Can the U.S. get Julian Assange?
The other big news today is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's surrender to British authorities. He's not turning himself in for the disclosure of reams of secret documents, but rather to fight extradition to Sweden on rape charges. The Post reports: "Under European law, extradition between two European Union members - such as Britain and Sweden - is a faster, less legally complicated process, making any bid to overturn the extradition request difficult." But what about the U.S.?
Coincidentally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in today's Wall Street Journal calls for the prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act. The chairwoman of the Senate Select Committe on Intelligence argues:
The law Mr. Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorized person to possess or transmit "information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation."
The Espionage Act also makes it a felony to fail to return such materials to the U.S. government. Importantly, the courts have held that "information relating to the national defense" applies to both classified and unclassified material. Each violation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
So why not seek Assange's extradition? Well, that's easier said than done.
As Andy McCarthy, a prosecutor of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, wrote in 2008, the British haven't exactly cooperated with extradition requests in recent years. In fact, the Brits have a habit of blocking such requests:
The U.K. has not only put out the welcome mat for jihadists of other nations. It gives them uncontested space to radicalize other disgruntled Muslims. It swaddles them in the majesty of British civil rights (that would be the liberties forged by the people they are sworn to vanquish). It runs interference for them against the nations on which they prey. It denies Islam could possibly have anything to do with Islamic terrorism. And when all else fails, being a paragon of the post-sovereign order, it punts to the "international community," whose tribunals -- under the laughable banner of "human rights" -- are even more indulgent of those pledged to kill as many humans as possible.
McCarthy related the case of Abu Hamza al-Masari, whom the U.S. wanted to try on charges, among other things, relating to his efforts to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
Andy e-mailed me this morning that this is a prime example of the British asking "for our evidence on the pretext of preparing for extradition, only to use our evidence to bring their own charges." He elaborates:
British police arrested Abu Hamza in 2004 based on the American charges. Yet, rather than risk extraditing him while British public opinion was turning sharply against the Blair government and the U.S. over the war in Iraq, the Brits elected to prosecute him themselves (based on the very evidence they'd demanded to support his extradition). He was convicted in 2006 of inciting race hatred and soliciting murder. In England, this was worth a whopping seven years in prison. With parole and time already served, the real sentence stood to be considerably less.
Andy adds that the European Court of Justice has only made things worse "since anyone in Europe, once his remedies against extradition are exhausted under the law of whatever European country he is in, has a new set of remedies in the ECJ."
Does this sound outrageous? What about our "special relationship" with Britain? Maybe if Obama hadn't returned the Churchill bust, given cheap-o gifts to the queen and prime minister and generally ignored our ally for two years, we might be in a better position to get British assistance in prosecuting someone Feinstein describes as "an agitator intent on damaging our government." In fairness, the British lack of cooperation preceded Obama and will likely continue. Still, it seems we should press the case if we are serious about shutting down Assange and other would-be perpetrators of espionage.
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