Finally, Assange Will Face the Legal Cases Against Him

Wikileaks
Founder Julian Assange is finally going to face the music.  According to many across the political
spectrum, he is no hero. To a handful of
others, he is

For
the last seven years, Assange has avoided accountability for his conduct by
holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, at a cost of over $3 million.  But that ended this week. At a news
conference on Thursday, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said, “We’ve ended the
asylum of this spoiled brat.”  The serial
publisher of classified and other material was, according to news reports, a
horrible guest.  Assange reportedly had horrible hygiene, and faced
allegations that he physically harassed his caretakers, smeared his own fecal
matter on the walls, and reportedly compromised the
embassy communications system, which allowed him to access and intercept the
official and personal communications of staff. 

Now
that his asylum is officially over, he must confront his legal challenges, as
the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the United States each have filed charges
against him for various alleged crimes. 

Recall
that in 2012, Assange took refuge at the Ecuadorian
Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case,
and he has been there ever since.  A U.K.
court had granted him bail in 2012 while he fought his extradition to Sweden.  But instead of fighting his extradition to
Sweden, he skipped bail, ingratiated himself with the country of Ecuador,
received asylum and retired to their London Embassy.    

Immediately
after his asylum was revoked, a bearded and disheveled Assange was dragged out of the Embassy by
British police and arrested on the U.K. warrant for skipping bail.  He was also arrested pursuant to the U.S./U.K.
Extradition Treaty, in connection with a (U.S.) federal charge of conspiracy to
commit computer intrusion.  Assange was
taken to a courtroom in London, where he was found guilty of the bail skipping
offense.  He will be sentenced on May 2,
where he faces up to a year in jail. He remains in a British jail pending
sentencing. 

That’s
where things get interesting, as there is an open question as to what happens
to Assange after he is sentenced on the U.K. bail skipping charge.  Will he go to Sweden to face the sexual
assault charges, or the United States for the computer conspiracy charge, or
what?

Assange’s
legal team have vowed to fight extradition to any country, and some predict it could
take years, and that his legal woes are just beginning.  And since he is a political cause celebre who has a fan club, he may have
the financial means to sustain his efforts to avoid extradition, at least for a
while.  

The
reason Assange may be fighting extradition is because the charges against
Assange in the United States and Sweden are quite serious. 

As for
the allegations against Assange in the United States, the Department of Justice
issued a press release this week which
included the indictment against Assange,
and their intent to extradite him to answer for the charge.  If convicted, Assange faces a “maximum
penalty of five years in prison.” 

According
to the Justice Department press release, “the charge relates to Assange’s
alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the
history of the United States.”  Assange
engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, “a former intelligence analyst in
the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S.
Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol
Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and
communications.” 

According
to the indictment, Manning (who was
convicted at a court-martial for his conduct), “between…January 2010 and May
2010…downloaded four nearly complete databases from departments and agencies of
the United States. These databases contained approximately 90,000 Afghanistan
war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant
activity reports, 800 Guantanamo Bar detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000
U.S. Department of State cables.” 

Assange’s
alleged assistance in helping Manning crack the passwords to the government
computers “allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did
not belong to her.  Such a deceptive
measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the
source of the illegal disclosures,” according to the press release.

The
Washington Post, a recipient and publisher of some of Wikileaks material, editorialized that Assange is
“not a free-press hero.”  According to
the Post, “contrary to the norms of journalism…Assange sometimes obtained such
records unethically – including…by trying to help now-former…soldier Manning
hack into a classified U.S. computer system.” 
Rebutting the notion that Wikileaks is a journalist, the Post goes on,
saying: “Unlike real journalists, Wikileaks dumped material into the public
domain with any effort independently to verify its factuality or give named
individuals an opportunity to comment.” 

Over in Sweden, the director of Public Prosecution, Eva-Marie Persson, issued a statement saying that the counsel for the alleged rape victim has requested the investigation to be resumed.  “We will now examine the case in order to determine how to proceed. The investigation has not yet been resumed, and we do not know whether it will be.” The statute of limitations for rape in Sweden would expire in August 2020, so they have time to re-bring the charges if they decided to do so. 

According
to the Guardian, Assange is alleged to have raped one women and had unprotected
sex with her, and had unprotected sex with another woman against her
wishes.  The lurid details are contained in
the Guardian story. Assange denies the allegations. 

One thing is for sure: Assange will be in the news again for some time.  Some blame him for contributing to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss because Wikileaks published emails hacked from John Podesta and the Democratic National Commitee. Others blame him for his reckless publications of the Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, and State Department information, that harmed our national security, put lives in danger, and sullied diplomatic relations. Others defend him, claiming he is a journalist and brave defender of the free press.  Only time will tell how history judges him.