Will Julian Assange Be My Next Senator?
The Australian political world is all abuzz at the prospect of Assange running for the Senate in the upcoming federal election, which will be held on September 14. It’s not completely clear whom he’ll run against, but he will register as a voter in my home state of Victoria and intends to start a new political party, surprisingly entitled the WikiLeaks Party. There are some interesting election-law aspects regarding Assange’s plan, such as his ability to register from overseas and take the oath of office, but what I find particularly interesting is his view of what winning (which is by no means inconceivable, particularly if he runs in a liberal state like Victoria) would mean for the ongoing US grand jury investigation of his activities. From The Guardian (which I’ve just learned, to my great excitement, is planning to start an Australian edition):
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has told an Australian news website that his bid to become an Australian senator will serve as a defence against potential criminal prosecution in the United States and Britain
Assange spoke to the Conversation website at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted asylum in June to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.
If he were to win a Senate seat at elections on 24 September, Assange told the website, the US department of justice would drop its espionage investigation rather than risk a diplomatic row. The British government would follow suit otherwise “the political costs of the current standoff will be higher still”, Assange said.
Readers know that I have the greatest respect for WikiLeaks’ tireless efforts to promote government transparency — and that I am completely opposed to any attempt to prosecute Assange for espionage. But I think the idea that holding a seat in the Australian Senate would prevent the US from pursuing charges against him is, well… a tad optimistic. Has he met the United States lately? Its current government — run by Democrats — has no problem executing American citizens on the unreviewable whim of a “senior administration official.” And Assange really thinks that it would hesitate to prosecute a “sitting” Senator from a country that many Americans think is next to Germany?
Color me unconvinced. But I’d still vote for him, if I could.
PS. It goes without saying — I hope — that being elected to the Senate would not provide Assange with any kind of immunity, especially not the kind of immunity that would require the Brits to let him leave the Ecuadorian embassy.