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Jun 21, 2012

Greens back Assange asylum plea, but US has already won

Green Senator Scott Ludlam has backed Julian Assange's claim that he has been abandoned by the government.

Julian Assange’s request for asylum in Ecuador has been strengthened by a letter from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam supporting his case that he has been effectively abandoned by the Australian government.

The Ecuadorian embassy in London has been swamped with letters of support, some from high-profile supporters, for Assange’s request for asylum since news broke that he had sought refuge there early yesterday morning. However, Ludlam’s statement as an Australian parliamentarian is significantly more important given the basis on which Assange has sought asylum.

Ludlam’s letter (copy here) describes his extended process of asking parliamentary questions and making FOI requests made to determine the government’s attitude towards Assange, including why the Prime Minister made her discredited claim that WikiLeaks had behaved illegally. On that basis, Ludlam concludes “with regret”: “I strongly believe Mr Assange is in need of a government willing to stand up for civil and political rights.”

Assange remains inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London awaiting the determination of his application, said to be within the next 24 hours. He is there with a small group of supporters, including Australian human rights lawyer Jen Robinson and British journalism veteran Gavin MacFadyen.

The Australian government’s strategy in response to the request appears to be to use its consular support to Assange as evidence of its bona fides. Nicola Roxon this morning was insisting the government had provided adequate support and that anything else was a demand for intervention by the government in the legal process of the UK and Sweden.

This is the straw man already used by Bob Carr in his deflection of questions about the issue. The problem is that at no stage has the government indicated its willingness to defend Assange from an open campaign of intimidation by the United States purely on the basis of his journalism. That campaign has so far consisted of:

  • A financial blockade of WikiLeaks instigated by the Obama administration
  • A grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and Assange
  • US State Department claims that Assange is not a journalist and therefore not entitled to First Amendment protections
  • The description of Assange as a terrorist by the Vice-President.

Further elements of the campaign have recently come to light. French cyber activist Jeremie Zimmermann was detained by FBI agents while travelling from the United States back to France after he filmed an episode of Assange’s television show and interrogated about Assange. Icelandic activist Smári McCarthy, who also appeared on the program, was stopped while entering the US and later approached in Washington DC to become an informer against Assange. Crikey is investigating further incidents where people with links to WikiLeaks have been stopped while travelling.

The Gillard government’s response has been to insist the US is not doing anything in relation to Assange, a narrow legal point that defies the public reality of a multi-pronged campaign, one that the government insists it can’t see and therefore can do nothing about. “Wilful blindness” is the phrase that comes to mind. However, that strategy briefly lapsed in 2010 when Julia Gillard made the error of declaring WikiLeaks’ activity illegal. That claim, which Gillard has pointedly never retracted and that  was clearly contradicted by advice from the AFP, may also prove crucial to demonstrating Assange’s case that the government will not protect him.

Late this morning, the Senate approved a motion calling on the government to provide the same level of support to Assange it had provided to other Australians and for the retraction of the government’s claims of illegality.

Regardless of the outcome of Assange’s application, the blunt truth about the Obama administration’s campaign against WikiLeaks and Assange is that it has been enormously successful. The financial blockade has strangled the organisation.

Assange’s strategy in relation to extradition to Sweden — and now his attempted flight to Ecuador — has been dictated by the very real concern that the US wants to get him, and that his own government won’t lift a finger to prevent it. Assange has thus entangled himself in litigation in an attempt to avoid placing himself in a position where Sweden could surrender him to the United States. The work of WikiLeaks has thus been superseded by the soap opera-like story of Assange, of which Ecuador is only the latest exotic backdrop.

That’s just how the Obama administration wants it. And, quite likely, the Gillard government too.

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29 comments

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29 thoughts on “Greens back Assange asylum plea, but US has already won

  1. Bill Hilliger

    If past history is anything to go by, it is doubtful that an Australian (government) polititian of either Labor or Liberal persuasion would defend an Australian citizen if the US decided they wanted to grab that citizen for immoral purposes with regard to due process and fairness of the law.

  2. Anoise Mike

    Great write up, Bernard.

    Bob Care on Lateline last night was pathetic with his verbose and pompous stonewalling on the issue of the ‘secret’ Virginian Grand Jury indictment. Would have been nice if Lateline asked him about Hilary Clinton’s visit to Sweden only days after the Assange judgement. First Secretary of State to visit Sweden since 1976 apparently and at such a time in the World with relatively nothing else going on except for potential Euro meltdown, Arab Spring turning violent, oh and the small issue of arresting Climate Change in the next decade which the ICCP says we must do to avoid catastrophic consequences for billions of poor people and rich people alike.

  3. Glen Schaefer

    Yes the performance by Bob Carr last night was illuminating to say the least, but not unexpected.

    He basically tried to deny the US had any knowledge of extradicion measures by the US while at the same time trying not to tell a porky about having any knowledge of their plans. When pushed by the Steve Cannane he backed down a bit to say “at least not by any of his diplomatic contacts”

    What a sad it is when our Gov’t is totally in cahoots with a foreign Gov’t to illegally extradite and detain one of it’s own citizens.

    Time to rip up the 1942 agreement.

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2012/s3529843.htm

  4. Frank Campbell

    The United States has globalised Kafka. It has a long and toxic history of global extra-judicial arrogance and impunity. They refuse to sumbmit to the International Criminal Court, indulge in abduction (“extraordinary renditions”), routinely demand and get connivance from other states (eg UK, Poland recently), deliver abductees for torture to compliant states like Syria, Libya etc., use “enhanced interrogation” – ranging from water-boarding to solitary confinement (Bradley Manning), demand and get compliance from their global corporations- such as Amex, Paypal and Visa (to kill off Wikileaks)…

    Add that to six decades of annual invasions around the world….

    Australia has a deplorable record of craven obedience to American abuses.
    Never forget that Gillard instantly condemned Assange. Heer banality and incompetence is nothing compared to her reflex obedience to the American empire.
    There appears to be little support for Assange among the parliamentary ALP. And we know almost all liberals in the Liberal Party have been surgically removed.

    Gillard’s pretence of consular assistance is disingenuous. The govt. has far more time for convicted drug smuggler Corby- and the politely detained (with yoghurt) ICC lawyer – than Assange.
    Given the chance, Gillard would drag Assange to Washington as hand luggage…

  5. shanghai

    Classic tactics – strangle the business end of things and force the main protagonist into self-preservation.

  6. michael r james

    One gets a headache trying to parse the rationale or likely endpoint of this Ecuador caper. If it really is to end up with asylum in Ecuador then one wonders how Assange will physically get there from central London?

    I agree with Rundle that he may have been better to have done a runner, across the channel, to France where as a popular freedom fighter, rebel and perceptions as anti-Americain (not to mention that arty floppy white hair!) he would find popular support–and with the socialist in full control, less likelihood of succombing to American political pressure. They might even award him a Legion d’Honneur (hey, if Kylie …) and, since he is “sans domicile and sans ressource” a grace-and-favour apartment in the Palais Royale reserved for such heroes.

    The other strawman (repeated about 4 times by Bob Carr yesterday) that if the US really wanted to extradite Assange from Sweden they could do it, arguably easier, from the UK, rather forgets the optics of the politics. The Brits, even a conservative administration (but don’t forget a coalition with Liberal Democrats) are unlikely to want to bring such an unpopular and so visible thing upon themselves. One imagines this was conveyed to the cousins early on that it wasn’t on. Also the Brits made sure, unlike Australia, that their citizens were repatriated from Camp Delta, Gitmo, early on. As Rundle has documented, the Swedes seem to harbour no such qualms, political or moral, and have considerable political issues (vis a vis Russia and NATO) they do not want to jeopardize.

    On the other hand, Ecuador? The reason for this choice, other than the legal status of their extradition treaty with the US, is that the country is currently no great friend of the US. But doesn’t this suggest another awful likelihood? Would it not provide the US the near-perfect opportunity to eliminate the terror*ste Assange with extreme prejudice in a country they care little of any political or trade consequences? And with plausible deniability (as much as they care); this is hardly the most stable or law-abiding place. They have done it to American citizens, admittedly in places like Yemen. They would obviously hesitate to do this in most European countries but in a tiny unfriendly South American state most Americans (and a goodly number of others) would have trouble locating on a map? Is our Julian setting up his own martyrdom a la Che?

  7. kennethrobinson2

    Our political creeps are really pathetic, they tell lies even as they know that we know they are lying, it just shows how much they respect the voting public.
    If Assange does make it a drone will get him, and our heroes will applaud OBUMMER.

  8. Liz45

    Can someone please tell me why The NY Times editor hasn’t been arrested, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The ABC, SBS etc haven’t had action taken against them? I don’t understand the difference. Why can the other news outlets, together with film footage of those alleged murders in Iraq, NOT face the same treatment. I’ve seen the awful footage and read many other ‘secret’ emails etc on other outlets, not Wikileaks!

    Who says person A is not a journalist, but person B is? Does this include opinion pieces such as yourself Bernard? Is it because Julian Assange doesn’t have a Certificate re his journalistic qualifications? If I write a book, am I not an author? Even if I don’t have the same qualifications as say Woodward from the Watergate debacle?

    I don’t seen how he’s done anything different than Daniel Elsberg? And Daniel Elsberg agrees with me? It doesn’t make any sense? Is it only due to him not having money and influence(apart from them being embarrassed by blatant acts of murder, cruelty etc?)? I didn’t see the film footage on Wikileaks website, I saw it on ABC TV news?

    Australia’s crawling after the US is obscene! It’s time we called a halt to it before we get sucked in too deeply – again?

  9. Bill Hilliger

    @Liz 45 – Easy. Julian Assange is only one individual with limited resources. The US mostly goes for easy targets that present limited political damage if things go pear shape. Australian governments of both persuasions have since WW2 wanted to crawl to the US (for protection from American defined enemies) we amongst – many – are therefore their ‘best-est’ friends.

  10. shepherdmarilyn

    Carr goes to strife torn Libya to rescue a lawyer, he refuses to help Assange.