Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Friday, 10 December 2010

005 - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested on charges in Sweden.

Arrested under a European Arrest Warrant on 8 Dec and denied bail by a London court, founder of the now well known WikiLeaks website Julian Assange will face a charge of rape, unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation involving two women in August 2010 in Sweden.

The European Arrest Warrant scheme was incorporated into the Extradition Act 2003 and was primarily a response to the September 11 attacks in the United States, as well as the raised terrorism threat in the United Kingdom and European Union.

Assange's arrest has provoked retribution-attacks and condemnation from supporters, in particular a series of cyber attacks on the MasterCard, Visa and PayPal websites by a group under the moniker 'Anonymous', beginning when the latter closed the WikiLeaks account on the basis that it breached their terms and conditions which state that no donations through the system may be allowed if potentially funding or inciting illegal activity. Anonymous have since suggested they are now considering a change of tactics.

Julian Assange created the WikiLeaks website in 2006 with a group of acquaintances met through the web with the intention of creating a common storage and reference point for leaked government documents. Assange himself is no stranger to straying around the boundaries of hacking legislation. In 1995 he was accused along with a friend of a series of hacking activities though the group managed to evade tracking detectives for a significant time. On his arrest Assange pleaded guilty, and was subsequently fined several thousand Australian dollars and avoiding a prison sentence on the premise that he would not re-offend. His involvement in the WikiLeaks project and the intricate complexity of the WikiLeaks website then is no surprise. The website has thus evaded being taken offline by re-appearing on December 3rd after a short outage under a Swiss domain name, and then making removal difficult by mirroring itself to several locations across the web.

WikiLeaks recently caught the spotlight on November 28th when an initial series of cables were leaked through the site, an action which the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned as an "attack on the international community", and which caused US state department legal adviser Harold Koh to address his concern to WikiLeaks by letter, stating that the most recent revelations "could place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals" as well as "ongoing military operations". The leaks have caused huge embarrassment to a wide number of countries, as previously secret conversations and dealings over such items as China's views on North Korea, the UK/US 'special relationship', and companies seen as important to US national security amongst many others, have been unearthed under the public eye.

On December 3 the Swedish government then issued a European Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange regarding sex-crime allegations committed in August 2010, though a new warrant had to be arranged for December 6 as the original had been deemed to be worded incorrectly. 24 hours later Assange voluntarily walked into a police station in the United Kingdom and was arrested.

This has naturally created what some would call a cynical repost, though the question must be asked over whether WikiLeaks does pose a significant threat to national security across the globe, or whether Assange's sudden arrest for crimes committed in August is a means of removing a perceived threat to the security of top secret government documents. Such a view was initially compounded when it became clear that both the presiding judge and Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens were yet to see evidence relating to the case. However even if Assange were to be convicted of the offences of which he is charged, it is unlikely that his removal alone would cause the collapse of the WikiLeaks website and growing community, particularly as the site gathers worldwide media coverage and continues to be mirrored on such a scale with background support of its cause from groups such as 'Anonymous'. There is another hearing on 14 December 2010. This is unlikely to be the full extradition hearing, which itself should take place within 21 days of the arrest. However, in a case as high profile as this, it is possible that a full extradition hearing will not take place for several months. At that hearing Mr Assange will be able to challenge the warrant and raise any defences to the extradition request.

Should the US themselves however for example then attempt to prosecute Assange over the leaking of their top secret documents it may prove difficult to obtain a conviction. No single US law makes it a specific crime to disclose classified government documents, though it is possible he could be tried under the Espionage Act of 1917. Any court doing so however would have to substantially prove that Assange was involved in the improper obtaining of the documents from the government, or was involved in a deliberate attempt to undermine US national security. It is also difficult to apply the law to non US citizens or to crimes committed outside of US soil, and extradition could be difficult under US-UK-Swedish treaties.

Furthermore, prosecuting Assange either for sexual misconduct crimes or for WikiLeaks related activity could lead to widespread protest and public condemnation, as he has quickly become to those who admire him a symbol of freedom of information, exposure of 'corruption' and voice of free speech. Any attempts made to silence and incarcerate him therefore could in effect make him somewhat a political martyr, and would undoubtedly spark debate over the extent to which freedom of information lies within the 'acceptable boundaries' and contexts of other legislation.

Update 14th December 16:45 -Assange has been granted bail by a London court on the condition
he provides to the courts a security of £200,000, with a further £40,000 in two sureties of £20,000. Other conditions of the bail include a curfew on an address in Suffolk, handing over his passport and reporting to a police station every evening. Assange's lawyers say he has not received any mail due to him yet including legal documents.

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