By William J. Furney
After seven long and isolated years holed up in a tiny embassy of a South American nation in central London, Julian Assange emerged into the daylight a broken man. The 47-year-old had to be dragged down the steps of the Ecuadorian mission beside globally famous department store Harrods now owned by Arabs that’s been home to the former computer hacker and WikiLeaks editor since 2012; and instead of looking as though he were in the prime of his life, he resembled, with his crazy-wild Santa Claus beard, a not-very-merry grandfather approaching the end of his life.
Shortly after Ecuador revoked asylum for its troublesome guest today, British police swooped on the embassy and arrested Assange for skipping bail when he had been due to be shipped off to Sweden to answer charges in two sex-assault cases that have since been dropped as the statute of limitations ran out in one and prosecutors were not hopeful of properly interviewing the suspect in his newfound London setup.
The United States wasted no time in issuing an extradition request to the UK, for what it charged is his “alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”
Former American soldier Chelsea — then Bradley — Manning supplied that enormous trove of diplomatic and military cables, and served seven years of a 35-year-sentence before it was commuted by outgoing and liberally minded president Barack Obama in 2107. Now she’s back in jail, and back in solitary confinement, for contempt of court over refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation WikiLeaks.
In throwing Assange out of the embassy, Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno said he had had enough. His country, he said, had “”reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange”, and rightly so. Assange had long since turned his back on his hosts and even sued Ecuador over his living conditions, arguing that his human rights had been violated. Like all his bort battles, Assange thankfully lost.
His pal Edward Snowden, the American privacy whistleblower in exile in Russia, attempted to lecture journalists in the frenzied moments when the media storm erupted in London following Assange’s arrest this morning. “Important background for journalists covering the arrest of Julian #Assange by Ecuador: the United Nations formally ruled his detention to be arbitrary, a violation of human rights. They have repeatedly issued statements calling for him to walk free–including very recently.”
Thanks, Ed. I think journalists are fully aware of the entire background of the sorry Assange saga, including the rightly ignored UN call to free a man who had the right to walk out of his embassy digs any time he chose and who was only in that accommodation pickle by his own choosing.
Hauled before a court in London today, Assange was told by District Judge Michael Snow that he had “the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”. Many have accused Assange of adopting a messianic mindset as he sought to “open governments” by spilling secrets others provided to his secretive organisation while he then fled the law and hid.
But the self-declared saviour now faces a year behind bars in Britain and up to five in prison if he’s eventually shipped off to the United States and found guilty of publishing classified government material. That’s less than he’s spent in a jail of his own making.
And the irony is that WikiLeaks never really did all that much anyway — perhaps foiling Hillary Clinton’s chances of the presidency is the site’s greatest, and alleged, achievement — and no one really cares what it does now. Assange, it turns out, is yesterday’s man.