Opinion: Wikileaks – Time for Liberal Democrats to act

Recent revelations from Wikileaks have revealed comments about Nick Clegg that I made at a private event. That might be a problem for some but I personally don’t want to see Assange end up in jail for what he has revealed about me or anyone else. To paraphrase a British diplomat talking to Hilary Clinton about other Wikileaks revelation “You should hear what he says about me in private!”

Disclosure is far more important than that in a democracy which seeks to keep its public servants accountable. Revelations may be awkward for some, but those who have most to fear are not politicians engaging in idle talk but corrupt corporations, dubious politicians and the “high and mighty” acting against the will of the people.

Whatever we might think of Wikileaks I have not found many Liberal Democrats who are keen to see Assange sent to the United States. Liberal Democrats should prepare to resist the extradition of Julian Assange to the US and that means getting prepared now.

Julian Assange is currently under house arrest at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk. This is related to rape charges in Sweden. Many believe, however, that there may be a request to the British government to extradite him to the United States. The case of Gary McKinnon has shown that the UK Home Secretary can be involved in extradition cases. The Swedish case is a side issue. Assange is entitled to a fair trial, but there may be a case to answer. The real danger is extradition across the Atlantic.

There are also issues related to the possibility of Assange’s UK visa expiring whilst in Sweden or even whilst on bail, and what can be done by ministers within the legal framework of the UK to stop this aiding the case of US prosecutors. The press are reporting that it expires early in 2011 and this may become an issue.

Liberal Democrats have a unique role to play in this case. As part of the coalition we are in a position to directly influence the Government. I plan to set up a small group to investigate the options and to see what Liberal Democrats within the coalition can legitimately do to help ensure that Assange does not end up in the United States.

Anyone wishing to be involved should contact me through my campaign manager Ed Joyce on 07848 448669.

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31 Comments

  • Matt Downey 21st Dec '10 - 4:01pm

    I agree entirely.

  • John Roffey 21st Dec '10 - 4:12pm

    I also agree – good luck with your efforts.

  • David Siegwart 21st Dec '10 - 4:16pm

    I agree. I’m not a liberal democrat, but I believe strongly in transparent government.

    I wrote to my LibDem MP, Chris Huhne, who has formulated a request to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, I quote part of the letter “I have been contacted by a number of my constituents regards WikiLeaks abd raising concerns about the possible extradition of Julian Assange to the USA … I should be grateful if you would investigate the issues [they] have raised.”

  • The allegation isnt rape in any way I understand the term. What is interesting is how this story has now been running for a good while but I didnt really understand the allegation until this mornings interview with John Humphreys who was, incidentally an absolute disgrace. I checked out with people at work who thought it was rape or molestation or something.

  • Grant Williams 21st Dec '10 - 4:45pm

    The cynic would say that his visa will be extended at least long enough for the Americans to concoct some retrospective legislation to give him serious jail time. The only good news if he gets 300 years in jail is that he’ll only be 192 when he becomes eligible for parole…

    Seriously, there are a couple of important issues. Unlike the USA we don’t have a written constitution, and our right to freedom of speech is less well defined than theirs. There has certainly been embarassment arising out of some of the diplomatic cables, but then one has to consider whether there is a greater public interest in transparency.

    Secret diplomacy has been a bugbear for generations; secret treaties contributed to the first world war, and if diplomats are saying one thing publicly and another in private then there can only be limited circumstances of the utmost priority that justify this.

    I had hoped we were moving away from the “national interest” being just another way of expressing “it would be a bit embarassing to the governing party if this got out”.

    I also have grave concerns about the extradition treaty with the United States; it seems all to easy for someone to be extradited FROM the United Kingdom, and something of a lack of balance between the two jurisdictions in terms of penalty for the same acts.

    Vengence appears to be much more at the root of the American criminal justice system, and not only by virtue of their capital punishment provisions.

    That having been said, we have Section 55 of the Data Protection Act here which makes it an offence both to send and recieve certain data, so Assange’s imperilment shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Of course nobody will go after the Guardian, because nobody wants to be seen stifling freedom of the press, particularly in the USA.

    Pragmatically the best thing the USA could do with Mr Assange and Wikkileaks is to ignore him…

    Best of luck with the campaign, even if I have my doubts as to its ultimate success.

  • Leviticus18_23 21st Dec '10 - 6:22pm

    I hope he doesn’t get shipped out.

    However, I imagine that it’ll be ‘fair’ and ‘progressive’ to hand him to the US…

  • Simon McGrath 21st Dec '10 - 7:29pm

    No-one should br extraited to the US or EU without a UK court being able to examine the case against them .

    Will you be discussing this on your programme on Iranian TV?

  • I was very depressed to see Norman Lamb, i think, tag Assange a ‘villain’ on a recent Question Time. He is nothing of the sort. Surely the best option is for there to be a sort of ‘swedish court in the UK’ to be sure that he is tried properly under Swedish law for the alleged offences that occurred there, but remains here lest the US try to obtain him from Sweden for whatever crowd-pleasing nonsense their Senate dreams up?

  • The great thing about the Liberals certainly right up until that last election was the steadfast belief and upholding of libertarian values – in the face of a very authoritarian Labour Government and (despite their feigning support for liberal values) Tory Opposition who deep down, as quite often revealed, also believe in authoritarian government.

    Liberal Democrat opposition to: the unlawful and counter-productive Iraq War, to the effective imprisoning of children of Asylum seekers; obnoxious ID Cards; supposed Anti Terrorism Laws and how they are misused and used far beyond the scope of their original intention; stopping trial by jury; extended detention without charge; unlawful extradition; support for Isreal whatever they do against human rights; sending prisoners to countries where they can be tortured (the Orwellian term i hate to use – ‘Extraordianry Rendition’) … reveals just why it is Liberals and Liberal Democrats who should be carrying the banner for Julian Assange and folk like him not just at Wikileaks but all those who stand up against governments hypocrisy, cant, cruelty and general obnoxious behaviour towards individual citizens at home and abroad.

    So well done Lembit.

  • Everything I’ve read suggests that the US have almost no chance of having him extradited.

  • ‘ The case of Gary McKinnon has shown that the UK Home Secretary can be involved in extradition cases.’

    Yes, but Gary very clearly should have been sent to the US, so I don’t think that is a good example.

    Bluntly, Assange is the one who, for years has told us that wild expose, dragging people to media scrums, thinking the worst and leaking documents to the media are Inherently Good Things. He can have no complaints now.

  • It’s a nice little sideshow they’ve created for titillation, but don’t let the important stories go by:

    UK forces trained Bangladeshi “government death squad.”

    U.S. sought to retaliate against France in 2007 for refusing to allow GM Crops

    U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspected Israel behind 2008 assassination of top Syrian official.

    Pfizer opposed US trade deal with New Zealand because it objected to New Zealand’s drug buying rules. In addition, cables show drug companies tried to get rid of New Zealand’s former health minister.

    WikiLeaks claims has enough material to make bosses of major US bank resign.

    UK officials promised measures put in place to protect US interests during Iraq War inquiry.

  • Come on Lembit get Nick Clegg et al to honour their promises to Gary McKinnon first….. The home office has not yet done the right thing. The McKinnon family are still in limbo for yet another Christmas ( it has been ten years since McKinnon went on his UFO escapade ) And mckinnon should very clearly not have been sent to the US He was here in the UK and his ‘offense’ was not even extraditable. The US had to invent damage to make it extraditable and not one shred of evidence has ever been shown to justify it.
    No one should ever be extradited without evidence.
    Whatever happened to Chris Huhne’s FREEDOM BILL and removing the Category 2 status from the US etc etc
    Refuse Gary McKinnon’s extradition show America that the special doormat relationship has now changed then refuse Assange’s extradition.

  • @George Kendall

    “…no newspaper releases information indiscriminately, and it would be unethical if it did.”

    Many of them lie and deceive though,

    I’ve viewed hundreds of documents so far, and haven’t yet come across anything that harms any individual. Furthermore, everything I’ve seen is in the public interest (depending which public you happen to be). Some of it seems dull, but may be of interest to a lawyer trying to prove a client’s innocence; corroborate a detainee’s version of events; piece together a wider picture of illegal state conduct.

    Wikileaks claim to have redacted any information that might cause harm to an individual, and they view every document before its put up on the website, so how is it indiscriminate?

    Do you have any examples?

  • @Lembit Opik

    The US has set a precedent in how it deals with ‘leakers.’

    Scooter Libby revealed the name of a covert CIA agent in the Plame Affair. How many years did he serve in prison? Hmmm.

    But, Libby was the leaker, not the publisher, and so needs to be compared to Bradley Manning, not Julian Assange.

    The Washington Post was the publisher; the columnist Bob Novak. Neither were charged.

  • If the coalition rolls over for the U.S. and tries to extradite Assange then they will be proved liars on the matter of free speech and civil liberties and will never be trusted again on it despite having tried to do some good on that agenda.

    We don’t want to go back to the Labour’s Orwellian surveillance State do we ?

  • @Lembit Opik

    Across the Atlantic, there have been calls from leading figures for Julian Assange to be “executed” and “assassinated.”

    As Julian Assange is a visitor on British soil, this is incitement and could encourage people to come to Britain and attempt to carry out an assassination. We’ve already had it with Russians and Alexander Litvinenko; we don’t want people from far-right groups in USA doing the same. Who knows what antics they’ll get up to?

    This is a worrying development, not just for Julian Assange, but for those around him as well as the people living in the area.

    It needs to be stopped and there should be calls for these leading figures inciting violence in the UK to be extradited to this country.

    By making an example of these people, it will deter future calls for assassinations on British soil, and provide reassurance to British citizens who do not wish to have assassins arriving from foreign shores to eliminate people they disagree with.

    Incitement to carry out violence here is not acceptable. This is an important point to make, both nationally and internationally. Someone needs to speak out.

  • Whatever concerns Amnesty Intl and Reporters Without Borders had back in the summer, they’ve obviously been allayed. Amnesty Intl came out in full support (see Amnesty Intl link) and Reporters Without Border are hosting WikiLeaks themselves.

    Amnesty International examines some of the human rights issues at stake:
    http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/wikileaks-and-freedom-expression-2010-12-09

    Reporters Without Borders to host WikiLeaks mirror site:
    http://EN.RSF.ORG/REPORTERS-WITHOUT-BORDERS-TO-HOST-20-12-2010,39084.HTML

  • Reporters Without Borders to host WikiLeaks mirror site

    http://en.rsf.org/reporters-without-borders-to-host-20-12-2010,39084.html

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