Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 10:00 AM
Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks Web site whose release of sensitive U.S. documents on the Internet has generated outrage and embarrassment in officials circles, was arrested by British police Tuesday morning on a Swedish warrant, and was set to appear before a magistrate for a bail hearing later today.
Washington Post staff writer Anthony Faiola was online from London on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. ET to discuss the arrest and what effect it may have on the U.S. case against Assange.
Anthony Faiola: Thanks for joining us today, only hours after Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London. The mastermind behind the release of classified U.S. documents on the internet, Assange turned himself in after weeks in hiding. He now faces a high-profile fight to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning for alleged sex offenses. Please come ahead with your queries and questions.
Reston, Va: If he had physically remained in his home in Australia, would Australia be required to extradite him to Sweden? All of this because he didn't use condoms when in Sweden? Why didn't he just send his attorney to Sweden to sort things out?
He has become a targeted person in my opinion. Obviously his behavior became increasingly irrational during the past several days. Something is occurring at that level. Can the media apply pressure to assure his voice is not lost at this critical moment in time?
Anthony Faiola: Thanks for the question Reston. You echo Assange's own assessment that he is being targeted for leaking classified documents, rather than any legitimate criminal allegations. Swedish authorities, however, have claimed otherwise, and say he is wanted for questioning in connection with sexual encounters with two women last August. All sides seem to agree that the sex was consensual at first. But one woman claims Assange would not stop after a condom broke, while the other says he continued to have sex with her without a condom despite her protests. He denies this.
Australian officials have not offered blinding support for Assange either. But changes are, as an Australian citizens, he would have had more legal room to avoid extradition from his home nation as opposed to Britain, where he enjoys no special status.
Arlington, Va.: Sweden "helped" the U.S. in 2001 by renditioning at least two Muslims to Egypt, where they were tortured. One was later released by Egypt without trial. These assault charges against Assange now seem like blatantly ridiculous retaliation against him at the behest of the U.S.
Anthony Faiola: Thanks for your comment Arlington. Don't know if you saw it, but Assange's lawyer Mark Stevens made a comment about the rendition issue. Here's a link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/andrew_marr_show/9258262.stm
Bethesda, Md.: Have Assange and WikiLeaks gone after state secrets from highly secretive countries like China, North Korea or Iran, where some light could be usefully shed on how they conduct their affairs?
There's more than the appearance here of a vendetta being waged against the U.S. and selected Western nations, undermining any credibility for WikiLeaks as a seeker of truth.
Anthony Faiola: Bethesda: You raise an interesting question, and whether Wikileaks has a trove of documents from one of the nations you mention is something only the organization knows. But that said, sure would be interesting to see, no?
Philadelphia, Pa.: What are the penalties that Julian Assange faces if he is convicted of the rape charges?
Anthony Faiola: Hi Philly, thanks for joining in today. In Sweden, the most serious charge of rape carries a maximum sentence of 4 years. But that sentence could be even longer if he is convicted of lesser crimes as well.
Harrisburg, Pa.: What is the legal reach of the U.S. Justice Department in this case?
Anthony Faiola: Excellent question, Harrisburg. First, U.S. officials would need to file charges against Assange, something they have said they are considering, but have not yet done. That, legal experts say, is partly because it remains unclear what those charges would be.
But if he is ultimately charged, the U.S. might have to wait until Assange serves out any sentence in Sweden before seeing him sent to the U.S. Even then, there is no where near a guarantee, since some charges - like espionage - appear not to be included in extradition agreements between Sweden and the U.S.
Anthony Faiola: For all those following this case, Julian Assange was - surprisingly - just denied bail and has been taken into custody pending the outcome of the extradition proceedings here in London. This is a big blow to Assange's supporters, who had raised more than $150,000 to post his bail.
Washington, D.C.: It seems that the arrest on sex charges is incidental to the overall WikiLeaks secret documents. Will this arrest curtail the further release of more documents?
Anthony Faiola: Hi Washington: Wikileaks officials say this will not change their plans, and in fact plan to publish more secret documents online tonight. They sent out a message on Twitter earlier today. Here it is:
"Today's actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won't affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal."
Fairfax, Va.: Will the London arrest keep him under wraps, meaning that he has to report and let the authorities know where he is at all times? Could he get away again?
Anthony Faiola: Hi Fairfax, and thanks for your question. In fact, Assange has not been granted bail, as was very much anticipated, so he will now be detained by British authorities and held until the extradition request to Sweden is ruled on.
Anonymous: Will there be an investigation into why government agencies did not encrypt their secret cables to protect them?
Anthony Faiola: Good question from suitably anonymous reader for all of you to ponder.
Twitter question from andypinsent89: What do we know about the alleged victim?
Anthony Faiola: Thanks for the question Andy. Much of the details of the two women are being kept secret, given the nature of how alleged sex offense victims are protected in Sweden. But we do know that both women had their encounters with Assange in August, and please earlier response for details about what they have said.
washingtonpost.com: WikiLeaks' Assange fights extradition to Sweden:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/07/AR2010120701209.html
Anthony Faiola: I want to thank all of you for jumping in with questions, and hope we've managed to shed some new light on this case. Must jump now to follow up on the latest of this fast moving story from London!
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