Integrity Legal

22nd December 2010

The Wikileaks controversy has been captivating both the print media and the online media recently as it represents one of the most high profile examples of governmental information leakage in recent years. For those who are unfamiliar with the controversy a brief synopsis could be summed up by saying that the supposed Director of Wikileaks, Mr. Julian Assange, apparently came across approximately 250,000 leaked cables which were allegedly obtained by a military enlisted man in Iraq. The cables appear to contain information which was deemed “Secret” by officials of the US government.

The reason for this blog post is not to delve into the Wikileaks controversy itself, but the issue of extradition to the United States of America. To quote directly from a recent report from the Reuters News Agency:

“The risk we have always been concerned about is onward extradition to the United States and that seems to be increasingly serious and increasingly likely,” Assange told reporters in the sprawling grounds of the house in eastern England where he must spend Christmas and New Year.

Extradition to the USA is a serious proposition and it is this author’s opinion that there would be a strong likelihood that US officials may try to use extradition proceedings in an effort to bring Mr. Assange under the jurisdiction of the United States Courts. The news report went on to note:

Asked if he was facing a U.S. conspiracy, Assange told reporters: “I would say that there is a very aggressive investigation. A lot of face has been lost by some people, and some people have careers to make by pursuing famous cases.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said his government was considering using the U.S. Espionage Act, under which it is illegal to obtain national defense information for the purpose of harming the United States, as well as other laws to prosecute the release of sensitive government information by WikiLeaks.

One key question for U.S. prosecutors is if they can determine whether Assange collaborated with the U.S. Army intelligence analyst who is suspected of leaking the classified material. Assange has denied any connection with the former U.S. Army Specialist Bradley Manning.

The issues noted above are not well settled under United States law. Many, both in the media and across the internet, have argued that Mr. Assange is more “freedom fighter” than “terrorist”. Meanwhile, groups with opposing views have called for Mr. Assange’s arrest on the grounds that he has committed the crime of espionage against the USA. In any case, it should be pointed out that only recently the United States government went to great lengths to extradite Viktor Bout, the so-called “Lord of War” or “Merchant of Death” from the Kingdom of Thailand. As noted in a previous posting, this was not the first instance of the United States going great lengths to bring a foreign national under its jurisdiction for the purpose of putting them on trial as can be evidenced from the arrest and subsequent incarceration of Manuel Noriega (Former quasi-dictator of Panama). However this case ultimately plays out one thing is clear: Mr. Assange is likely to remain the target of attentions from the US government for the foreseeable future.

For related information please see:  fugitive warrant or Arrest Warrant.


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