Sunday, April 14, 2019

Julian Assange

The transformation of Julian Assange from classic British twit to old-prospector-with-a-man-bun is amusing, but irrelevant; and his expulsion from the Ecuadorian embassy in London had nothing to do with either his cat or his skateboard.  Ecuadorean president Lenin Moreno, despite his name, is notably less leftist than Rafael Correa, his predecessor.  Pressured by the US, Moreno was willing to make a deal.

Meanwhile, Chelsea Manning has spent the past year back in jail for refusing to testify in secret to a grand jury — although she is willing to testify in public.  One only can hope that Assange's arrest will speed her release.  (Don't bet on it.)  At Manning's trial in 2013, there never was any suggestion that Assange helped her access the CIGINT files published on Wikileaks, but that is the basis for the current charge against Assange.  His real "crime" was embarrassing the US military and intelligence agencies — and they want revenge.

Clearly, Julian Assange is an asshole — but being an asshole is not a crime.  The real question is whether or not Assange is a journalist, and freedom of the press demands that he be given the benefit of the doubt.  That decision may be made in the UK, as Assange faces extradition, but the Brits have plenty of problems of their own right now.  Fortunately, they do have another option: they can extradite him to Sweden, to face charges of sexual assault.  If their government retains any functionality at all, that's exactly what they'll do.

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