Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A computer hacker’s dilemma

Julian Paul Assange was born on the 3rd of July in 1971. He is also an Australian computer programmer, publisher and journalist. He is the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, an organization which he founded in 2006.

In 1993 Assange gave technical advice to the Victoria Police Child Exploitation Unit and assisted with prosecutions. In the same year he was involved in starting one of the first public internet service providers in Australia, Suburbia Public Access Network. There is no doubt in my mind that this man is a very intelligent man although as we all know, even intelligent people make mistakes like the rest of but his mistakes were

He has hacked into the computers of the Pentagon and other U.S. Department of Defense facilities, MILNET, the U.S. Navy, NASA, and Australia's Overseas Telecommunications Commission; Citibank, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Panasonic, and Xerox; and the Australian National University, La Trobe University, and Stanford University's SRI International,  all of which has been illegal. The reason why he calls his firm WikiLeaks is because he leaks most if not all the information he has hacked from organizations and governments etc.

Many of Wikileaks' most prominent revelations came from massive releases of classified US military documents on the Afghan and Iraq wars, in July and October 2010. In April 2010, the site released footage showing US soldiers shooting dead 18 civilians from a helicopter in Iraq, an act that could constitute a war crime.

Julian Assange has for several years faced rape and sexual assault allegations in Sweden. The offences are alleged to have been committed against two women in August 2010. On the 20th of August 2010, Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for Assange on two counts, one of rape and one of molestation. In legal papers the alleged victims are described only as AA and SW. They met Assange in August 2010 when he was visiting Sweden to give a lecture.

A UK (United Kingdom) High Court judgement on Assange's extradition cited AA's statement to police, in which she said she first met Assange after she had offered him the use of her flat in Stockholm while she was away. She returned earlier than planned from her trip on 13th of August and the pair went out to dinner, before returning to her apartment. It is alleged that Assange then committed three offences relating to her—one of unlawful coercion, and two counts of sexual molestation.                                      

SW said in her statement, cited by the UK High Court judgement, that she had attended a lunch with Assange and others on the 14th of August 2010. He had flirted with her over lunch and they had gone out together, ending up in a cinema. She contacted him on the 16th  of August and invited him to her house in Enkoping. The European Arrest warrant cited by the High Court judgement refers to an offence on the 17th of August of rape, by improperly sexually exploiting her while she was asleep. The warrant was withdrawn a day later, but Swedish prosecutors continued investigations into the molestation allegation. In September 2010 the rape investigation was re-opened, and in November 2010 a Swedish court approved a request to detain Assange for questioning relating to one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation, and one count of rape. An international arrest warrant was subsequently issued relating to those allegations.

Assange has not been formally charged with any offence. Sweden has requested his extradition so he may be questioned. In Sweden, charging a suspect comes much later in the process of a criminal investigation than it does in many other countries. Julian Assange's case is currently at the stage of 'preliminary investigation.

I presume that after having taken the statements of the two alleged victims, the police need to question him. After questioning him, if they believe his story that he is innocent, then he won’t be charged. By seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, he has literally stalled the investigation and as such, they can’t legally charge him as per Sweden’s criminal law. They can however legally ask the police in London to arrest him and deport him into Sweden in which the police there would then take him into custody.
His lawyers had asked the UK Supreme Court to block his extradition, arguing that a European arrest warrant issued against him was "invalid and unenforceable". The key legal question was whether the Swedish prosecutor who issued it had the "judicial authority" to do so under the 2003 Extradition Act -or whether the words in the Act gave that power only to a court or a judge to issue the warrant for Assange’s arrest.

In June 2012, having lost his appeal to the UK's Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden so he took refuge in the embassy of Ecuador in London, which granted him asylum. He has been in that embassy since then.  No-one can enter the embassy to arrest him as per International law. As of today, he was been in that embassy for little over three and a half years. 

After a U.N. panel, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention) declared that he has been “arbitrarily detained” despite the fact that he remains in diplomatic sanctuary to avoid arrest. How can anyone be arbitrarily detained if he seeks refuge in an embassy especially when he is free to leave the embassy at any time.

Assange, speaking by video link from his refuge inside the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, said he considered the declaration by the U.N. group to be a “significant” victory, but he gave no indication of whether he would attempt to end his lengthy stay inside the diplomatic compound.

He urged authorities to abide by the decision and lift orders for his arrest and extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning on allegations including rape—charges that he strongly denies. If he is really innocent of those women’s allegations then he should agree to talk to the authorities in Sweden and stop his foolishness of hiding from the authorities in the embassy. Ad no, they don’t wish to interview him in the embassy for the obvious reason that if they don’t believe him, they can’t arrest him in the embassy.
Assange said, “It’s now the task of Sweden and Britain to implement the verdict” of the U.N. group.” He called the decision of the panel, the end of the road for the arrest orders.

British and Swedish officials, however, rejected the ruling and said that Assange has not been detained and is free to leave the embassy whenever he wants. If he walks out, he faces arrest under a European Arrest Warrant and for skipping bail.

Assange’s supporters fear that Sweden could hand him over to the United States to face possible charges over leaked documents, including hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.

The U.N. panel has no legal standing, but its decisions often carry moral clout in international disputes. However in my opinion, the moral clout in Assange’s case will be a mere slap on his wrist followed by a kiss on the cheek.

Having concluded that there was a continuous deprivation of liberty, the Working Group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of his detention in a British jail before he was released on bail and subsequently escaped into the Ecuadorian embassy. Further, they said that there was lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Assange while he was briefly held in a British jail, at times in an isolation unit. Their conclusion in my opinion is unadulterated gibberish.

Assange’s lawyers called the declaration a “resounding victory” and urged his immediate release. Wearing a dark suit, Assange told reporters that the findings of the panel were “now a matter of settled law.” He described the comments of British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, who called the panel’s ruling “ridiculous,” as “insulting” to the United Nations.

However the Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a letter to the panel. “Mr. Assange is free to leave the embassy at any point. Thus, he is not being deprived of his liberty there due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish authorities.”  The statement also said Sweden has not received an extradition request for Assange from U.S. authorities. Swedish prosecutors, told the panel that the ruling “had no formal impact on the ongoing investigation, according to Swedish law.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a lawyer for the alleged Swedish rape victim, said in a statement to the BBC that the ruling was “insulting and offensive” to all crime victims. A man suspected of rape should not be awarded compensation after avoiding the judicial process.

The British authorities said that they will contest the ruling and that Assange will still face arrest if he leaves the diplomatic compound.

It should e obvious to anyone who is reading this article that the  opinion of the U.N. Working Group has ignored the facts and the well-recognized protections of the British legal system. The Foreign Office said in a statement. “He is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy. An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European Arrest Warrant is still in place.”

Citing spiraling costs, London’s Metropolitan Police stopped their round-the-clock policing of the embassy last year, but they continue to monitor it covertly. In any case, even if he manages to slip out of the embassy unseen by the authorities, he won’t be able to get on a plane and unless he disguises himself, he won’t get on the train that crosses the English Channel and into France without being nabbed by the police.

Unless the Ecuadorean embassy evicts him, it is conceivable that he could be there for the rest of his life.                                                                                          

I thing that this man is really guilty of the charges he is facing. I will tell you why.  In March 2015, Swedish prosecutors offered to travel to London to question Assange. Lead prosecutor Marianne Ny announced that a change of strategy was necessary since time was of the essence. The crimes Assange is suspected of committing are subject to statutes of limitation, The Swedish  prosecutors only had until August 2015 to question him about some of the allegations against him, although they have until 2020 to investigate the most serious alleged rape offence.     In March 2015, Swedish prosecutors offered to travel to London to question Assange and he refused their offer.

Ecuador has shown little sign of being prepared to give Assange up, and he will be arrested if he leaves the embassy for breaching his bail conditions. He has forfeited his bail money that was £240,000 surety with a deposit of £200,000 ($312,700 US.

Further, the UK has refused to grant him safe passage out of the country with those sex charges outstanding. In fact, he would be serving time in prison for the breach of his bail conditions and then after serving that time, he would be extradited to Sweden to face the charges there.

The main concern expressed by Assange and his supporters is that once extradited to Sweden, he would be in danger of later being sent to the US, where he fears he could face the death penalty. Quite frankly, I doubt he would be executed because although his acts were outrageous; he wasn’t a traitor since he isn’t an American citizen.                

Assange has also pointed to the case of Chelsea Manning, an ex-American soldier formerly known as Private Bradley Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison in the US for leaking classified material to Wikileaks.

However, Private Manning was an American citizen and he betrayed the trust given to him when he worked as an American Army Intelligence Analyst. By doing so, he betrayed his own country so in my opinion, he deserved that sentence. I doubt that an American sentence given to Assange would be as severe as what Manning received.
 This is a very interesting case, no so much because he hacked into all this government computers but rather—is he going to spend the rest of his life in the  Ecuadoran Embassy or escape from it?

There is no doubt in my mind that this is stuff for a fascinating movie. 

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