4:20 p.m. August 15, 2012

A scribble

Dammit, I leave you alone for five minutes...

It seems that the British government has gone completely mental and has threatened to revoke the diplomatic (embassic?) status of the Ecuadorian embassy in London so that they can arrest Julian Assange. This sort of thing JUST ISN'T ON. I don't care if the man is an attention-seeking know-all of the highest order, you can't just walk into Johnny Ecuador's embassy and start arresting people willy-nilly. There are procedures and protocols in place. We should know, becuase we probably invented most of them. Over a card game. At our club.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19259623

Perhaps a piece in which we examine the ways that crass modern life has corrupted the ways that countries used to act towards one another. Why does no-one declare war before kicking off anymore? Why do nations no longer try to prevent these declarations of war by placating the potential aggressor with bits of countries that belong to other people entirely? Etc.

Back channel chatter

  1. Yes! I believe the decline began when men ceased wearing hats.

  2. I actually think it's kind of a badass move by HMG. Assange (dick) and Ecuador (vile human rights/press freedom record) are dancing round saying "nah nah na-na-nah" to the UK. "You can't come in -- we're an embassy." And the UK smiles and says "you realise we can just un-make you an embassy right?" And Ecuador says "fucccck". I mean... come on... it's great.

    No?

    Noone?

    Either way, we should write something about this.

  3. Well, yes. From a legal cleverness perspective, HMG are certainly doing well. What concerns me is that from an international perspectiv, this is just about the rudest thing you can do to another nation. And for what? A president showboating to his neighbours and some mouthy narcissistic prick with a Jesus complex? Just wait for them to grant him asylum and then arrest him at the airport when they try to get him out. He has to leave the embassy at some point. The whole affair just smacks of the current government wanting to go back to the days when they were Eton prefects and could use the rules as they wished to feed their own power trips. It lacks class.

    And yes, I think Carrie is right. The lack of hats has clearly led to some poor choices.

    I can have a crack at this, but I'm going to have to check what I'm booked up for in the near future. I have to work today and the story may develop in the meantime, obviously, and if anyone else wants to run with it straight away then they are welcome to do so.

  4. Haha, I was just going to propose someone write a piece about how truly annoying it is having to rhetorically defend Assange's rights.

  5. I was so hoping Ecuador would invade west London to get him out.

    I think it all started with the introduction of passports. Before then a man's word was his bond, and damn him if he broke it. Where by 'man' I mean 'Englishman' and by 'damn him' I mean 'leave him to rot in a foreign country where they don't know the importance of hats and High Tea'.

  6. There was an interesting discussion on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning about this. Neither the legal expert nor the former diplomat they spoke to knew that the law being cited - the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 - even existed, and neither of them thought it was being used properly in this case.

    It was brought in following the Iranian embassy siege in 1980 and the shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher from the window of the Libyan embassy in 1982, and was designed to counter the use of embassies for terrorism and other illegal activities. This isn't what's happening here at all. The Ecuadorians, despite their grandstanding, are conducting perfectly legitimate - if annoying - ambassadorial business. And as I said earlier, you can't just go barging into Johnny Ecuador's embassy and arresting people whenever it suits you. It's rude and it violates a very important principle, as well as the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which specifically sets the inviobility of embassies above this sort of domestic squabbling.

    Furthermore, if we do it to them, what's to stop other nations doing it to us or anybody else.

    It is galling to have to stand up for Assange, though. But as I said, why not just arrest him at the airport?

  7. I've just skimmed the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, and I have no idea how they plan to use that. What's more strange, to my mind, is that the act that governs extradition treaties (under which Assange would be extradited to Sweden) specifically requires that if Sweden then want to re-extradite him to the US they have to ask the UK's permission first. So…why is Assange, and Ecuador for that matter, constantly seeking assurances from Sweden that they won't seek to re-extradite, but they don't seem at any point to have simply asked the UK what their position is? Given the UK's extradition treaty makes it difficult to justify extradition for an offense for which the death penalty can be imposed (although I don't know if that also counts in the case of re-extradition), it's difficult to see how this can possibly go the way Assange postures to fear. Maybe it's because Theresa May is a women and Assange is worried he might sleep with her by mistake.

    To Paul's point, I think HMG would look far more badass if they arrested Assange using road blocks and helicopters and other cool shit between Kensington and whatever airport Ecuador think they can bribe their plane out of (pretty sure it wouldn't get runway authority with a fugitive from British law on board). Basically I want the freeway scene from the second Matrix film, only with more bits of Assange's body.

    I guess HMG are still a little worried the Ecuadorians might try to smuggle Assange out in the diplomatic bag. Does anyone know if that's actually legal? I know it's been done a few times.

  8. Is that right? Gosh, I didn't know that. And it's Sweden, after all. The most neutral, right-on country in the world after Switzerland. I can't see them re-extraditing him anywhere that he might face the death penalty, with or without the UK's say-so.

  9. Plus that the US wouldn't in their wildest dreams actually execute Assange. Since you can't put people's heads on spikes any more, it'd be much more humiliating to just jail him for the rest of his life and periodically leak sad footage of him in the prison yard.

  10. I doubt if that matters. Sweden probably wouldn't extradite anyone if execution was even a possibible outcome. And the US government cannot promise or prejudge what their judiciary would do in this case, as to do so would violate its independence. It could probably make serious hints, and lean on whoever judges the case, but it presumably can't dictate what the terms of the trial are going to be before it's happened. And that may not be enough.

  11. According to BBC Breaking, the UK has refused Assange safe passage, even if Ecuador grants him asylum. So he either has to stay in the embassy for the forseeable, or the Ecuadorians have to try and smuggle him out of the embassy, and more importantly, out of the country.

  12. BBC Breaking are saying the Ecuadorians have announced that they are formally offering asylum to Assange.

  13. I'd have thought the terms of the trial (in terms of what sentence they're seeking) would be set at least partly by the federal prosecutor. I may be misunderstanding the US legal system.

    I think we should speculate wildly on quite how Ecuador are going to break Assange out from the UK. It needs to start with a sky crane.

  14. OK, if anyone wants anything on this, whether about the decline in the quality of diplomacy since, well, the end of the empire, or another idea, then I am available to write it up this evening. Probable final completion sometime tomorrow morning UK time. I am awae that this may be a moving target, though, so I will have to check the latest facts later this evening when I sit down.

  15. Ok, yes, pls do. We have nothing on Assange right now, which is somewhat embarrassing. I'm going to write something tonight -- but still.

  16. Hmm. No developments since earlier, except that Assange is apparently going to deliver a speech from the steps of the Ecuadorian embassy tomorrow at 2pm. No doubt this will be a well-reasoned weighing-up of the facts and differing priorities surrounding the case, and certainly not a self-serving and antagonistic series of playground jibes at the UK, Sweden, the US and the dinner ladies at his former school who wouldn't let him have second helpings of pudding.

    How about an examination of the case, looking at each involved party in turn and working out exactly why every single one of them has chosen to act like the sort of asshole you'd happily throw under a train. Nobody is going to come out of this looking like anything other than a grade A prick. They deserve each other.

  17. Ah. I've been waiting for you to give me the go-ahead on this before starting and it's now 2330 UK time, so I'm not going to be able to do it tonight. I have tomorrow night free, so I could do it then and include whatever imaginative playground taunting Assange manages to contrive before 2pm.

    Do you have any preference on which angle to follow? I'm rather leaning towards the last one. This is a know-nothing free-for-all of monumentally embarrassing proportions.

  18. Just don't be surprised if the person who does give a speech on the embassy steps looks remarkably like the embassy's cleaner in a wig and speaks with a pronounced Central American accent; at that moment, keep an eye out for two overalled operatives labouring with a suspiciously heavy laundry basket round the back.

  19. Sorry -- am still pondering. The assholes one is the most appealing. It would be nice to get some quotes from experts though -- the diplomatic options, stuff on precisely how much bullshit the threat of him being extradited to the US is etc. Thoughts?

  20. Could be funny to write something about how Assange is pretty much a Bond villain made manifest and the US/UK are only showing due diligence to the script. Of course, they're going to subvert international protocol. We've got a car chase, a fist-fight on a skyscraper scaffolding, a giant laser, and a motorcycle jumping a ravine to get to. In fact, given how far behind we are on the action sequence schedule in this Bond movie, Assange is lucky we haven't set explosives to detonate in his bathroom while he's in the shower and carted him away in it via helicopter and a long cable.

  21. OK, I;ve just got in from work. I fear that the quotes from experts ship may have saild, what with the fact that it is now Friday night and no-one is going to be at their desk until Monday morning. That said, there will be a lot of material that I can sift through and take relevant quotes from as needed. The Today programme that I mentioned earlier will still be on iPlayer, plus whatever other news material is out there, of which there will be plenty that I can pillage for quotes and links. Also, there may be a foreign office press desk that is open over the weekend. Andrew would know better than me what my chances would be there. I'll see what I can do.

  22. Looks like the Ecuadoreans might be looking to ditch Assange at the first opportunity. Instead of insisting that he is under their asylum, they're now asking for assurances as to what would happen to him after any trial in Sweden:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19298846

  23. Isn't that what they've been doing all along? I don't know why they're asking for assurances from Sweden, who are far less likely than Ecuador to hand Assange over to anyone after they've tried him.

  24. Has Sweden ever come out and said that they will not extradite Assange to the US?

  25. I'm more curious why Britain refused to extradite Gen. Pinochet to Spain to face trial for crimes against humanity, including mass-murder, torture, and rape...but is so committed to extraditing Assange over allegations of date-rape that Britain's even even willing to pull an Ayatollah raid on the lowly Ecuadoran embassy. Not sure if the word "double-standard" quite captures the meaning of protecting Pinochet from extradition, when you have testimony from Pinochet's victims like this:

    Once at the prison camp, agents questioned Ayress for hours to gain information about liberal intelligence. She refused to answer and suffered immense torture. Ayress’s torture began with nude beatings. Agents yelled insults at her while they beat her. They screamed, “Speak, red dog, or we will shoot your father and brother in front of you!” Each day her torture worsened. Agents sliced her skin and burnt her with cigarettes. Then they hung her from the ceiling and crammed tree limbs and coke bottles into her vagina and anus. As the days passed Ayress endured more gruesome treatment. Tortures stripped her naked and placed her on metal bedsprings where they shocked her tongue and vagina. Guards employed animals to conduct torture on Ayress and forced her to endure rape by Dobermans. They also shoved starved rats into her vagina. She screamed as the rats ripped and tore their way out. Guards raped Ayress over 40 times and consequently she became pregnant. She feared that if her tortures learned of her pregnancy she would face maniacal experimentation on her fetus. She kept quiet about her pregnancy but as a result of endless torture miscarried.
    Guards released Ayress on July 26, 1974 after she endured months of torture. She fled in exile to live in Canada and waited for sixteen years to be reunited with her family. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:2xQneZ7TRegJ:webpages.uah.edu/~carlise/research%2520Beth%2520Simmons%2520Pinochet%2520Torture.doc+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjeJUtviApYkirGDVkWmRUlbSNKnQqozRnqfYh84qMbx9CBDlX6vwpoXUnkVfi8N4CPIYOOe0TKhCFV2FYijkl9UyxIG9t8yP2n6vYJiseT-7A0h2k-75aIJ8OL1o-UlpWwj3w4&sig=AHIEtbTcsbsRPjzkCureBoNrdsrf6TJMMA&pli=1

  26. I don't think so, but neither have they said they won't put him on a train to Oslo to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize. I wouldn't expect them to comment on a hypothetical -- which is all it is legally until the US make an application to Sweden. Which they won't do at the moment seeing as he isn't in Sweden anyway.

    It might be interesting to get hold of application versus delivery figures for Sweden to US extraditions -- I found the UK-US ones recently, so it would tell us which country would be more likely to extradite Assange to face trial in the US. I'd guess it would be the UK, although there may not be enough data to know for sure.

    I would like to know why the Swedish prosecutor (?) has declined to travel to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to interview Assange, as per his lawyer's suggestion. It may just be that the idea of spending time in a one-bedroom west London flat (or however big it actually is) is too repulsive to someone raised in the mighty forests and great lakes of Sweden.

  27. Pinochet wasn't "Britain", it was (I think) Jack Straw, and I'd say that was more out of character (in that he agreed with Thatcher) than May and Hague wanting to abide strictly by the letter of the law as they see it so they can keep being class prefects.

    With Pinochet there was public support to extradite him. With Assange I don't think anyone here particularly cares.

  28. I just found this from the Harvard Crimson: up to 300,000 victims of Pinochet, numerous reports of rapes using starving rats as well as spiders shoved into orifices, women forced to have sex with their fathers or brothers as a form of torture, bones smashed for permanent disfigurement, etc.

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2007/2/7/torture-under-pinochet-we-were-peeling/

    I think the comic angle on this writes itself.

    Wait, it's not writing itself.

    I'm sure there's a way to do something on this that doesn't involve being one of those dipshit libertarian Assange cultists. For my money, as soon as Britain threatened to set a really bad and stupid Ayatollah-style precedent at Ecuador's embassy, I don't see how Assange can be called paranoid over anything anymore, even when he's being clearly paranoid. Even the US after invading Panama respected the Vatican embassy's rights when they held Noriega, and the US went to fucking war to get the guy.

  29. Assange: paranoid for all the wrong reasons. Can we come up with a list of ways he could be tortured and killed that aren't what he is worried about?

  30. On the Pinochet question -- the more people are reminded about the horrors of Pinochet and Britain's refusal to extradite him, the better. It was a shameful episode.

    That said, I'm not sure I agree that because we didn't extradite that guy we (that is, Britain) shouldn't extradite anyone. Assange is wanted for a relatively trivial sex crime, that wouldn't even be a crime in many countries. For sure. But he is wanted, and he did go through the entire legal process at the end of which his extradition was upheld. Britain simply can't have a case where a guy -- who has already said FUCK YOU to them, and the US and just about every other country -- can evade lawful extradition simply by waltzing in to a foreign embassy. The Ecuadorian embassy will turn into a diplomatic travelodge for rapists, thieves, conmen and anyone else willing to cry "persecution".

    The fact is there is zero legal reason why Assange is more likely to be sent to the US from Sweden than he is from the UK. In fact, as everyone else has already said, he's far less likely. It's a smokescreen designed to ensure his supporters continue to see him as a freedom fighter as opposed to -- say -- a fucking pussy. He doesn't like the idea of being held accountable for anything. He lost his shit at the guardian when they so much as reported the allegations -- that's why he terminated their relationship in the first place. Same with the NYT. The idea that he -- JULIAN FUCKING ASSANGE -- would be forced to face those women in court is simply unacceptable to the floppy haired little prick. He'd rather hide in an attic above Harrods for all eternity. And so he will.

    My take on the "BRITAIN TO RAID FOREIGN EMBASSY" headlines. No they're not. What they did was point out to a tinpot leader that, before you get too smug matey, be aware that there are ways for us to go in and get Assange in we really want him. They haven't actually done anything.

    Here's where I get puzzled by Assange supporters...

    1) Unless I'm mistaken, this is the openness guy. The guy who says all diplomatic cables should be public. Break down the walls! Why should diplomats get to hide what they're up to? This is the guy who is now wailing about the sanctity of the diplomatic process.

    2) There is a new Olympic sport of "figuring out how the Ecuadorians might smuggle him out." In a box?! In a helicopter?! By making him ambassador to the UN?! Assange supports can't contain their glee over the myriad possibilities for fucking with the UK. But the UK makes one suggestion on how to bend the rules to fuck with Ecuador and they're not playing fair?

    3) ECUADOR. Here's Reporters Without Borders on Ecuador: http://en.rsf.org/ecuador.html

    Summary: We can't go raiding embassies. That much we can all agree on. But, beyond that, fuck Ecuador. Britain should do every damn thing that's acceptable under international law to make their diplomatic lives miserable. Cancel the visas of all their support staff, freeze them out of state events, make up obnoxious trade sanctions, place a burning paper bag full of dog shit on their doorstep and run away. Just make it impossible for them to get anything done. And keep the 24 hour police presence outside -- cost be damned -- until it's just too much trouble to keep him. The British public love that kind of thing -- Britain fucking with foreigners on principle. Look what happened to Thatcher's approval after she took back the Falklands.

    Incidentally, the maximum penalty in the UK for skipping bail is 12 months. That's a good start.

    God, I hate that fucking hypocritical cunt.

  31. Continuing my not-funny view on this story, I think the reason why the US would wait for Sweden to ask for extradition, rather than have him extradited now, is pretty obvious: Once Sweden secures a conviction against Assange for rape, it becomes politically much easier to extradite him, and political-correctly impossible for anyone to defend him. If you saw the Liberal Bum Fights round between Rachel Maddow and Michael Moore over Assange, when Maddow dragged Michael Moore onto her show and forced him to apologize to rape victims of the world for having defended Assange—Moore had his sorry ass handed to him and he's been pretty silent on Assange since then, as have a lot of male liberals (insert oxymoron joke here.) So you can see how a Sweden rape conviction could work politically and PR-wise to enable extradition to the US. Paranoia—if only a microphone could be lowered into Julian Assange's frontal lobe or whichever brain region has the paranoia-electrical-activity, would be interesting to listen in.

  32. Is there a way to do this as a point-counterpoint or like an old dialogue thing like Rameau's Nephew, in a way that avoids being annoying, because I annoy myself reading this yet I know I'm right, which must be annoying because otherwise I'm not doing my job.

  33. Also the annoying delay that I haven't worked out—I replied to something above Paul's but it looks like I replied quickly to Paul, so this is like wormhole-dialogue

  34. "They are all trying to kill me, but it's okay. I'm clever. I'll wait here in this small room until they go away."

    It's interesting that allegedly the Papal Emissary in the Noriega incident was considering moving the embassy to another building, leaving Noriega behind unprotected by international law. Regardless of whether it's true, I like the idea of Britain, rather than invading Ecuador (which isn't technically what violating the sanctity of an embassy is, but is close), would instead upgrade them. They could give them Mansion House, for instance, and them just watch them figure out how to move Assange across London. Then, if they manage that, move them back again. Then suggest that an embassy on Thames Bankside would be a nicer place to be. Then somewhere in the Olympic Park. Then Scotland.

  35. I posted something, formally announcing Desknotes -- tied into this. Would still like something about whatever bullshit he chucks out of his second floor window today. Ben -- you still doing the Big Brother piece? ETA?

  36. In your Assange piece you have covered virtually everything I had in mine. However, I will take it and change it to focus on his impending Juliet moment.

  37. Apparently we shouldn't prosecute media organisations because that's mean and they're really just trying to get the truth out. I wonder if Assange includes NoTW in that...

    In fact he seemed opposed to trials in general. I wonder if he'd be happy if the rule of law were suspended. Except then someone could just walk up and give him a much needed punch in the face.

  38. Juliet moment piece done. Editorial note contains some editorial suggestions. Word doc with links to follow momentarily.