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Aug 17, 2012

'Preconcert' and the strange coincidences around Julian Assange

The behaviour of multiple governments toward Julian Assange undermines the argument that he's not the target of a campaign.


“We cannot absolutely know all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill … all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places … in such a case, we find it impossible to not believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.” Lincoln, House Divided Speech, 1858

It’s a peculiar thing, the way numerous governments have behaved about Julian Assange.

First, there was the still-unexplained Swedish decision to reinstate the case against him after it was dropped by the chief prosecutor. Then the rejection of repeated offers from Assange to be interviewed for a second time by Swedish authorities in the UK, an innocuous procedure Swedish authorities have been happy to undertake previously, such as earlier this year when a prosecutor travelled to Serbia to interview an alleged murderer.

There’s the US Vice-President declaring Assange to be a terrorist — bearing in mind the US quite readily kills even Americans identified on White House lists as terrorists, let alone foreign nationals.

There’s the Australian Prime Minister, with no legal basis, claiming WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”, and Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s Rain Man act on the whole issue, parroting the same stale lines about how nothing is happening regarding Assange regardless of the publicly available evidence.

Then there’s the peculiar and still-unexplained moment when Jen Robinson was stopped at Heathrow before boarding a flight and told she was on an “inhibited” list, similar to the way other people with WikiLeaks links have been stopped.

Now the UK government has joined in, issuing a remarkable warning to Ecuador about marching into its embassy in a way seemingly calculated to goad not merely Ecuador but most of South America into fury. When your own former senior ambassadors have to explain that establishing a precedent for barging into embassies is going to make life difficult for diplomats, you’ve blundered.

On their own, each of these moments in the Assange saga can be explained away. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office functionary might have blundered in her phraseology. Joe Biden might have misspoken for the umpteenth time in his political career. Julia Gillard might have been badly briefed. The Swedes might be standing on pride and resent the way Assange has focused attention on their criminal justice system. Western governments may not have taken s-xual assault seriously ever before but it’s commendable they’re doing so now.

And all of them deny acting as part of an international effort to get Assange into the hands of the Americans; even the Americans have denied they’re pursuing Assange, although sometimes they scramble their messages — like overnight when a State Department spokeswoman admitted there was a US legal case against Assange but then backtracked when she was picked up on it. Doubtless she misspoke as well.

But as Lincoln suggested about efforts to extend slavery before the Civil War, even if we cannot know that separate parties are acting in “preconcert”, it is becoming impossible to not believe that the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia have “all understood one another from the beginning” and are working from the same plan. The coincidences, the peculiarities, the occasional, hastily explained-away admissions, have all piled so high that you have to be a conspiracy theorist not to believe he’s the target of a concerted campaign, to see only a desperate hacker trying to evade “charges” (as so many in the media insist on claiming) on the flimsiest of pretexts.

In granting Assange asylum, the Ecuadorian government has called the “understanding” out into the open. And, almost in passing, it has damned the Australian government. In the very week when it has moved to imprison people with legitimate claims to asylum, it has confirmed Assange’s argument that he’s been abandoned by his government, which even yesterday was maintaining the “nothing to see here, consular assistance, etc” act, demonstrating that being at war with the facts is not a condition confined to Tony Abbott.

Quite apart from events in London, the Australian government’s position on Assange just became even less tenable.


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23 thoughts on “‘Preconcert’ and the strange coincidences around Julian Assange

  1. zut alors

    A neat slice of pertinent resource material from A Lincoln, Bernard.

    Let us not overlook another element of preconcert: Assange’s appeal to the Supreme Court was held over until the 30th May – meantime, the US Secretary of State was booked in for a trip to Sweden on 2nd June. The first time a US Secretary of State has set foot on Swedish soil for 36 years. Preconcert…?

  2. klewso

    “Honey trap”? It looks like there’s a get-square political “daisy chain” been formed around this bloke doesn’t it?

    [Even odder look, though, a prosecutor going to Serbia to interview a suspected murderer – but not to London to ask questions of a bloke that wouldn’t put a “Johnny on his Willy, the morning after congress, for a rematch”? Maybe it’s a question of distance – too close? “Weather”? “TA expenses” – London accommodation and all?]

  3. AsGrayAs

    “you have to be a conspiracy theorist *not* to believe he’s the target of a concerted campaign”
    Very nicely put, Mr. Keane.

    It is plain to see that this issue (Sweden, s-x allegations, extradite or not, etc.) is a badly-managed US mission ‘get Assange’, by whatever means are available (in the classic style of countless other badly-managed US missions). In the process, however, the masterminds behind the mission have only inflated the iconic status that Assange now ‘enjoys’. One wonders if they now (or will someday) regret not simply moving on, and letting the world slowly forget who Julian Assange is?

  4. robinw

    It really does bring into question why we continue to slavishly adhere to the positions of these thugs and fools of the US ruling elite. Makes you wonder about our own elite in the process.

  5. Charles Richardson

    Well yes, except I think almost all historians would now agree that Lincoln was wrong and that Stephen Douglas wasn’t acting in concert with the southerners to extend slavery. So perhaps we should reserve judgement on the conspiracy theory.

  6. DF

    Sometimes you do best when you follow your gut instinct and, if conspiracies were ducks, this one looks like a duck, flies like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck.

  7. ian dale

    Mr Keane : when you are good you are very good.

  8. ian dale

    Mr Richardson:
    your response perfectly examples what Bernard Keane is pointing out very succinctly.

    One would think you are a government official.

  9. puddleduck

    Great work, BK. I wish some Crikey readers commenting on Mr Rundle’s piece today would read this. Jimmy, I’m talking to you.

  10. izatso?

    …. and Karl Rove’s place of employment is where, ‘zactly ? ”All Governments are Fact Aversive …. some are just more ” Fact Aversive ” than others, by Jingo ! from Plato. …. plagiarised by Orwell* ….. *fact aversive .

  11. Gerry Hatrick, OAP

    It’s the thing, even if the people who are complaining that Assange is running, surely Sweden should be doing the right thing by THEIR CITIZENS but assuring they get the suspect for questioning? If we’re concerned about the rights of the Women involved, surely the Swedish government should want to get this sorted?

  12. Aaron F

    Good article. Now the British Government won’t give Julian safe passage because it doesn’t agree with the granting of asylum on political grounds apparently. I thought it would be up to the Government of Ecuador to decide what they do and do not grant asylum for and if the British Government doesn’t agree that is an issue for the two governments to resolve, not for them to deny safe passage for someone already granted asylum.

  13. Jim Farbenson

    Britain, United States, Australia, Sweden … Ecuador. One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just isn’t the same. I’ll spare you the rest of the Sesame Street song, but all the major players in this fiasco – except Ecuador – are ‘Gold Card’ members of the western protection racket run by Uncle Sam. Ecuador is a welcome circuit breaker here, and may snap at least some of the credulous fence-sitters in the general public, media and politics out of their comfortable, dopey, groupthink.

  14. Joel

    The answers in that press release were quite revealing, and I do think that they quite effectively answer any doubts I may have had about the US’ intentions here. Definitely worth a read, if you haven’t.

  15. Kevin Tyerman

    The Age reported a couple of days ago:
    “FOREIGN Minister Bob Carr is confident Julian Assange will receive a fair trial if extradited to Sweden”.

    Radio reports I have heard today also indicate that Sweden’s response
    to Ecuador has also been that Julian Assange will receive a fair trial.

    For the discussion of trial in this way, I assume that charges have finally been laid against Julian Assange in Sweden. Obviously the Australian Foreign Minister would not be discussing the trial of an Australian citizen if charges have not actually been laid against him.

  16. drsmithy

    It’s the thing, even if the people who are complaining that Assange is running, surely Sweden should be doing the right thing by THEIR CITIZENS but assuring they get the suspect for questioning? If we’re concerned about the rights of the Women involved, surely the Swedish government should want to get this sorted?

    The SWEDISH CITIZENS in question have indicated no desire to prosecute Assange.

    On top of which, Assange has had an open invitation to the Swedish authorities for two years to question him in the UK. They have made no attempt to do so.

  17. Truedi Farmer

    What a magnificent article! New bits of insight every few lines. I always thought that consulates were absolutely and totally exempt from the laws of the host nation. It’s live and learn how international law and be twisted and turned to suit the matter at hand. Is it just a matter of time for Assange? I think that’s the feeling.

  18. Georgouras Janet

    Finally, a credible news source on this topic. Good on you.

    This, after coming from the Guardian where they seem to have replaced their
    motto “The Facts are Sacred” with “Time to Stop Digging”.

    I put it down to a sore back.

  19. Scott

    THANK YOU, Bernard Keane!

    Running the last 24 hours on abc.net.au/news is the report that Assange has “refused” offers of assistance from Australian consular officials! Is there any way we can find out what is being offered, and why it is being offered now, and not two years ago?

  20. zut alors

    Just after 10am today on ABC24 there was a revealing interview with Christine Assange. She said, prior to a few days ago, since Dec 2010 the Oz govt had offered no assistance to her son.

    Julian had requested, among other things, help in getting assurances from Sweden that bail would be allowed should he return for questioning. The Oz govt was useless in response. There must be an audio available online of Ms Assange’s interview, it was most revealing and made a mockery of what Gillard, Carr and Roxon have been feeding us. Who would’ve thought…

    Christine Assange claimed that the Oz Consul had regularly booked seats for the courtroom during Assange’s hearings but had no contact with her son nor did the consular representative even acknowledge him at those hearings.

  21. Gocomsys

    “Ultimately, the diplomatic negotiations that assist Australian nationals happen outside of the media glare, and it cannot always be clear what steps the government takes or what it is prepared to do – until the details are released on Wikileaks”. (Summary of this excellent article) Please copy and paste.

  22. ellas ilios

    Please help promote this link wherever you can; if you believe in freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Julian

    Assange for the Nobel prize for freedom of the press:


    Lets see how “Noble” the Norwegians and their righteous Swede neighbors are or claim to be, since they offered Obama the

    Nobel peace prize!

  23. Youthy

    Scott “Is there any way we can find out what is being offered, and why it is being offered now, and not two years ago?”

    Consular services (and their limits) for Aussies overseas in legal trouble are pretty well outlined here:



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