The Cable Guy Julian Assange Becomes US's Public Enemy No. 1

He may be on the short list for Time magazine's "person of the year," but many Americans consider Julian Assange to be a criminal and a terrorist. The WikiLeaks founder has been fighting a battle on several fronts since the publication of the diplomatic cables. He has now been arrested in London.

By and

REUTERS

Wherever Julian Assange turned up in recent weeks, there was always a noticeably well-dressed young woman at his side. Jennifer Robinson, an attorney at a London law firm, has served as Assange's legal protection insurance for the last few weeks. She kept several sets of legal documents in her purse, for the event that Scotland Yard or some other law enforcement agency decided to arrest the Australian.

Assange now finds himself in need of such expert legal protection. He was arrested by British police in London on Tuesday on a European warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors. London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement that Assange had been arrested at around 9:30 a.m. local time, by appointment at a police station in the British capital. "He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010," the statement read. Assange was due to appear before a London court later on Tuesday.

Assange's lawyers had earlier said that he would meet with police to talk about the European arrest warrant. "We are in the process of making arrangements to meet with police by consent," lawyer Mark Stephens said on Monday.

As of last week, there was no longer any doubt that the Swedish authorities were determined to catch the 39-year-old at all costs. Interpol issued a "Red Notice" seeking Assange's arrest, and Scotland Yard's Serious Organized Crime Agency confirmed that it was familiar with the case.

But like everything else relating to the WikiLeaks founder, this private case has also become a political issue. The man who had sent a shockwave through global politics since the publication of the American embassy cables two weekends ago had become a hunted man.

He has also become the Americans' latest public enemy, after having challenged the world's most powerful nation and made its secrets public for all to see.

'Assange Should Be Assassinated'

While Washington's reactions to the leaks of military documents from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were relatively calm, the tone has now changed. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder officially confirmed that the US Justice Department could invoke the Espionage Act of 1917 to take legal action against the WikiLeaks staff. Under the law, the disclosure of secret military information is a crime. According to Holder, an amendment of the law is also an option for the future. "To the extent there are gaps in our laws, we will move to close those gaps," Holder said. At the end of last week, American government agencies instructed their employees not to visit the WikiLeaks website, while institutions like the US Library of Congress blocked access to the site.

Republican Congressman Peter King wants the State Department to examine whether WikiLeaks can be classified as a terrorist organization, which would make it easier for US authorities to hunt down Assange and his supporters. Tom Flanagan, a professor at the University of Calgary and a former adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, offered an even more radical suggestion. "Assange should be assassinated," he said on Canadian television. "I wouldn't feel unhappy if Assange disappeared." Flanagan later apologized for his comments.

Prominent politicians like Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman have also joined the anti-WikiLeaks camp. Last week, Lieberman called on Internet companies to stop providing WikiLeaks with server capacity.

His appeal was successful. Amazon Web Services informed WikiLeaks in an email last week that its activities violated Amazon's terms of service. In addition to being the world's largest online merchant, Amazon also rents out server capacity. WikiLeaks was already using Amazon servers when it leaked the Iraq reports in October, and hundreds of thousands of users viewed the US embassy cables on American servers -- until Amazon pulled the plug, that is.

The Infowar Has Started

Since then, Amazon and Lieberman have come under sharp attack. Daniel Ellsberg, America's most famous whistleblower, publicly called for a boycott of Amazon, saying: "I'm disgusted by Amazon's cowardice and servility." On Friday, John Perry Barlow, an ex-hippie and co-founder of the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation, addressed Internet activists with the following Twitter message: "The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops."

Amazon sought to justify its decision by claiming that terminating its relationship with WikiLeaks had nothing to do with politics. It argued that it had to act as it did because WikiLeaks was disseminating content to which it did not have the rights.

The dispute over servers was accompanied by an attack on the wikileaks.org address. The website's problems began on Nov. 28. Internet statistics site show that wikileaks.org was shut down hours before the planned publication of the first cables by large numbers of simultaneous attempts to access the site. Using Twitter, a certain "th3j35t3r," also known as "The Jester," claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks. According to the Jester, WikiLeaks was endangering the lives of soldiers and jeopardizing international relations. Prior to the WikiLeaks attacks, Jester, who claims to be a former soldier who worked in special operations, had earned a reputation for attacking Islamist sites. Using Special Forces jargon for having eliminated a terrorist, Jester tweeted: "Tango down."

The attacks did not subside during the week. In fact, they intensified. On Tuesday the WikiLeaks team, apparently impressed, tweeted that they were under serious attack once again, at a rate of "more than 10 gigabits per second." The organization has since shifted to servers in France, but it is also beginning to lose ground there. French Industry Minister Eric Besson calls it "unacceptable" for a French server to harbor a website "that has violated the secrecy of diplomatic relations and put people in danger." The Internet company in question has since appealed to a court and requested a legal review.

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Naturhuf 12/07/2010
1. Witch Hunt
maybe he did something, but this sure feels like modern witch hunt at its best and I am surprised that Sweeden is playing along........just sad
mae 12/08/2010
2. transparency and hypocrisy at Wikkileaks
For someone like Assange who loudly proclaims himself to the be the champion of transparency, he refuses to be transparent about his own legal troubles in Sweden. Prehaps Mr.Assange should practise what he preaches and publish on Wikkileaks the testimony of the women who have bought charges against him in Sweden. Surely if the Swedish authorities have issued an arrest warrent this is serious. How I wish someone would give Assange a dose of his own medicine and publish all the details of the women's testimony - then we get to know the real Assange, not the fame seeking meglomanic masquerading as a freedom of speech advocate. Assange knows releasing leaks from Burma or North Korea will not get the same worldwide media attention.
robertlaity 12/08/2010
3. Obama is America;s "Number One" enemy.
Obama is a Usurper: http://www.thepostemail.com/2010/08/17/there-is-no-president-obama/
mae 12/09/2010
4. What if German diplomatic cables were released - more shady and immoral ? Possible
It will be interesting what Der Spiegel's reaction would have been if WikkiLeaks had released German diplomatic cables ? Imagine reading about how German goverment turned a blind eye to greedy German companies selling WMD capability to Saddam, and building chemical factories for Saddam in the 1980's. Imagine reading about how now the German government is sponsering business fairs in Sudan in the name of the German export machine while the USA has laws against doing business with the genocidal dictatorship in Sudan and US companies can sell only humanitarian items such as food to Sudan. Imagine reading how Germany has no such laws and and German companies can sell anyting to genocidal regime in Sudan? Furthermore the German goverment is strongly pushing for stronger buisness ties with Sudan's despots in the name of German corporate greed? Worse of all imagine how Der Spiegel would look if it didn't fullfil its responsiblities as a free press to uncover and report the German goverment's shady and immoral conduct in Sudan in the name of exports? But then again Der Speigel didn't uncover the German government's shameful behavior when German companies did brisk business building chemical factories for a brutal dictator like Saddam who already had a well known reputation for using poison gas during the Iran/Iraq war. It was the New York times that broke the story. Shame on the German media that a foreign media broke the news of German government's misdeeds. Doubtful though that Der Speigel will feel any shame over that though. Der Speigel should look at its own hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to goverment transparency. Apparently transparency is well and good for the USA and only for the USA, not for Germany especially if it puts at risk German corporate profits - therefore we will never see any articles in Der Spiegel about the morally repugant behaviour of the German government in Sudan.
BTraven 12/09/2010
5.
Zitat von Naturhufmaybe he did something, but this sure feels like modern witch hunt at its best and I am surprised that Sweeden is playing along........just sad
I think it is wrong to mix up the two cases he is alleged to have done – the two women who felt they were sexual abused by him went to the police before the latest documents (cables) have been published. The only indication that Sweden’s request for extraction could have something to do with his work is that the accusation was temporarily abandoned for reasons I do not know. I am not a lawyer but I think his chances to come out of the case unharmed are not bad since it should be no problem for his defenders to accuse the two women that they want to take revenge so everything is made up by them. I think it would be a very nasty trial. It’s a pity that both parties had not find a way to avoid a scenario where the whole world will learn of what happened. It’s disgusting.
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