WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now in a desperate situation. After loosing an 18-month extradition battle with Britian’s Supreme Court, the 40-year-old has applied for political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. A move that UK authorities claim breach his bail conditions, and means Assange now faces imminent arrest should he emerge from the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over the alleged sexual assault of two Swedish women in mid 2010.
Assange said of his application for political asylum, in a prepared statement, that: ’’I can confirm that today I arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. This application has been passed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Quito.
’’I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application.’’
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, confirmed that Assange had made a formal request for asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. Patino also confirmed that Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was assessing Assange’s request.
Patino announced during a news conference that Assange had written to President Rafael Correa seeking asylum, arguing that “the authorities in his country will not defend his minimum guarantees in front of any government or [will] ignore the obligation to protect a politically persecuted citizen”.
Assange has now exhausted his legal avenues in the UK, with Britain’s Supreme Court rejecting his bid to reopen the case and avoid extradition to Sweden. One of Assange’s last legal options is to appeal the decision in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
So, how did things become so dire for Julian Assange? Let’s turn to data visualization to explain the rise and fall of WikiLeaks and its creator.
The three infographics were designed and created by:
- Visual News: A Column Five Publication (“The Brain of Julian Assange”)
- Fast Company (“The WikiLeaks Julian Assange Like-O-Meter”)
- Good and Column Five (“The Quest To Plug WikiLeaks”)
Information sources include: The Guardian, WikiLeaks, The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, The Age, Huffington Post, The Australian, Associated Press, Australian Federal Government, Postfinance, Visa/Mastercard, PayPal, Amazon.
Examining the WikiLeaks mandate: Analyzing the many minds of Julian Assange
What drives someone to seek and expose the truth – even in the face of fearsome opposition and at the risk of persecution?
Is it simply Assange’s apparent ability to disregard danger? And is he fearless; or does he harbor a “death wish synapse”?
Perhaps a savior complex governs Assange? A deep, unquashable, desire to shield the globe from the tyranny of the establishment by exposing its inequity and injustices? Or is he just an agent of chaos – bent on rubbing tall poppies the wrong way?
More than anything else, is he for good or for evil? And which will he and his actions ultimately generate and be remembered for?
Regardless of intent, Assange now faces the scorn of multiple governments – a situation that, in theory, has literally put his life in the balance.
It’s safe to say he’s a man of polarizing qualities.
The different masks of Julian Assange
Assange is, or at least was, adored and admired by many for his courage in unmasking the hidden truths behind powerful – and powerfully protected – political institutions and their actions: “We feel that WikiLeaks has become more than just about leaking documents, it has become a war ground, the people vs. the government” – Anonymous ’hacktivist’
Many took the middle ground, unsure of the nature of his agenda, and simply revered him for embracing the fast-evolving Internet age of information access and transparency: “Admire him or revile him, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange is the prophet of a coming age of involuntary transparency” – Andy Greenberg, Forbes
And of course those placed at risk of embarrassment, or public admonishment, by WikiLeaks are out to prove and condemn the villainous nature of Assange’s actions: “This was a grotesque abuse of the Internet, and we have to act to make sure it doesn’t happen again” – Senator Joe Lieberman
The last view appears to be gaining momentum, or at least its supporters are succeeding in creating a criminal public persona for Assange.
So when, where and how did it all go wrong?
When and how did it start turning sour for this apparent hero turned villain?
Perhaps more importantly, whom has he angered and what has he done to earn this current climate of scorn?
Well, many argue that Assange laid the groundwork for his own demise on 5 April 2010 with the release of a 2007 video showing US military killing a dozen civilians in Baghdad.
Then, only two months later, US army intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, was arrested and accused of disclosing thousands of classified army files to WikiLeaks. By then choosing to release those documents, Assange incurred the wrath of the globe’s most influential political bodies, arguably sealing his own fate.
How is the squeeze being put on Assange?
On December 7, Assange was arrested in relation to sex crime charges in Sweden. And, on December 9, the US introduced the SHIELD Act – or “Anti-WikiLeaks Bill” – making it illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence informants.
PayPal, Mastercard and Visa have all banned WikiLeaks associated activities from utilizing their services.
Intense political pressure has been applied to disgrace – rightly or wrongly – his name: “The release of these documents damanages out national interests and puts innocent lives at risk [Julian Assange] should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage” – Democratic US Senator, Dianne Feinstein
So, where do you stand on Assange?