BY LEEN RHAZI ’22
Julian Assange, an Australian journalist, computer programmer and founder of the organization WikiLeaks, was arrested in London on Thursday, April 11 in connection with a U.S. charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
Assange, who is now in U.K. custody, sought ref- uge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden after he was accused of sexually assaulting two women at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm in 2010. Ecuador’s then-president Rafael Correa, a strong advocate for WikiLeaks, gave Assange diplomatic protection.
According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. wanted to extradite Assange from the U.K. over his alleged role in one of the largest leaks of U.S. government documents in 2010. The report stated that Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, in March of that year. Assange allegedly helped Manning in “cracking a password stored on the U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet),” a U.S. government network that stores classified, private documents.
Because Manning had access to the Department of Defense computers, she aimed to download documents on SIPRNet to anonymously publish on WikiLeaks, which publishes “secret” government documents, news leaks and classified media produced by anonymous sources. Two of the most famous documents released by WikiLeaks were the Iraq War Logs and information from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election.
According to the report, both Manning and As- sange discussed Manning’s transmissions of government records during the conspiracy. Assange allegedly “encouraged” Manning to provide more private government documents from other networks for WikiLeaks, to which Manning replied, “After this upload, that’s all I really have got left.”
As well as Assange’s conspiracy charges, Swedish prosecutors are now re-examining the Stockholm sex- ual assault case at the request of one of the victims’ lawyers, Massi Fritz.
“It did understandably come as a shock to my client that what we have been waiting and hoping for since 2012 has now finally happened,” Fritz tweeted after Assange’s arrest. “We are going to do everything we possibly can to get the Swedish police investigation reopened so that Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape.”
Assange denied the rape allegations and claimed that they were part of a Swedish smear campaign. He has publicly claimed that because he was the founder of WikiLeaks, he was being targeted by the Swedish government.
Swedish prosecutors dropped another rape allegation towards Assange in 2017, along with two other charges of molestation and unlawful coercion in 2015.
However, Assange currently faces extradition proceedings in both Sweden and the U.S., as well as up to ve years in federal prison on the U.S. computer hacking charge.
Diane Abbott, British shadow home secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the U.K. should resist handing Assange over. “This is all about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and secu- rity services that was made public,” Abbott said.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn echoed Abbott’s statements, saying that the U.K. government should not extradite Assange to the U.S. because he “exposed evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Ecuador’s current president Lenín Moreno said in a government-issued video that his patience had “reached its limit” with Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive behavior” in a small office that was converted to a bedroom in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where Assange lived. The president withdrew Ecuador’s protection of Assange, which allowed U.K. officials to arrest him.
In the video, Moreno accused Assange of “re- peated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols,” which included Assange having allegedly installed forbidden “electronic and distor- tion equipment.”
Ari Henshaw ’22, a Mount Holyoke student who has been “following Assange’s rape case for years,” agreed with both Moreno and Fritz’s views on Assange’s arrest. “Assange has had multiple cases of sexual assault issued against him over the years, and he took part in one of the biggest conspiracy schemes against the U.S. government,” Henshaw said. “Despite this, people who have personal beliefs about the U.S. are defending Assange. Nobody should be defending someone who has done so much wrong.”
Assange is due to face a hearing over his possible extradition to the U.S. on May 2.