Wed 8 Dec 2010
- Julian Assange refused bail
- US condemns Rudd in leaks
- Rudd doesn’t give a damn
- Special report: the case against Assange
- Visa, MasterCard suspend payments to WikiLeaks
- US State Department denies heavying students
- FULL COVERAGE: The WikiLeaks Story
As critics protest against the “shonky” way WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been denied his freedom, diplomatic sources have reportedly revealed informal talks are under way for him to be transferred into US custody.
US and Swedish officials have already discussed the possibility of Mr Assange being delivered into the hands of US law enforcement to face potential charges over “espionage offences”, Britain’s The Independent reported, citing “diplomatic sources”.
The espionage claims relate to Mr Assange releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential US State Department cables, not the sexual misconduct accusations being investigated in Sweden.
Right-wing politicians such as former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin say Assange should be pursued in the same way as terrorist leaders.
Assange’s mum and son speak out
Mr Assange’s mother, Christine, who runs a puppet theatre in Queensland, speaking to The Sunshine Coast Daily, said she was worried her son would not get a fair trial.
“There’s no fair play here,” she said. “My son has come forward of his own free will to face the charges against him and they have put him in the ring with his hands tied behind his back.”
Mr Assange’s son Daniel has called for his father to be treated “fairly and apolitically” following his arrest in Britain last night.
Mr Assange faces extradition to Sweden to face rape and molestation accusations and Daniel wrote on his Twitter account that he was not encouraged by the behaviour of the Swedish legal system so far.
“I’m hoping this isn’t just an intermediary step towards his extradition to the US,” wrote Daniel, who has not had any contact with his father for several years.
“I can’t see how they can possibly convict him of anything in a fair trial.”
It has been revealed that the two women who accuse Assange of sexual misconduct were at first not seeking to bring any charges against him and simply wanted him to take an STD test following their unprotected sexual encounter.
Phillip Adams, an ABC radio presenter and member of the WikiLeaks Advisory Board, said in a phone interview today that he believed the Swedish sexual misconduct case against Mr Assange was “dubious and shonky”.
Separately, Adams said he could not see why US politicians wanted to prosecute Mr Assange for his latest State Department cable leaks, as he was simply doing what journalists have done for years but on a much larger scale.
“Why the world is so rushing to condemn and to throw around words like ‘treason’, which are clearly inapplicable to a young Australian, astonishes me. I think the reaction around the world is bizarre, absolutely bizarre,” he said.
Adams said that, despite being on the WikiLeaks Advisory Board, he had not had any involvement in any of the latest leaks. He said the “hysterical response” to the latest leaks from governments would only make matters worse for them.
“I think if Julian’s completely taken out of the picture the organisation will grind on in its mysterious hydra-headed way. Despite all the various attempts to cut it off at the knees and legs, it will continue to flourish and embarrass, and good on it,” Adams said.
“I’d be advising WikiLeaks to up the ante and to keep leaking and to demonstrate that it’s bigger than Julian Assange.”
‘We will not be gagged’
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the latest law enforcement action would do little to stop the site, which has continued to release US Embassy cables and is duplicated in more than 500 locations.
“Every day, the cables are loaded more than 50 million times,” Hrafnsson said.
“We will not be gagged, either by judicial action or corporate censorship. Today Visa joined Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon, EveryDNS and others in cutting off their links.”
Hackers attack prosecutor’s website
The website of the Swedish prosecutor’s office pursuing Mr Assange came under cyber attack in the latest salvo by his online supporters.
PandaLabs, the malware detection laboratory for computer security firm Panda Security, said the prosecutor’s website, aklagare.se, was brought down by members of the “cyber hacktivist” group called Anonymous.
Attempts to connect to the aklagare.se website about 9am (AEDT) were unsuccessful.
The attack on the Swedish prosecutor’s website came as Mr Assange was refused bail on Tuesday in London by a British judge over accusations of sex crimes in Sweden.
Sean-Paul Correll, a threat researcher at PandaLabs, said the group called Anonymous launched the attack on the Swedish prosecutor’s website and others against PayPal and the Swiss Post Office bank.
PayPal blocked financial transfers to WikiLeaks last week while the Swiss Post Office bank closed accounts held by Mr Assange, whose release of secret US diplomatic cables has sparked an international furore.
Intense and sometimes paranoid
A computer hacker with no permanent home, Mr Assange has been described as highly intelligent, determined, intense and sometimes paranoid.
The 39-year-old Australian has made himself plenty of enemies, from the governments whose secret information he has revealed to former colleagues he has alienated.
Now arrested by British police on a warrant issued in Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him about allegations of sexual crimes, Mr Assange faces potential extradition. He will spend at least the next week behind bars after deciding to fight the extradition.
Mr Assange denies the allegations, which his supporters say are politically motivated.
US authorities are also keen to find some way of charging him for his part in publishing classified information, although experts say it is far from clear whether he has himself committed a crime.
Rudd pledges support
Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, who said today he frankly didn’t “give a damn” about the WikiLeaks revelations about him, has sought to draw a line between the rape allegation Mr Assange is facing and his controversial website.
Mr Rudd said the government would offer its “normal” level of support to Mr Assange, as an Australian in need of legal help in a foreign nation.
“I spoke last night with Australia’s high commissioner in London and again this morning, Australian time, to confirm we are providing Mr Assange with all appropriate consular assistance,” Mr Rudd told ABC Radio today.
“I’m the Foreign Minister of Australia, responsible for the consular well-being of all Australians and therefore I just want to make it absolutely clear that first of all Mr Assange has contacted the Australian consul-general in London and asked for consular support,” Mr Rudd told the Seven network.
Like the WikiLeaks site itself, Mr Assange has proved a divisive figure. Some see him as a hero, challenging censorship and the harbinger of a new age of openness. Others see him as a dangerous radical, wrecking the secretive norms of diplomacy, revealing what should not be revealed.
While preaching the need for official openness, Mr Assange himself is known for being highly secretive. It has been reported that he carries several mobile phones and a rucksack, moving from house to house and staying with friends from Iceland to Kenya.
Born in July 1971 in Townsville on Australia’s Queensland coast, Mr Assange has spent his entire life travelling. His parents worked in theatre and were often on the road.
From hacker to activist
In his teens, he gained a reputation as a sophisticated computer programmer before being arrested in 1995 and pleading guilty to hacking. He avoided prison on condition he did not reoffend and in his late 20s went to Melbourne University to study mathematics and physics.
He founded WikiLeaks in 2006, creating a web-based “dead letter drop” for would-be leakers.
Mr Assange said he had never wanted to become the public face of WikiLeaks. Initially, he said his plan was that the organisation have no public face at all “because I wanted egos to play no part in activities”.
But he said this quickly became a distraction, with random individuals on the internet claiming to represent the group.
Before the latest leak, the website had about five full-time staff members, several dozen active volunteers and 800 part-time volunteers. Mr Assange says he is effectively its publisher and editor-in-chief, although he still conducts his own research.
“In the end, someone must be responsible to the public and only a leadership that is willing to be publicly courageous can genuinely suggest that sources take risks for the greater good,” he told a web chat with Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
“In that process, I have become a lightning rod. I get undue attacks on every aspect of my life, but I also get undue credit as some kind of balancing force.”
In an article in today’s Australian, he writes: “WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?
“Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.
People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.”
Queensland senator Ian Macdonald offered his qualified support to Mr Assange this afternoon.
“Julian Assange is right – governments of all persuasions have a duty to act at all times in a transparent and principled manner,” he said in a statement.
“I hope that Wikileaks one day turns its attention to exposing the activities of the Queensland Labor Government.
“I think Julian and his colleagues would find a compelling case for another Fitzgerald-style Inquiry into the Bligh Labor Government’s corruption scandals, jobs for the boys and fiscal incompetence, all occurring under a veil of secrecy.
“Having said all that, I have to say I have some concerns about Wikileaks activities where they impact on national security.”
Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha