What’s with All the WikiParanoia?
Readers know all too well where my sympathies lie regarding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. But I have to admit, I’m baffled by the paranoid reaction my fellow WikiSupporters are exhibiting in the wake of Assange’s latest failure to block his extradition to Sweden to face sexual-assault charges. Exhibit A, from the usually invaluable WL Central:
The possibility of criminal charges against Assange and other WikiLeaks associates became more concrete early this week, when a federal court ruled that the Justice Department could subpoena records of the Twitter accounts used by Assange, Bradley Manning, and other WikiLeaks associates targeted in a criminal investigation. Google and at least one internet service provider have allegedly received similar subpoenas. This spectre of possible U.S. criminal charges looms as a U.K. court has also ruled that Assange may soon face extradition for questioning regarding alleged sex violations in Sweden, where Assange could be held indefinitely without charge and without access to visitors, lawyers, or the media.
However, the options of U.S. officials are not limited to extradition. Indeed, a far greater threat to Assange’s safety would be posed by the relatively recent U.S. practice of extraordinary rendition. Generally reserved for suspected terrorists, “extraordinary” or “irregular” rendition involves the extra-legal abduction of a suspect from a non-U.S. host country to another country (such as Egypt, Morocco, or Jordan) known to employ harsh interrogation tactics that may constitute torture. Rendered detainees may be held indefinitely, incommunicado, and without access to attorneys.
A few thoughts. First, are Assange’s supporters actually worried that Sweden — Sweden! — is going to hold Assange “indefinitely without charge and without access to visitors, lawyers, or the media”? Have they ever held anyone in such conditions? When did Sweden morph into the United States?
Second, and relatedly — extraordinary rendition? Really? Sweden is going to honor a U.S. request to ship Assange to, say, Syria to be tortured? I realize the Eurozone is falling apart, but is the European Convention, as well? (Ironically, the article notes that the ECHR prohibits extradition to states that impose the death penalty, such as the U.S. I’m pretty sure the ECHR is no softer on rendition to torture.)
Third, and finally, why are Assange’s supporters seemingly so much more worried about Sweden doing something awful to him than Britain? Isn’t the right-wing Cameron government much more likely to extradite Assange to the U.S., especially given that the UK has similarly onerous espionage laws?
This inquiring mind wants to know.