What’s with All the WikiParanoia?

by Kevin Jon Heller

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.


3 Responses

  1. See Agiza v. Sweden at CAT.
    “Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad Alzery were two Egyptian asylum-seekers who were deported to Egypt from Sweden on December 18, 2001, apparently following a request from the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The forced repatriation was criticised because of the danger of torture and ill treatment, and because the deportation decision was executed the same day without notifying the lawyers of the asylum seekers. The deportation was carried out by American and Egyptian personnel on Swedish ground, with Swedish servicemen apparently as passive onlookers….In January 2009 it was claimed that the United States had threatened to impose trade barriers on the European Union if the two men were not transferred.”, Wikipedia

  2. Mihai Martoiu Tice, here is an extract from the wikipedia article on extraordinary rendition:

    “After claims by Liberty that British airports had been used by the CIA for extraordinary rendition flights, the Association of Chief Police Officers launched an investigation in November, 2005. The report was published in June, 2007 and found no evidence to support the claim. This was on the same day the Council of Europe released its report with evidence that the UK had colluded in extraordinary rendition, thus directly contradicting ACPO’s findings. Liberty has challenged the findings and has stated that its original claims were based on “credible evidence”.
    In July 2007, the government’s Intelligence and Security Committee released their Rendition report, detailing U.S. and U.K. activities and policies.
    On February 21, 2008, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted (despite previous government denials) that two U.S. extraordinary rendition flights had stopped on Diego Garcia in 2002, a U.K. territory. When questioned as to whether the government had deliberately misled the public over rendition, the Foreign Secretary apologised and stated that the government had simply “made a mistake”.”

    I agree with Kevin Jon Heller, if the US wants Assange extradited, legally or through rendition, it as easy (or difficult) to do this from Sweden as it is from the UK.

  3. Your post reminded me of this interview Assange did last year. The link goes right to his answer on this issue:


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