On The Arrest Of Julian Assange

from the this-is-what-we-cover? dept

To date, I had avoided all of the stories both about the allegations against Julian Assange in Sweden, as well as his arrest this morning. But people keep asking us to cover it. Frankly, I’m not sure what to say about it. Assange’s former lawyer’s writeup for Crikey, in which he presents a compelling, if extremely one-sided view of how Sweden appears to be “making it up as it goes along,” is an interesting read but, again, it is extremely one-sided. Slate’s more level-headed analysis of questions concerning consensual sex laws is also worth reading.

The reason I have not covered this is, while this whole thing has obviously become political, these charges do not, officially, have anything to do with Wikileaks. Perhaps the two cannot be separated but there’s a lot of FUD flying from all sides on this right now and it seems rather early to comment on all of this.

However, I think the larger point is that too many are looking to connect this issue more closely to Wikileaks than it deserves to be connected. We’re interested in Wikileaks from a public policy perspective and what it means for free speech, whistleblowing and journalism in a distributed world. I have no idea what happened between Assange and those two women in Sweden and it’s difficult to see how adding any commentary on the matter at this stage really adds anything to the discussion.

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Comments on “On The Arrest Of Julian Assange”

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Jay says:

Understandable position

I find this akin to the belief of Julian Assange that the “Collateral Murder” video would force a change from the government position to transparency. I’m just thinking that may take more time that what the government expects.

Bear in mind, I’m not saying one way or another if Assange is guilty of whatever or not. That should honestly be between Assange, his lawyer, Britain and Sweden.

Otm Shank (profile) says:


People are asking to cover it because the screaming coverage does not take time to explain Assange’s arrest. There is a perception by many that (1) he was arrested for espionage/treason/whatever, (2) he’s being taken into custody so that “charges” related to Wikileaks are to follow, or (3) he’s being picked up on the sexual assault, much like the use of mail fraud laws because it is supposedly easier to prosecute on.

I can’t imagine the volume of the cable news screaming when he gets a slap-on-the-wrist sentence at most and walks free at least.

Anonymous Coward says:

My only fear with this situation is that the charges are getting trumped up because of his association with wikileaks. That would be unacceptable. Of course if he really committed crimes then he deserves what he gets. Unfortunately I doubt if the public will ever separate any charges against Assange from the persecution of wikileaks

Anonymous Coward says:

How To: Make a Mockery of the Real Crime of Rape

Julian Assange stands accused of: (1) not calling a woman back the day after having enjoyed a night with her, (2) asking her to pay for his bus ticket, (3) having unsafe sex, and.

What’s neat though is that Sweden is conflating consensual sex with rape for political purposes. In this, Sweden makes a mockery of the very real crime of violent rape.

ignorant_s says:

Understandable, but...

….”while this whole thing has obviously become political, these charges do not, officially, have anything to do with Wikileaks”…

True that these specific charges have to do with something ‘officially” unrelated, however, the prosecutor had dismissed the charges previously, only to conveniently have them reopened by another prosecutor recently. I would say the timing of it, and the fact that so many counties want to get their hands on Assange has everything to do with Wikileaks.

While its true that Assange’s sexual behavior has little to do with free speech, whistleblowing and journalism, the fact that he is being trickily held by Sweden so that other countries can get their hands on him is a direct result of the Wikileaks controversy. That is certainly of concern for those interested in protecting free speech, etc.

BruceLD says:


The entire spectacle of the founder and the cable leaks have taken on a much more brilliant life of it’s own, not to mention how the mighty and powerful world rulers are caught saying less than dignified things.

Whatever the founder did with those chicks–who cares? I just thinks it’s an incredible waste of tax dollars going after this guy.

Did the government controlled police officials accomplish anything? If anything it martyrized and glamorized him as well as making the fight for transpency seem even more important.

Did it quell the leaks? Nope.

Did the contents get re-pandora boxed? Nope.

Did the web site and it’s numerous mirrors shut down? Nope.

Do you think it’s going to stop cable leaks from happening again? Nope.

Do you think that making an example of him is going to scare others from doing the same thing? Nope.

The next time it happens, those who act on leaks will be smarter in how they go about their actions. No one will be arrested and all of the information will be in the hands of the public.

Yep. Arresting him will make a world of difference. NOT!

Nicolasp (profile) says:

True. Doing what he does, and for a while now, he knows or I certainly hope he does, that the Wikileaks project, or any project going against the separated power, must not be equated to any single person. With that in mind, what happens to him or what he does with his genital apparatus is completely indifferent.
As for his safety, he certainly took a great risk by poking the Mafia Boss(es). Lots are dead for having done that on a much smaller scale and to much smaller bosses.

Anonymous Coward says:


Steinberg urged Beijing to release jailed Chinese dissident and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo ahead of Friday’s prize ceremony in Oslo.

They should free Assange too.


English socialite Jemima Khan had offered to pay bail of 20,000 pounds ($31,500), and journalist John Pilger also offered a sum of money.


Seriously someone miscalculated the power Mr. Assange commands around the world.

He is a hero in the eyes of the public.

Anonymouse says:

The only way they are connected is if the charges are fabrication – in which case it’s a signal. But there isn’t any evidence for that right now.

So just like Paypal and Amazon fell on terms of service (previously ignored) as some justification for dropping an unpopular customer under government pressure to find a way, the charges were used as a reason to pick him up at a time when they desperately wanted him picked up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Scorned women + dubious abusive sexual laws + angry government = circus

Laws should be changed to make it difficult for angry women to harm others.

As a man I draw the line here, no support for people who just want revenge and are using laws that are supposed to be used against real criminals not jerks.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

first, we are talking about some unknowns that are taking place in a foreign country with different laws and there is something very odd about the charges. he was initially charged with something called ‘sex by surprise’ which is not rape apparently and it has something to do with not wearing a condom. i have no idea what the laws are over there but that seems like a rather odd thing to charge someone with.

second, if we are going to open this can of worms, lets keep it real. yes women have used charges of sexual misconduct in order to exact revenge upon men when scorned and have done so for years. it happens quite frequently in fact and usually the woman is prosecuted for it when the facts actually come out…which they usually do. to suggest that its such a rare thing to happen is very disingenuous.

changing any laws to make it more difficult for people to report ANY sort of assault is not the way to handle it and does unfairly stigmatize those who are real victims of such crimes. making sure that the resulting investigation and any following trial are not mishandled by prosecutors and defense attorneys is the way to handle such an issue.

Jesse says:


Immediately after this post, you write about how Sweden was heavily influenced with regards to copyright by the US. The US has higher interest in the character assassination of Julian Assange. I think it is safe to assume the US is playing in on this one.

Proof would be nice, certainly…but I think most would be surprised if it were demonstrated that the US government isn’t actually involved.

Scorned Woman says:

Re: What's to get here?

One of his accusers is claiming he had sex with her while she was asleep. Regardless of whether she complained because she found out “she was not special”, a woman cannot give consent while she’s asleep. It may very well be bullshit, but IF it is true, this woman has every right to complain.

This business does however, detract from the very important issues MR. Assange and Wikileaks have presented us with. No doubt this is intended.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What's to get here?

I don’t think that is ground to be considered a crime.
A jerk move perhaps but a crime no.
Unless the guy moved on in the middle of the night and had sex, but if both were having it already the consent was given at the beginning of that act, she could have gone away if she didn’t like it but she didn’t, she stayed the course and fall asleep.

I woke up with women on my d. should I call the police and have them arrested for raping me?

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What's to get here?

I don’t think that is ground to be considered a crime. A jerk move perhaps but a crime no.

Sex without consent is a crime. It’s called rape. I’m not saying that’s what happened, but the definition stays the same.

Unless the guy moved on in the middle of the night and had sex, but if both were having it already the consent was given at the beginning of that act…

In many backwards-ass states in America, this is legally true. Once penetration has occurred, anything that occurs afterwards isn’t rape. However, any idiot can tell you that if your partner says, ‘Stop, that hurts!’ or ‘Stop, the condom broke!’ or even just ‘Stop!’, that they have withdrawn consent, and to continue is rape.

…she could have gone away if she didn’t like it…

Wow. Just… Wow. When are they supposed to just ‘go away’? When they’re asleep? When they wake up, pinned down by someone else? And even if the person in question did ‘just go away’, the fact remains that if the sex act started without consent or continued without consent, it was still rape.

…but she didn’t, she stayed the course and fall asleep.

They didn’t say that she withdrew consent by falling asleep during an act already consented to. The allegation is that he began and possibly completed the act while she was asleep.

Again, not saying that this is what happened but someone who has taken medication, or had a nightcap and gone to bed, cannot give consent.

I woke up with women on my d. should I call the police and have them arrested for raping me?

If you didn’t give consent, then yes. That’s what it is. Giving consent once, twice, or five thousand times isn’t some sort of ‘permanent’ consent. Even marriage isn’t permanent consent.

Your view of this situation shows that you probably haven’t thought very much about rape, aside from watching some SVU. Do yourself, and any women in your life, a favor and Google the term ‘rape culture’.

Or just start here.

Tor (profile) says:

Being a swede myself I can tell you that there are some real problems with the Swedish legal system related to sexual crimes. The former Ombudsmen for Justice got a lot of critique for saying that he believed that there are innocent people in Swedish prisons and stressed the importance of keeping the legal procedure standards high.

So I would urge people to not be so quick to see conspiracies in every corner. There are actually some other good explanations:
* an imperfect legal system regarding due process in cases of allegations of a sexual crimes.
* a prosecutor who wants to further her career
* the girls’ laywer is a highly political figure with some quite radical ideas (for example he wanted Sweden to boycott a soccer world championship in Germany in order to protest against the situation of sexually exploited women there).

The reason that the prosecutor wants to hold the interrogation in Sweden is probably because she wants to have the possibility of arresting him if their suspicision of crime is strengthened by the interview. Assange’s swedish lawyer Bj?rn Hurtig has however referred to a case where the Swedish High Court found that a man who lived in Dubai and was suspected of tax evation of some 17 million SEK should not be arrested in his absense since he had been free to leave Sweden at the time (just like Assange got an ok from the prosecutor to leave Sweden) and had volunteered to be part of questioning over the phone (just like Assange). The court found that an arrest would lead to unnecessary inconveniences and costs for the man.

Anonymous Coward says:

What i find interesting and never mentioned is how often does Sweden look for similar cases via Interpol.
lets do a quick search:
Results as off now are 2 people:
I assume that the other guy is a child molester.
As far as i understand the story Assange has slept with 2 women and the Condom got lost, apparently that only happens very, very rarely in a country with 9 million people…
so i somehow doubt that this is the normal procedure.

Rich Kulawiec says:

Worth reading on this issue


It reads in part:

The phenomena of social networking through the internet and mobile phones constrains Swedish authorities from augmenting the evidence against Assange because it would look even less credible in the face of tweets by Anna Ardin and SMS texts by Sofia Wil?n boasting of their respective conquests after the ?crimes?.


In the case of Ardin it is clear that she has thrown a party in Assange?s honour at her flat after the ?crime? and tweeted to her followers that she is with the ?the world?s coolest smartest people, it?s amazing!?. Go on the internet and see for yourself. That Ardin has sought unsuccessfully to delete these exculpatory tweets from the public record should be a matter of grave concern.

So it’s not at all clear what did and didn’t happen, and it’s also not clear whether what did happen violates Swedish law. It’s also not clear why this case has passed through the hands of three prosecutors: I would think that if they possessed both evidence and knowledge of the law, then it would have been quickly clear to them whether they should proceed or not.

One thing is clear, though: justice isn’t going to happen, because there’s far too much Realpolitik involved. And that’s a damn shame for everyone involved.

Idobek (profile) says:

Britain's role is cursory at best...

Once Sweden issued a European Arrest Warrant they effectively commandeered the British police and “justice” system. EU law requires the police to enforce the warrant and requires our court to issue a deportation order regardless of evidence. This would be the case even if the alleged crime was not a crime in Britain.

It makes our extradition treaty with the US look positively fair and just.

Kaze (profile) says:

Logical Reasoning

However, I think the larger point is that too many are looking to connect this issue more closely to Wikileaks than it deserves to be connected…I have no idea what happened between Assange and those two women in Sweden and it’s difficult to see how adding any commentary on the matter at this stage really adds anything to the discussion.

Wow, that’s the first logical statement on the issue I’ve heard or read.

Adam (profile) says:

trumped up

Let’s take the State Department and DOD’s view on this for one second. There’s a guy you can’t control fucking you up. You probably can’t charge him under the Espionage Act or anything else under US law, or any other international law for that matter. How do you get to him? How do you do it in a way where he’d lose the most sympathy? How about funneling money to two women who seduce Assange and then accuse him of rape? Use the same backdoor money laundering schemes you’ve been using for years to prop up regimes, rebel groups, and any organization supporting your mission around the world for years.

The way to figure out what’s going on is to talk to people in the intelligence community. I’m sure this is a classic play in some circles.

bikey says:

assange, swedish law, etc.

I think you’re right that making any further comment would serve no purpose. Gods, if only more people thought like that… But, I think you’re wrong that the second article is more balanced. It really doesn’t matter a hoot what US law (in whatever state your talking about) says about rape. The US is not going to try to ‘extradite’ him on the basis of rape – no ‘rape’ occurred in the US. They are going to grab him from a Sweden that has sadly lost its moorings completely, or a UK which has had moorings for a long time, except to the foot of the US. The European Arrest Warrant under which Sweden is requesting him doesn’t require the ‘dual criminality’ (i.e. the offense has to be an offense in both countries) that old-fashioned extradition treaties used to require, so even UK rape law is irrelevant. The first article is in no way sooooo one-sided. It merely illustrates that, as in copyright, Sweden is under some sort of pressure/threat from the US to act however it can, no matter how embarrassing and sovereignty-destroying its acts may be.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Well when I asked for you to cover this story ...

When I (and other) asked for you to cover this story. What I was hoping for was a story along the lines of …

“WikiLeaks is not a website run by a lone individual but an organization. Jullian Asange spokesperson and editor-in-chief for WikiLeaks founded the web site in 2006 and serves on its advisory board. The arrest of Jullian Assange on 12-07-2010 has had little or no effect on the operation of wikileaks. Currently there are xxx mirrors …. ”

Throw in some decentralized and distributed systems stuff here.

Explain how this attack on wikileaks has only spread the information further, and will multiply in the futures (ie Whac – a- Mole)

Finished with one of you zinger last lines.

Tor (profile) says:

No such crime as "sex by surprise"

One of the linked articles claims that Assange has been charged with “sex by surprise”. This is completely wrong. There is no such crime as “sex by surprise” in Swedish legislation. Rather there is a slang term more correctly translated as “surprise sex” that means “rape”. It would never be used in any formal context (see this blog post).

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