UK police say they plan to take WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange into custody soon, after they received a European arrest warrant.

The EAW is based on an arrest warrant issued by the Swedish courts, compelling Assange to appear for questioning in an investigation into accusations of r-pe. Some confusion now surrounds Assange’s legal status, as there is still no confirmation of charges being laid in Sweden. However, an EAW cannot be issued without a charge being laid.

Arrest enforces Swedish warrant

The Swedish warrant was first issued on November 18, after several months of inaction, as the WikiLeaks “cablegate” releases were first announced. The Interpol “red” notice — which instructs police forces to detain someone for extradition — was issued in the middle of last week, as the “cablegate” news began to peak.

Through his lawyers, Assange has earlier stated that he is in the UK, and in regular contact with the police, who know his whereabouts. Should this prove to be the case, he will be under arrest by the middle of tomorrow.

Release of terror targets list

The move comes at the end of a tumultuous day, in which the world press reacted to the release of a cable — one of 20 or so cables released last night — that detailed 400 non-US sites that US diplomats thought might count as terrorist targets. No specific locations are given in the cable, but it details types of potential targets, sometimes naming specific sites. Here’s the Australian list:

“Australia: Southern Cross undersea cable landing, Brookvale, Australia Southern Cross undersea cable landing, Sydney, Australia Manganese — battery grade, natural; battery grade, synthetic; chemical grade; ferro; metallurgical grade Nickel Mines Maybe Faulding Mulgrave Victoria, Australia: Manufacturing facility for Midazolam injection. Mayne Pharma (fill/finish), Melbourne, Australia: Sole suppliers of Crotalid Polyvalent Antivenin (CroFab).”

It’s a bizarre list, listing specifically only the undersea telecoms cable landings, and Faulding and Mayne pharmaceutical companies in Melbourne (which are now the same company), targets because they produce Midazolam, a benzodiazapene sedative, and Crotalid, which is rattlesnake anti-venom. The other parts are so general as to be ridiculous (nickel mines?).

The right fights back

The list formed a fairly predictable target for those covering WikiLeaks negatively, in particular the News Ltd press. By contrast it barely featured in the official coverage from The Guardian and other outlets at all. The result appears to be a fairly obvious trap for the News Ltd, and others, pushing them further into irresolvable contradiction. For, in reporting the story, they’ve drawn vastly more attention to what was a barely comprehensible cable, sitting in the WikiLeaks list. The organ that’s given greatest publicity to the cable is The Times.

Whatever strategy WikiLeaks is taking here, it’s a high-stakes one. The release of the “potential targets” list simply shows you how arbitrary, capricious and manufactured these things are. The most important word in that Australian section above is “maybe”. “Yeah uh maybe Mayne Pharma, put that on the list …” It’s obviously some bored diplomat pulling it all together, desperate to find a few targets. The notion that this will increase the risk of terror is nonsensical. Smart terrorists can find a target using publicly available documents; dumb terrorists are opportunistic and try to blow up buses and trains.

But above all, it again raises the question as to why these observations should be secret. Supposing for a moment that a rattlesnake venom factory was a real higher risk target, and not filler, wouldn’t the workers at the site have a right to know? They sure as hell do now. The release re-poses the question that “cablegate” is keeping in play — who has a right to know what? And why should the existing process of international relations continue to be based on a system that was essentially developed in the Middle Ages?

Above all, the dual character of the list has to be remembered. This is not merely a list of possible key targets for terrorists, it is also a list of possible targets for American forces. If Australians don’t feel too worried by that, there are plenty of other nations who might.

Swiss bank accounts frozen

Whether the release of the “potential targets” cable prompted a sterner reaction is unknowable, but barely 12 hours after, Swiss PostFinance bank closed a WikiLeaks account, a Julian Assange legal defence account, and his personal bank account. The closure of his account is based on allegations that Assange falsely claimed Swiss residence. Because you know those Swiss, they’re really punctilious about nothing improper going on in their bank accounts.

New revelations

The day’s latest crop of revelations went from the astounding to the ridiculous, chief among them being the deep and multiple financial relationships between Saudi Arabian royals, individuals and groups, and al-Qaeda groups. The cables effectively show that there is no seriousness about exposing terrorist networks and funding lines, when they conflict with broader foreign policy aims. Other revelations include allegations that that the Al-Jazeera network is simply an agent for the Qatari royal family, that Brazil hid possible Islamist activity in Sao Paulo, and that the Burmese junta tried to buy Manchester United football club.

Under attack

The revelations came as WikiLeaks continued to respond to cyber attacks. The main site continues to be hosted by, a domain hosted by a community facility established by the Swiss government. The site has now been mirrored on more than 500 sites, and WL’s entire archive — which does not yet include the “cablegate” archive — is available for download. Several other sites that assist in WikiLeaks searches and info, such as, have now sprung up.


Though he may shortly be in custody, Assange appears to believe in Marshal Foch’s old dictum “attaquez attaquez attaquez!”. Tonight Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens announced that they were looking into the possibility of suing Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard for defamation, on the basis of comments she made outside of parliament, suggesting that Assange had acted illegally. Whether this is a wise move remains to be seen — Assange’s most recent legal statements bear the marks of his own composition. Only a Solzhenitsyn fan (as he is) would refer to Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s police chief, when discussing the Swedish legal system, and only someone eager for a fight would refer to a senior female attorney in the world’s most feminist state, as a “prosecutrix”, using the archaic and slightly fetishistic Latin feminised ending.

By the time you read this, six more cables will have been released, re-setting the news agenda entirely. And at time of writing, Assange was leading the vote for Time magazine’s 2010 person of the year …