David Miranda, Picking Through The Issue

DM1There is considerable discussion of the detention of David Miranda and the lines are forming up.

On one side, those who seem to hate Glenn Greenwald and would probably justify any action against him or his partner, short of throwing them into Gitmo!

On the other, those concerned with the implications of the detention. I rarely find myself agreeing with Andrew Sullivan but he sums up the wider issue of Snowden’s exposé:

“Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.

Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.”

Joshua Foust is having none of that, essentially arguing that it was legal and that is what government do. Therefore, there is not much to complain about. I feel that is a rather narrow perspective, particularly for a journalist.

Nevertheless he writes:

“So, this is complicated. The UK authorities were correct to question David Miranda, but they were stupid, wrong, and abusive to have held him for so long — and in doing so, they ruined any possible legitimacy their questions might have held. It was a needless own-goal.

There’s also a bit of historical literacy we should perhaps add to the discussion. Histrionics aside, most governments, and many more unsavory groups, treat secrecy very seriously — sometimes with deadly seriousness. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of his decision to help pilfer and distribute the treasured secrets of several governments, to do so openly, with such braggadocio, is not only arrogant it is misguided. This is not a game, especially to the governments being exposed, and casually involving a spouse to take a hit when he won’t risk it is a bizarre and troubling decision.”

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Julian Assange Granted Political Asylum

The statement by Ricardo Patino, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, was lengthy and went through numerous arguments, the Ecuadorians’ long history of giving asylum, it concerns that Assange might be deported to the US after any trial in Sweden and that it feels seriously put upon.

The wider justification was that granting human rights to Assange took precedence over other, national, laws, even anti-rape ones.

It is not terribly surprising.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa was on good terms with Julian Assange and whilst this decision might annoy more Americans there are benefits to it.

Ecuador will gain an improved profile in the world, as a champion of human rights (albeit for those with the question of sexual assault hanging above their head).

Ecuador will acquire kudos in Latin America for standing up to Gringos and old imperial powers.

Ecuador’s status in the world will be elevated.

Obviously, there are downsides to this, the US will be annoyed, the Swedes seriously cheesed off and the British bemused, as Assange will probably be holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for years.

The decision to grant Julian Assange was a political one, a calculation of the benefits and risks.

For the moment, Assange is relatively safe, but should he ceased to be politically useful I imagine he could be dropped, like a hot stone.

Update 1: There are plenty of opinions on this issue, many are not terribly well argued or lucid, but here are two that are:

Max Fisher’s Why Ecuador’s Embassy Stand-Off With the U.K. Might Not Actually Be About Protecting Julian Assange.

The Blog That Peter Wrote’s Assange.

Update 2: I can’t help thinking that if instead, it had been Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the Ecuadorian embassy, then Assange’s supporters would be screaming for him to be deported to Sweden, at once.

Update 3: A view from Sweden.

Update 4: Owen Jones’ piece on the Indy is by far the best summary of the issues, There should be no immunity for Assange from these allegations.

Update 5: I found (once more) the BAILII PDF of the previous judgement on Assange, paragraphs 121 to 127 are worth reading.

Update 6: David Allen Green at the New Statesman has covered many of these issues and should be read.

What Will Ecuador Do With Julian Assange?

There is plenty of activity around the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Whilst I am not privy to what the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will do, but recent events suggest that he will grant asylum to Julian Assange.

By that I am not just talking about the undisclosed official’s comments as reported in the Guardian, but there is a wider dimension to this dispute.

Elsewhere, David Allen Green and others have covered the legal issues, but in Britain most seem to be missing the point.

Ecuador is a smallish country, bordered by larger neighbours Colombia and Peru. It has been the playground of foreign interference for hundreds of years.

Philip Agee in the 1970s documented how the CIA caused chaos in the country merely to overthrow a government they disliked.

The British government’s clumsy attempts to strong arm the Ecuadorians won’t work and will be counterproductive.

Like much of Latin America, Ecuador is in the shadow of its larger neighbours and feels it. Old imperial powers, like Britain, can’t understand that sense of insecurity and annoyance.

The Ecuadorians are a proud people and threats won’t work. I suspect they will have the opposite effect. President Correa may well take pleasure at thumbing his nose at Britain, plus supporting Assange would bring a degree of prestige to Ecuador.

My bet is that Julian Assange will be granted asylum, but we’ll find out in the next hour or two.

Update 1: The Gaurdian’s coverage is good.

Is Julian Assange Going To Ecuador?

The Guardian seems to have an unofficial leak from an Ecuadorian official on what’s going to happen to Julian Assange:

“Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has agreed to give Julian Assange asylum, officials within Ecuador’s government have said.

The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up at Ecuador’s London embassy since 19 June, when he officially requested political asylum.

“Ecuador will grant asylum to Julian Assange,” said an official in the Ecuadorean capital Quito, who is familiar with the government discussions.

On Monday, Correa told state-run ECTV that he would decide this week whether to grant asylum to Assange. Correa said a large amount of material about international law had to be examined to make a responsible informed decision.

Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patiño indicated that the president would reveal his answer once the Olympic Games were over. But it remains unclear if giving Assange asylum will allow him to leave Britain and fly to Ecuador, or amounts to little more than a symbolic gesture. At the moment he faces the prospect of arrest as soon as he leaves the embassy for breaching his bail conditions.

“For Mr Assange to leave England, he should have a safe pass from the British [government]. Will that be possible? That’s an issue we have to take into account,” Patino told Reuters on Tuesday. “

Previously, I covered it.

Update 1: Some feeds on Twitter are suggesting it is just a rumour.

Update 2: Reuters has a denial.

I suppose President Correa is doing a political calculation on what he will gain by allowing Assange asylum against what he could lose.

I imagine if Assange does go to Ecuador he’ll only end up complaining about the country in a few years time and falling out with his hosts, that’s my bet, such is his egomania.

Julian Assange, Rape And The Law

Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy.

I thought that was a strange move, but thanks to Jack Of London I can see why Assange tried to escape the long arm of the law.

The judgement which allows his extradition makes clear that his actions would have constituted rape in Britain, as well as Sweden.

The judgement, which can be viewed as a PDF, is damning in particular paragraphs 121 to 127.

The original Magistrates’ Court ruled that such conduct “would amount to rape.”

From the evidence of the judgements I would agree.

No wonder Assange is trying to learn Spanish pronto!

(H/T: David Allen Green)

Update 1: At the New Statesman, David Allen Green’s short article is generating debate.

Update 2: The Guardian provides good live coverage of Assange’s goings-on.

Update 3: Esther Addley and Beatrice Woolf give a fair summary of events:

“The audacious bid came less than a week after the supreme court finally rejected his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with accusations of the rape of one woman and sexual assault on another in August 2010, which he denies.

Assange and his supporters have argued that his removal to Sweden could be followed by a possible onward extradition to the US on potential espionage charges, saying he is at risk of the death penalty.

The US government opened a grand jury investigation in May 2011 into the passing of hundreds of thousands of secret US embassy cables to WikiLeaks, the first stage in a process of deciding whether or not to prosecute Assange. No request for extradition to the US has been made, however.

In a statement on its site, WikiLeaks said that in a meeting with Assange’s legal adviser in May, the Australian government had issued “an effective ‘declaration of abandonment’, refusing to protect Mr Assange, or make any requests on his behalf”.

Assange had been given until 28 June to lodge an appeal against the UK court’s decision at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg. Some legal commentators have doubted whether Assange would have strong grounds to take his appeal to the court in Strasbourg.

He may have decided on his dramatic switch in tactics having been discouraged about his chances of success in Europe’s highest court. Assange is currently on £240,000 police bail, a sum posted by a number of high-profile friends and supporters. Last month Assange interviewed the socialist Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa for his TV show The World Tomorrow, broadcast on the Russian state-sponsored channel Russia Today. The WikiLeaks founder described Correa as “a leftwing populist who has changed the face of Ecuador”.

It was unclear whether any explicit or informal offer of asylum had been made by the president during the interview, though the country’s deputy foreign minister said in 2010 that Ecuador would offer him residency without conditions. “

Update 4: Not obvious, but worth pondering, Ecuador’s free speech record at the Guardian.

Update 5: This is good, Julian the Asylum Seeker.

Update 6: The BBC’s World Have Your Say covers the issue too.