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<nettime> Assange: two years trapped in embassy
nettime's one click activist on Fri, 20 Jun 2014 10:36:12 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Assange: two years trapped in embassy

Two Years After His Asylum Request, Julian Assange Is Still in Political


By: Joseph Cox /  {AT} josephfcox / josephcox {AT} riseup.net

June 19, 2014

Two years after his entrance to the London Ecuadorian embassy, Julian
Assange, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, remains stranded; physically in
an enclosed space, and politically, with no movement on his extradition
to Sweden to face sexual allegation charges.

Assange found refuge in the embassy on June 19, 2012, seeking asylum. If
he leaves the embassy, Assange fears that they will be sent ultimately
to the US where he could face charges for his work with Wikileaks. Since
then, he has been under 24-hour police guard, with a cost of £6million
to the taxpayer, according to Channel 4 news.

On the first anniversary of his entrance to the embassy, Assange greeted
fans from a balcony, and made a defiant speech. This year, however,
Assange held a phone-in press conference. While Assange criticised the
British press and exhorted that US Attorney General Eric Holder drop the
investigation into Wikileaks, a relayed question from former LulzSec
affiliate Topiary on how many miles Assange had clocked up on his
treadmill while in the embassy was avoided.

Supplementing this discussion with the media was a more direct
conversation with his fans. Today he spoke to them over cyberspace, in a
Reddit Ask Me Anything.

After a slow start, Assange first replied to a question about Narenda
Modi, India's new Prime Minister, who has been the feature of many
Wikileaks documents.

“The election of Modi is a very interesting development in Indian
democracy,” he writes. “[...] it's clear that Modi can be most
accurately described as a “business authoritarian.” Whether Indian [sic]
needs a stronger centre to compete with China is an open question.”

Assange gave some additional insight into his life at the embassy, what
his close friend Vaughan Smith described as “a prison cell with the
internet.” When asked how he avoided boredom, Assange answered, “I only
wish there was a risk of boredom in my present situation.

“Besides being the centre of a pitched, prolonged diplomatic standoff,
along with a police encirclement of the building I am in and the
attendant surveillance and government investigations against myself and
my staff, I am in one of the most populous cities in Europe, and
everyone knows my exact location.” Assange once said that he was
prepared to stay in the embassy for five years.

His position as a radical transparentist was given some nuance. With
regards to the balance between national security and putting information
in the public domain, he said that, “Secrecy is, yes, sometimes
necessary, but healthy democracies understand that secrecy is the
exception, not the rule.”

Another question that seemed directed at the effects that his leaks have
had—“Is there any one piece of information that you truly regret
leaking?”—Assange instead focused on Wikileaks' relationship with its

“No. We make a promise to our sources. We keep it.” What this promise
entails isn't clear. It could either mean that they promise to publish
whatever material they receive, or that they will do their utmost to
protect their identity.

Apart from those snippets, nothing new was revealed. Talking about
Snowden, Assange emphasised the role that Wikileaks played in securing
his safety, something that he has done repeatedly.

Two years on from his asylum request, Assange is still in political
limbo. He refuses to leave in order to be questioned on sexual assault
charges, and the Swedish authorities will not send a representative to
question him in the embassy. Until that conflict is resolved, nothing,
no matter how many years Assange is stranded, will change.

What is changing is the world around him. Although Wikileaks is still
publishing—just today they released this TISA agreement—more and more
media outlets have signed up for SecureDrop, a whistleblowing platform
maintained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. It allows leakers to
anonymously send documents and files, something that Wikileaks had as
its unique selling point.

With systems like that in place, and whistleblowers like Snowden
deciding to bypass Assange and go to journalists, perhaps Wikileaks—as
phenomenal as the organization's work was—is no longer necessary or relevant

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