USA out to get Assange, with the tacit support of Australian government
US in pursuit of Assange, cables reveal,The Age, August 18, 2012, Philip Dorling AUSTRALIAN diplomats have no doubt the United States is still gunning for Julian Assange, according to Foreign Affairs Department documents obtained by The Saturday Age. The Australian embassy in Washington has been tracking a US espionage investigation targeting the WikiLeaks publisher for more than 18 months.
The declassified diplomatic cables, released under freedom of information laws, show Australia’s diplomatic service takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.
This view is at odds with Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s repeated dismissal of such a prospect.
Australia’s ambassador to the US, former Labor leader Kim Beazley, has made high-level representations to the American government, asking for warning of any moves to prosecute Assange. However, briefings for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Senator Carr suggest the Australian Government has no in-principle objection to Assange’s extradition.
On Thursday, Ecuador granted Assange political asylum at its London embassy on the grounds that if extradited to Sweden to be questioned about sexual assault allegations. He will be at risk of further extradition to the US to face espionage
or conspiracy charges.
Last night, the diplomatic standoff continued. Foreign Secretary
William Hague said Britain would not allow Assange safe passage out of
the country, ”nor is there any legal basis for us to do so”.
However, he later told reporters ”there is no threat here to storm an
WikiLeaks announced on Twitter that Assange would give a statement
outside the embassy tomorrow. Meanwhile, one of his defence lawyers
said he would appeal to the International Court of Justice if Britain
prevented him from going to Ecuador.
In May, Senator Carr told a Senate estimates committee hearing: “We
have no advice that the US has an intention to extradite Mr Assange …
nothing we have been told suggests that the US has such an intention.”
However, the Australian embassy in Washington reported in February
that “the US investigation into possible criminal conduct by Mr
Assange has been ongoing for more than a year”.
The embassy noted media reports that a US federal grand jury had been
empanelled in Alexandria, Virginia, to pursue the WikiLeaks case and
that US government officials “cannot lawfully confirm to us the
existence of the grand jury”.
Despite this, and apparently on the basis of still classified
off-the-record discussions with US officials and private legal
experts, the embassy reported the existence of the grand jury as a
matter of fact. It identified a wide range of criminal charges the US
could bring against Assange, including espionage, conspiracy, unlawful
access to classified information and computer fraud.
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