This is not about the rape accusations Assange is facing in Sweden and for which he’s being extradited for questioning over. That’s been covered in great depth and in ways that I wholly support by Sady Doyle and Kate Harding, amongst others. No, this is about the other thing that I don’t get about Julian Assange.
He took receipt, from some source, allegedly PFC Manning, but perhaps not, of a huge cache of intercepted diplomatic documents.
He knew that whomever gave him these documents had no authority to do so, and potentially broke laws by accessing the documents for their own purposes, more laws by saving the documents to their own media and even more laws by transmitting the documents to another party.
Consequently he must have known that simply by receiving said documents to begin with, he was skirting the edge of law, and certainly trampling the line of what a lot of countries implicated in the documents would view as appropriate.
And by publishing the documents, he knew that he was going even further.
And he had to know that there would be consequences.
Most people who engage in civil disobedience, breaking immoral laws or regulations or running afoul of authorities in order to exact civil change or to shed light on something that they believe that the public needs to know, do so recognizing that there may be consequences that follow.
If they believe that the authorities are corrupt or power-seeking or would go to any end to keep their secrets secret, what on earth do they expect to happen when they get arrested, get indicted, get nailed in the head by whatever book that can be found to be thrown at them?
So why is Julian Assange so surprised that the U.S. is trying to find grounds to indict him? Why is he acting scared?
Seriously, an indictment is the best thing he could ask for, if he’s going to get entangled in the U.S. legal system at all. Obviously he’d prefer not to, as would we all. But realistically he had to have expected that when you tilt at the 1,000 story tall iron windmill that is the U.S. government, you’re gonna get knocked off your donkey.
But fundamentally, having the U.S. government forced to prove that some law applies — and not ex post facto — to Assange’s Wikileaks publications, and to do so in a public forum, to the satisfaction of a jury of regular people? That’s going to be a steep hill for the federal government to climb, even if the public polling on “is Wikileaks good or bad?” is running 50/50. (And I’m not sure that it is.)
Seriously, in this climate, Assange could’ve been plucked up out of the UK and dropped in Guantanamo and disappeared. Or subjected to extraordinary rendition. His visibility saved him from that fate, which was spelled out in some twitch-inducing detail, in some of the very documents he leaked. It’s pretty clear that there are some in the federal government who consider this document publication to be a war crime, after all. If he’d just been random shmo with a blog, we’d never see him again.
So when I hear him whining about solitary confinement in the basement of a Victorian prison and being afraid of a pending U.S. indictment all I can say is “if you can’t face the ramifications of being a big-named, badass public civil protestor then why the hell are you acting like a big-named, badass public civil protestor?”
All I can think is that adage about heat and the kitchen.