Ecuador Withdraws Asylum, Assange Arrested

Officers of the Metropolitan Police were invited into the Ecuadoran embassy in London yesterday to arrest Julian Assange. I haven’t written much about Mr. Assange here, though I’ve made it clear for a long time that I have little sympathy for him. In some way Assange is like Trump. They both are epic narcissists and people of bad character. They both inspire a kind of derangement among both their supporters and their detractors. My favorite bit of derangement among Assange supporters is the bizarre claim, made by people who should know better, that he has been detained in the Ecuadoran embassy all these years, when in fact he fled to the embassy after becoming a fugitive from justice, leaving his friends on the hook for the bail money they posted so that he could stay in English country houses while fighting his extradition to Sweden on rape charges, and when he has been free to leave anytime he chose.

Sometimes when an odious person takes the public stage you have to grin and bear it because of important commitments—the Nazis in Skokie had to be allowed to march because of our commitment to the First Amendment and the freedom of speech. There was some thought that we might need to take the same approach with Assange. If the government were to charge him with espionage, for example, because he printed the secrets Chelsea Manning stole, how could we distinguish him as a legal matter from actual journalists who printed secrets their sources provided to them? I am happy that the grand jury has not charged Assange with espionage, but instead with conspiring with Manning to steal secrets from the government. The indictment alleges that Assange conspired with Manning and agreed to try to crack a password that on a US government computer. I don’t see any risk to legitimate journalists from such a charge, and so I see no reason to hold my nose and object to the indictment. (more…)

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More on the DNC Lawsuit: Serving Assange

On Friday I wrote about the FSIA issues raised by the DNC’s lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign, et al. There is is one more Letters Blogatory angle to the new suit. One of the defendants is Julian Assange, whom I’ve written about before. My feelings on Mr. Assange are of the same kind as my feelings about President Trump, i.e., not warm. So again, without discussing the merits of the claims or the political wisdom of the suit, here are some comments on the tricky service of process issues the DNC will face. You know this already, but just as a reminder, Mr. Assange is holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, because though he is very quick to pass judgment on others, he skipped bail and refuses to appear in an English court to answer charges against him. The Ecuadorans recently hatched a scheme to get him out of the embassy: they first granted him Ecuadoran citizenship and then sought to give him diplomatic status. The UK refused to accept him as an Ecuadoran diplomat. There is a question about whether, in light of these facts, the UK is now obligated to allow Assange safe passage to Ecuador, but if that’s so, then Assange and Ecuador will be exploiting a strange and unintended loophole. In any case, there is no indication he is headed to Ecuador anytime soon. In the meanwhile, Ecuador, again embarrassed by Mr. Assange’s shenanigans, has cut his access to the internet, and for purposes of this post I assume that that hasn’t changed.
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More on the DNC Lawsuit: Serving Assange

On Friday I wrote about the FSIA issues raised by the DNC’s lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign, et al. There is is one more Letters Blogatory angle to the new suit. One of the defendants is Julian Assange, whom I’ve written about before. My feelings on Mr. Assange are of the same kind as my feelings about President Trump, i.e., not warm. So again, without discussing the merits of the claims or the political wisdom of the suit, here are some comments on the tricky service of process issues the DNC will face. You know this already, but just as a reminder, Mr. Assange is holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, because though he is very quick to pass judgment on others, he skipped bail and refuses to appear in an English court to answer charges against him. The Ecuadorans recently hatched a scheme to get him out of the embassy: they first granted him Ecuadoran citizenship and then sought to give him diplomatic status. The UK refused to accept him as an Ecuadoran diplomat. There is a question about whether, in light of these facts, the UK is now obligated to allow Assange safe passage to Ecuador, but if that’s so, then Assange and Ecuador will be exploiting a strange and unintended loophole. In any case, there is no indication he is headed to Ecuador anytime soon. In the meanwhile, Ecuador, again embarrassed by Mr. Assange’s shenanigans, has cut his access to the internet, and for purposes of this post I assume that that hasn’t changed.
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Editorial: Russia and Wikileaks

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Countries spy on each other, as they should. It’s important to understand the politics of allies and adversaries, and the intentions of leading political figures. So while I don’t like the fact that, according to reports of the assessment of the US intelligence community, the Russian government is behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee, I understand it. I hope we take similar steps to get an inside view of Russian political leaders. Jack Goldsmith made just that point today:

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The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Julian Assange Case

A few years ago, I commented on Julian Assange’s bid to win “diplomatic asylum” from Ecuador. As my post indicated, I’m not really sympathetic to Mr. Assange’s legal plight, and my view on that hasn’t changed since 2012. The case was recently in the news again as the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released an opinion concluding that Mr. Assange was being arbitrarily detained. Leaving aside sympathy or lack of sympathy for Mr. Assange, I really cannot see how the Working Group could have reached its decision or what kind of sense the decision makes.
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