By Felicity Hill
The Stratfor emails reveal an alarming disregard for privacy in favour of corporate intelligence. They also set out advice for dealing with Julian Assange that resembles the way he is now being treated
Julian Assange has worn an electronic manacle for 454 days. Every day for 454 days he has signed in at a police station. Every night for 454 nights Serco has ensured he is home by 10pm, monitoring him in a fixed location for a required 10 hours, an equivalent of 225 days in prison. These bail conditions are maintained in the absence of any charge being laid against him — or even a decision to prosecute. They were set after an Interpol Red Notice was issued for Assange’s arrest. Gaddafi attracted an orange notice around the same time.
Despite harsh conditions set by the Swedish prosecutor under a European Arrest Warrant, and despite it being a matter of days, perhaps weeks, until the UK Supreme Court decides on his appeal, Julian Assange has managed another spectacular Wikileaks document drop. He also managed to appear on The Simpsons. Under such severe restrictions Assange can only travel as a cartoon character.
The Global Intelligence Files comprises five million emails lost by the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting Inc. One email string confirms the widespread fear that the secret Grand Jury trial produced an indictment for Julian Assange, information apparently not possessed by the Australian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister or Attorney General.
That is, a Canberra-based organisation called the Australian government knows less about an Australian citizen than a private Texas-based company called Stratfor.
Although we have read so few of the five million emails, I’m not sure how much more we can take of Stratfor staff letting it all hang out in the privacy of their shared world view.
In that world view, it is routine to plan the destruction of organisations and activists that are, for example, striving for justice and corporate responsibility for the Bhopal industrial accident. The Dow Chemical company needed some help from Stratfor to address that threat. Animal rights activists are another target, this time for Stratfor customer Coca Cola.
The accepted culture at Stratfor includes sharing advice about how to take control of informants “by means of financial, sexual or psychological control” — in one case to learn more about the medical condition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The emails about Assange and Wikileaks are vicious; one little charmer refers to “switching him off”, that is, murder. Others lament when Assange is not killed in a car accident and joke, “Screw the terrorist. He’ll be eating cat food forever … Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison”.
Their language and suggestions are sadistic and their strategy reads like spooky prophecy because Stratfor’s advice is being taken. Whether that advice was commissioned or offered for free to friends may be revealed in future releases. As the email chain gets longer, their plans have greater substance and justification.
First, “Take down the money. Go after his infrastructure”. The strategy to bankrupt Wikileaks is going rather well, largely through the cartel action banking blockade by MasterCard, Visa and others, and also through incessant litigation against Assange himself.
Second, Stratfor suggest moving Assange from country to country for the next 25 years. This prong of the plan is off to a good start too with 450 days of house arrest, soon possibly to be followed by one of four Swedish remand centres in Stockholm or a US prison cell.
Third, extend the smear campaign on the individual and undermine the perception of the organisation’s capacity to survive the leader’s departure. In the meantime seek, find and cultivate disgruntled colleagues that might be enticed with book deals.
Soon we will know what the seven Supreme Court judges made of the case put for Assange by Dinah Rose QC early in February.
Rose’s argument is that only a judicial authority can legitimately sign off on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and that a partisan prosecutor does not have the necessary independence to constitute a judicial authority. Evidence presented showed that the EAW was adopted on the premise that it would not be used as a fishing expedition.
Rose also presented evidence that Swedish prosecutors have widespread powers, including coercive ones and that they are part of the Executive, unlike in other European countries. Her numerous citations from Parliamentary Committees Reports that examined the treaty before theUK ratified, the Hansard of parliamentary debate and precedents dating back to the 18th century, were all presented in 14 volumes to the judges.
The Supreme Court is Assange’s final chance for appeal from the UK courts. We wait to learn whether the judges will confirm that the European Arrest Warrant isn’t working as intended.
If they decide in favour of Assange, the judges will be reflecting what the UK parliament voted as recently as 5 December, that the European Extradition Act is in “urgent need of reform”. Their decision will follow on the coattails of a 2 March Irish Supreme Court decision that a European Extradition Warrant was invalid because there was no decision of whether to prosecute, as is the case with Assange, he is wanted for questioning. The prosecutor has refused to use means for pre-charge investigation routine under the Mutual Legal Assistance for over 15 months now such as telephone, video or questioning in a Swedish Embassy.
If the UK Supreme Court finds against Assange, any person in the UK can be extradited to anywhere in Europe by any partisan prosecutor, without charge, without having to show any evidence and without proper judicial oversight.
For now, we sit with the knowledge that Assange may or may not go to Sweden, that the US may or may not serve an indictment, that our government and new Foreign Minister may or may not protect Assange, and that the last ones to know will be the Australian people.