UK Opposition Leader and EFF React to Julian Assange’s Arrest

The UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are reacting to news that Julian Assange had been arrested.

We are getting reaction to yesterdays breaking story that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested.

First, we got reaction from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who issued a statement on things:

While the indictment of Julian Assange centers on an alleged attempt to break a password—an attempt that was not apparently successful—it is still, at root, an attack on the publication of leaked material and the most recent act in an almost decade-long effort to punish a whistleblower and the publisher of her leaked material. Several parts of the indictment describe very common journalistic behavior, like using cloud storage or knowingly receiving classified information or redacting identifying information about a source. Other parts make common free software tools like Linux and Jabber seem suspect. And while we are relieved that the government has not chosen to include publication-based charges today, if Assange is indeed extradited, the government can issue superseding indictments. It should not do so. Leaks are a vital part of the free flow of information that is essential to our democracy. Reporting on leaked materials, including reporting on classified information, is an essential role of American journalism.

So, basically taking the stance that journalism is not a crime and Assange shouldn’t be charged with anything related to the publication of documents.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, has also weighed in on the debate. According to the BBC, Corbyn says that Assange should not be extradited:

Mr Corbyn said Assange should not be extradited “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Earlier in the House of Commons, Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott questioned the US government’s motivation for charging Assange. She said: “Julian Assange is not being pursued to protect US national security. He is being pursued because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations.”

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale said backing Assange is not without political risk and will not find universal favour among Labour MPs – but Mr Corbyn’s intervention “means the battle over Assange’s future will now be as much political as it is legal”.

This could partly explain why the US has taken the line it has taken so far. They don’t want to make the situation look like they are targeting Assange for the crimes of journalism. Instead, they are trying to find an unrelated charge for the purpose of getting him. Getting him hauled into the US is priority number one. Once in the US, they can do what they want with him. As the EFF pointed out in their statement, the US can very easily lay other charges at a later time. So, on the surface, the US appears to be playing a political game for the time being.

Some are saying that this legal process could take years, but there is always a possibility that the US can exert pressure on the legal process to grease the wheels.

For now, though, things are moving on this story, and it is starting to look dicey for Assange at the moment.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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