Julian Assange remains holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy awaiting a decision on his bid for political asylum as we go to print. The United States continues to build a case against Assange for his role in establishing WikiLeaks and exposing the dirty secrets of a brutal imperialist force.
Abandoned by the Australian government, Assange is refusing to comply with the UK police force’s demands that he turn himself in for extradition to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault. Sweden has a “temporary surrender” clause in its extradition treaty with the US that would allow them to send him there without any prospect of legal challenge. Assange rightly fears that if he is to set foot in Sweden, he is gambling with his freedom.
Assange’s bid for asylum came after Australia’s Attorney-General Nicola Roxon wrote to Assange to indicate that, “Australia would not expect to be a party to any extradition discussions that may take place between the United States and the United Kingdom or the United States and Sweden, as extradition is a matter of bilateral law enforcement co-operation.”
Yet Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr was prepared to make a personal visit to Libya to ask the Prime Minister to release Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, jailed there for her role in representing the hated Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the defeated dictator.
Carr claims that WikiLeaks “is not like Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers which revealed huge American deception, huge deception by the American government of the American public.” Ellsberg himself denies this, arguing that there are “fundamental similarities” between them. Of course, the WikiLeaks files reveal countless deceptions in relation to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
From the beginning, the Australian Government has echoed the US attacks on WikiLeaks. Australia also has troops in Afghanistan and is allowing the US to base 2500 marines near Darwin. Australia’s ruling class sees the US alliance as a guarantee that Australia can dominate and exploit the South Pacific.
Australian control of the immediate region allows it to safeguard the shipping lanes that big business in Australia depends on to reach export markets across the globe—and stop competing powers controlling them.
In order to placate calls to help Assange, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr claimed in late June that there was “not the remotest evidence” of the US government wanting to prosecute the WikiLeaks founder.
But the evidence is plain to anyone who wants to look. David House, a friend of Bradley Manning, was subpoenaed in June last year and forced to appear before a secret grand jury in Virginia investigating Assange. The US Government obtained private data from the Twitter accounts of three people associated with WikiLeaks following a court order in November last year.
Bernard Keane wrote in Crikey in early July, “French internet freedom activist Jêrêmie Zimmermann was stopped by FBI agents in May while attending a conference in Washington DC, two months after being interviewed for Assange’s television program. Icelander Smari McCarthy was also stopped while entering the US, and according to one report, asked by three officials to become an informer about Assange.”
There is also clear evidence about their intentions coming from the mouths of US government agencies. The Sydney Morning Herald recently published excerpts from a written statement by the chairwoman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein. She wrote publicly that, “I believe Mr Assange has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States. He has caused serious harm to US national security, and he should be prosecuted accordingly.”
The treatment of Army private Bradley Manning provides clues as to the way in which Assange can expect to be treated in the US. Manning, who has been charged with handing over files to WikiLeaks, has been subjected to “pre-trial confinement”—solitary confinement without charge at first, and now without conviction.
WikiLeaks revealed the connection between dictatorial regimes in northern Africa and the Middle East and the United States and detailed damaging evidence about the brutality of the US and Australian war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US Government remains desperate to punish Manning and Assange for their part in this—and to silence WikiLeaks from ever being able to do the same again. Assange will need our vocal support to ensure that the heat stays on the warmongers rather than the truth tellers.