off the hook, particularly as the US election draws close.

    I think Obama’s complete lack of interest in, or reason to, “let America’s greatest traitor off the hook” will play a larger part than any political considerations.

  • 31
    Nota IdYot
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    …To defend Assange is to defend truth and justice…” - Mike Shaw

    Yeah, the American Way.

  • 32
    Yanto
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    @PEDANTIC, BALWYN
    “What I don’t understand is why the poms don’t extradite him from the UK. If the USA really wants him; there is nothing in international law to stop the UK extraditing a fugitive or possible criminal (doesn’t have to be convicted) to a foreign country with whom they share an extradition agreement.”

    It is my understanding that the Swedish extradition is the legal reason that the US can not have Assange extradited directly from the UK , should they chose to do so. One can not happen if the other is already in progress. Something like that.
    I’m not a legal expert but I think that is what I read a legal expert say, for what it’s worth.

  • 33
    Bernard Keane
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Goodness, nice stretch from Apollo to link Assange to Bolt.

    Sorry Apollo, but as Kissinger might have said, just because you’re a dickhead doesn’t mean they’re not persecuting you.

  • 34
    Nota IdYot
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    HAHAHA!!!!!

  • 35
    Lisa
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    dON’T HANG AROunD HERE tOo lONG BerNARD, YOU’ll geT A bAD naME.

  • 36
    Graeme Thornton
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Tell me your kidding republican baptist and Bush adviser Karl Rove is advisor to Swedish PM ? Not mentioned in the other Wiki- peadia

  • 37
    Apollo
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    BK, responsible people would have blanked out certain people’s name but Assange didn’t when he published those infos.

    I do have concern for Bradley Manning but I don’t care for Assange.

  • 38
    Mack the Knife
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    You’ve become a great disappointment Bernard to many of us but don’t let that disturb your over inflated ego.

    Our government SHOULD be fighting to bring Assange home; anyone knowledgeable of the details of the Swedish stitchup, lack of actual charges and the pathetic EU extradition framework knows it is a massive abuse of process by a bullying USA.

    The comments by Gillard and others that he is a criminal infer he has committed a crime but like Hicks that’s currently rubbish.

    Its an embarrassment that the reality is that the USA is like a bulldog barking at a sycophant Australian government.

  • 39
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    It is not possible to be either a ‘traitor’ nor ‘treason’ unless one is a citizen of the country doing the persec.. sorry.. prosecuting.
    The British only got Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce) because, though amerikan born of amerikan citizens in 1906, the family returned to ireland (his parents’ homeland) and he gave ‘british’ on his passport application.
    Had he used Septic as he was entitled to do, they would have done the same thing.

  • 40
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    BK, responsible people would have blanked out certain people’s name but Assange didn’t when he published those infos.

    I seem to recall that was both unintentional, and not done by Assange.

  • 41
    Mack the Knife
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I guess my last comment is not leaving moderation

  • 42
    Apollo
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think he can be charged with treason because he is not US citizens.

    I don’t think the US would have a severe sentence for him or persecute as you might say it to such severe degree. His case is a high profile and he’s not a US citizen so this Dem administration probably would not want international human rights observers to complain.

    Personally, I think it was reprehensible of him to publish people’s names unecessarily. It is irreponsible which was my real point when I linked to B olt and his journalistic standard which is irresponsible and lack duty of care. It’s a toss for journalist to argue for self regulation and show no accountability.

    I don’t understand why Bernard supported him when it was so obviously flawed, it’s not like those part Aboriginal personalities were able to pretend as pass as white people, I’ve seen some of them. Supporting B olt on that subject as free speech is the same as persecuting a group of people, putting them on a kangaroo court public trial.

  • 43
    Apollo
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    DR Smithy, Sorry I don;t know that it was unintentional

  • 44
    Apollo
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Gotta go. This is not my fav subject anyway. Nite all.

  • 45
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Apollo, you are just stupid.

    Not one person was harmed by Wikileaks.

  • 46
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think the US would have a severe sentence for him or persecute as you might say it to such severe degree. His case is a high profile and he’s not a US citizen so this Dem administration probably would not want international human rights observers to complain.

    Wow.

    What world are you living in where the USA gives but one f*ck about what anyone else thinks or the “complaints of international human rights observers” ?

    It blows my mind anyone could even think this after Guantanamo, let alone write it in apparent seriousness.

  • 47
    Apollo
    Posted Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    oh comments still. i’ll respond before i hav me supper

    Marilyn, it does not matter that no one has been harm. If you do something that expose someone to risk but lucky that person did not get harmed does not mean it is ok. Drink when you’re pregnant, give a child drug but lucky she did not overdose or get complication, push someone over but lucky they did not break.

    Dr Smithy, I am ambivalent on this subject because Obama did really want to close Gitmo but it turned out quite a few who were released ended up back on the battle field that’s why he kept it, they don’t really know any other alternative.

    As for whether if they don’t care about international human right observers you might be right. I’m not sure on this topic. My take is this is a Dem administration and also they don’t want to start a war with wikileaks in an election year, they don’t really know what will be published.

    Anyway, I’m not a fan of Assange. Gotta eat. Nite!

  • 48
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    I reckon the million or so Iraqis bombed to bits were and are more at risk than the people whose names were on the wikileaks cables.

  • 49
    Apollo
    Posted Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    ok this will be my last post on this.

    Look you guys seem very unrealistic not to expect any country to go after Assange.

    Every private person or company or government will have certain infos private for the conduct of diplomacy and security. The fact that Assange is still active and continually put out infos which are private government properties and that would make him a target. It makes sense if he expose wrong doings when it is necessary but many of the infos published serve no real purpose for common good but just embarrassing and diplomatically damaging for countries.

    I think it is somewhat lucky for him that the US overtly asked for him. Personally, I think some other countries already put him on a death list.

  • 50
    Mack the Knife
    Posted Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    You’re a little bit precious Bernie, I gather that my saying that you’re a disappointment is the reason my comment has stayed in moderation.

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