Jul 24, 2012

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.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

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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153 thoughts on “On Assange, government defiant in face of reality

  1. Jimmy

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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?

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