Despite the fact that the President was a pretty big fan of Wikileaks once upon a time, the worm has apparently turned. In what’s probably one of the more surprising headlines of the week, CNN is reporting that the Justice Department will be seeking some mechanism by which they can place Julian Assange under arrest. It should go without saying that such a move comes with a few… challenges.
US authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, US officials familiar with the matter tell CNN.
The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.
Prosecutors have struggled with whether the First Amendment precluded the prosecution of Assange, but now believe they have found a way to move forward.
The company line coming out of the DoJ is that the original calculations leading to no action against Assange were based on all of the Chelsea Manning material. That’s actually understandable because if you take down Wikileaks over that one you’re going to have start locking up reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN (among others) as well. Everyone was dumping that material out for public examination. But this round of investigations is supposedly built around Assange assisting Snowden and his globe trotting laptop. Sounds like such a charge would have at least a somewhat better chance of holding up.
But even if they have a rock solid case we’re still stuck with the same stalemate we’ve been in for half a decade. Assange remains in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and doesn’t show any signs that his resolve is weakening. There was a faint glimmer of hope in the run-up to Ecuador’s last round of elections because presidential hopeful Guillermo Lasso had indicated that he might evict Assange and get his country out of that mess. But Lasso lost, and Assange has actually been taunting him since then. (The Guardian)
Julian Assange is celebrating the results of Ecuador’s presidential runoff with a blast at the losing candidate, who had pledged to evict the WikiLeaks founder from the country’s embassy in London…
On his Twitter account shortly after the results became known, Assange took a jab at Lasso’s pledge.
“I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions),” he wrote, alluding to allegations the banker had stashed money abroad.
So even if we have a warrant and are ready to bring charges, what’s changed between last winter and now? Ecuador still can’t be forced to give him the boot and even the Brits won’t cross that line and go into the embassy to drag him out. After years of continued complaints that they’d been running up bills in the tens of millions to keep watch over the embassy grounds, they finally pulled the cops off of that detail. Oh, they still claim they plan to arrest him if he comes out, but they’ve basically given up on watching him. So what options do we have left? This is either a pointless show of force to demonstrate that we’re being tough on Assange or something has changed. Has Trump been working on a deal with Ecuador behind the scenes and twisting some arms? If so, job well done. But if not, this is going to be a story worth a couple minutes of headlines and not much more.