A sudden twist in the Julian Assange story has appeared. We’ve known from the beginning that Assange would fight extradition to the United States tooth and claw. Also, his accomplice from the heady days of Wikileaks’ leaking glory, Chelsea Manning, is willing to stay in jail rather than answer any questions about her involvement with Assange. But it turns out that Ecuador’s new administration isn’t quite so willing to abet them. The Hill reports that Ecuador is willing to allow the United States to basically come in and vacuum up any of Assange’s records from inside the embassy we’d like to look over.
Wikileaks said Ecuador would turn over to U.S. prosecutors possessions belonging to Julian Assange that remain in the country’s London embassy.
The organization claims that Ecuadorian officials will permit U.S. prosecutors to “help themselves” to Assange’s legal papers, medical records and electronic devices, according to The Guardian.
WikiLeaks said that Assange’s attorneys will not be present.
“On Monday Ecuador will perform a puppet show at the embassy of Ecuador in London for their masters in Washington, just in time to expand their extradition case before the UK deadline on 14 June,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said, according to the British newspaper. “The Trump administration is inducing its allies to behave like it’s the Wild West.”
At first glance, this story looked rather dubious. After all, Assange’s lawyers have a history of sending out histrionic press releases claiming that the United States (or some other perceived enemy of Assange) was within moments of storming the gates and forcibly removing him, having him assassinated, or what have you. His media team has long been fueled by paranoia until they were finally proven right (for once) when he was evicted from the embassy.
But in this case, it’s not all that far-fetched. The new government in Ecuador has been far more friendly to the Trump administration (along with various allies in Europe) and they were the ones who invited the Brits into the embassy to remove him on short notice. Given the circumstances and timing of Assange’s arrest, they probably have most of his possessions at the moment.
In fact, an Ecuadorean spokesperson recently confirmed that they were awaiting “the completion of an investigation into Assange’s items.” One would imagine that Assange would have some high-level encryption and protection of his data, but with the right professionals on the job, they might be able to crack it. Whether that trove contains any data that would assist in prosecuting the Wikileaks found in the United States remains to be seen, but it might also produce some blockbuster headlines if the press gets hold of it.
None of this will make much difference if Sweden gets hold of Assange first with their extradition request. There remains a chain of statute of limitation issues to be overcome in both Sweden and America. And if they aren’t worked out soon, he may wind up strolling away from his failure to appear sentence in London with time served.