Saturday, August 18, 2012

my Julian Assange FAQ

Britain’s Assange overreach at, the best short summary of the Julian Assange drama I've seen, inspired me to assemble my links and thoughts about Assange:

August 28, 2010

Assange: The Amazing Adventures of Captain Neo in Blonde Land... is curious; the first half is self-indulgence that you should skip or skim, but the second, about Julian Assange and the fury of women scorned translated into feminist terms, is fine reading.

Then see his accuser's philosophy at The Strangest Blog Thread Yet on the Swedish Charges, uh - Not Charges - Against Julian Assange.

Dec. 4, 2010

One reason why socialists may have more in common with conservatives than liberals: Ron Paul stands up for Julian Assange - Andy Barr -
“In a free society we're supposed to know the truth,” Paul said. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”
Dec. 7, 2010: Assange: not a rapist, but a cad

Supporters dismissed rape accusations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange... but the two women involved tell a different story | Mail Online

link via Neil Gaiman; post title by me, because I never expected to have an excuse to use "cad".

I confess, when I thought about the future, I expected the news would be about airships and jetpacks, not blowjobs and condoms.

Dec. 8, 2010: Assange: not a cad, but a rapist?

My last post on the subject sounded like I was more certain than I am about whether Assange committed rape, so here's an article Stephanie Zvan provided that has more info: Julian Assange refused bail over rape allegations | Media | The Guardian.

I'm completely on the side of "no means no." But I'm also on the side of believing not all wrongs can be addressed by the law.

Dec. 9, 2010: yes, Julian Assange is a journalist

I've been listening to people argue that Assange is not a journalist because he presents information and does not spin it. The same people will then acknowledge that he has written editorials and commentary. They'll say he's a pubisher, not a journalist.

It's all quibbling. Journalists present information about the world. Some try blatantly to interpret it, some try subtly. Some interpret it with their choices of information. It's all journalism--it's all the news that the journaler thinks is fit to print. Assange deserves every consideration that any journalist deserves.

Dec. 23, 2010: Shetterly fastFAQ: Assange rape charges

I've been appalled by the amount of misinformation promoted by neoliberal feminists like Sady Doyle who assume Julian Assange is guilty, so here're some basic facts:

1. Who should be blamed for "outing" his accusers?

Miss A was identified on August 23 by a Swedish news site, Newzglobe. The New York Times named her on August 25. Miss W was identified on or by August 29, possibly here. Blaming anyone who named them since then is pointless; their identity is part of the historical record now.

2. What do Assange and his accusers agree happened?

From 10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange:

Assange's solicitor, Mark Stephens, said:
...both complainants admit to having initiated consensual sexual relations with Mr Assange. They do not complain of any physical injury. The first complainant did not make a complaint for six days (in which she hosted the respondent in her flat [actually her bed] and spoke in the warmest terms about him to her friends) until she discovered he had spent the night with the other complainant.

"The second complainant, too, failed to complain for several days until she found out about the first complainant: she claimed that after several acts of consensual sexual intercourse, she fell half asleep and thinks that he ejaculated without using a condom – a possibility about which she says they joked afterwards.

"Both complainants say they did not report him to the police for prosecution but only to require him to have an STD test.
According to her statement, Miss W said:
The pair went back to her flat in Enkoping, near Stockholm. Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when "he agreed unwillingly to use a condom".

Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no. "According to her statement, she said: 'You better not have HIV' and he answered: 'Of course not,' " but "she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time
3. What do they disagree on?

From the same article, Assange and his lawyers say she
claimed only to have been "half asleep".
Assange told police that Miss A spoke to him directly and complained to him that he had torn their condom, something that he regarded as false.
4. Is there any physical evidence of sexual misconduct besides a broken condom?

Apparently not, and it's possible the condom no longer exists. It's the only possible physical evidence that has been mentioned. Ultimately, this is a "he said, she said" case.

5. Has Assange been unwilling to face the charges?

From BBC News - Today - Transcript: The Assange interview:
Q: Why won't you go back to Sweden? 
JA: I have been back. I was there for some five weeks after these initial allegations were made. They were dropped within 24 hours of them first being made. The most senior prosecutor in Stockholm reviewed them and they were dropped. Then politician Claes Borgstrom became involved, other forces became involved and the case, the investigative part of the case, was taken up again. We waited some four/five weeks to be interviewed, so I could put my side of this case forward, and that did not happen. 
Q: But it has now. 
JA: It did not happen, and then I asked: "OK, I have things to do, I had only planned to be in Sweden for one week, it's time to leave. Is there any problem with that?" For the first three weeks, the Swedish prosecution refused to answer whether it was ok to leave or not. So caught there in limbo. Finally, grudgingly admitted that there was no reason to keep me there. And at that stage I went about my normal course of work. And then they say they want another interview, fine. There's plenty ways to do that. So why can't those things be done? 
Q: But they want to talk to you again. That's not uncommon in these cases. 
JA: If they want to charge me, they can charge me. They have decided not to charge me. 
Q: Yet. 
JA: Or they can come to Sweden (or they can come here - JH corrects) or we can do a video link up, or they can accept a statement of mine. They have rejected all of that. And they have asked, as part of their application that, if I go to Sweden and am arrested, that I am to be held incommunicado. Entirely incommunicado. They have asked that my Swedish lawyer be gagged from talking about the evidence to the public.
5. Is there any reason to wonder if this was a CIA honeytrap?

The CIA has a Wikileaks Task Force, and Miss A was involved with the US-funded Cuban "Ladies in White", who are connected to the National Endowment for Democracy and the CIA. However, just as Assange deserves the benefit of the doubt, so does Miss A. (See Association fallacy.)

Incidentally, at least one of the two women was tested for STDs. No one has revealed anything about the results, but given the general attempt to expose Assange as a bad man, I suspect the results would've been leaked if they had been positive.

6. Are any feminists calling for an end to the presumption of innocence?

From What the Assange case says about rape in America by Jessica Valenti:
Swedish rape laws don't ban "sex by surprise" (a term used by Assange's lawyer as a crass joke), but they do go much further than U.S. laws do, and we should look to them as a potential model for our own legislation.

In fact, some activists and legal experts in Sweden want to change the law there so that the burden of proof is on the accused; the alleged rapist would have to show that he got consent, instead of the victim having to prove that she didn't give it.
7. (provided by Dan Harper) This became an issue at about the time the U.S. government started getting cranky about the release of confidential information by Wikileaks.

On the one hand, the association fallacy may apply. On the other, no other person who has not yet been charged with sexual misconduct has been pursued so aggressively.

ETA: At least one person misunderstood my position, so let me make it explicit: I believe no one should rush to judgment about Assange or his accusers. More evidence may come out to indicate he committed rape or they wanted revenge. I fully agree that "no means no" and consent may be withdrawn at any time.

Jan. 5, 2011: Naomi Wolf on naming sex-crime accusers

Julian Assange's sex-crime accusers deserve to be named | Naomi Wolf | The Guardian

Jan. 7, 2011: good articles on Assange by a conservative and a leftist

Julian Assange, Feminism, and Rape - Reason Magazine

Why feminists and the left must defend Julian Assange |

Jan. 12, 2011: Julian Assange, Ladies in White, the NED, the CIA, and the terrorist that Republicans love

The notion that Anna Ardin might be involved with the CIA came up on August 23, the same day her name was published by the Swedish press. From the comments on Newzglobe confirms Anna Ardin as one of the women that made the rape allegations against Assange:
Anna Ardins cousin and near friend is Lieutenant Colonel Mattias Ardin, Deputy Head of Operations, Swedish Joint Forces Land Component Command, who works with Nato Operations ... in Afghanistan. There´s a possible CIA connection.
The case for a CIA connection was argued most famously by Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett in "Assange Beseiged". Since it's been publicized that Shamir is a Holocaust-denier, the possibility of CIA involvement has roundly been mocked.

But it hasn't been examined.

We know that Ardin was in Cuba and suspected of being a spy. From her thesis:
In June 2006 I traveled to Cuba with the intention of staying for at least two months interviewing leaders, members and supporters of various Cuban political parties. Only a couple of days after my arrival to José Martí International Airport in Havana I managed to get my first interviews. During the first two weeks I met one or two representatives from each of the four chosen parties and a few other organizations, including my field tutor, the ex-diplomat Miriam Leiva. Miriam is also a key person for the network known as Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) which fights for the rights of political prisoners in Cuba. I owe Miriam greatly for the help she has given, having provided me with, addresses, phone numbers and other input for this thesis, but maybe it was my frequent visits to her and her dissident husband Oscar Chepe’s home that upset the authorities.

One night a young man from the interior ministry came to the house where I rented my room. He told me that I had to stay home the next day because someone would come and ask me a few questions. At eight-thirty the following morning two uniformed men in a police Lada came to take me in for interrogation. They took me to Control de Extranjeros (foreigner control) and put me in a hot waiting room. Finally, after many hours, three anonymous men in civilian clothing questioned me: With whom had I spoken? Why? What did I ask them? How did I get their contacts? What had I been doing the other times I had visited Cuba? Who paid for my trip? Who was my boyfriend in Sweden? Was the cook my Cuban boyfriend? Was I going to publish the facts? This is just an indication of the type of questions I was asked during the two-hour interrogation. After the interrogation they told me the ”truth” that I did not appear to understand: All of the Cubans I had met were liars. They were not opposing to the political system because “here in Cuba we have unity”[1]. They were not political opponents but mercenaries who were paid to say whatever they said to me. They also told me that with a tourist visa I was supposed to do “touristy things”, and their suggestions were: going to the beach, dancing salsa, going to the pool and visiting museums. If I did something else they would kick me out of the country. I could not interview the people I had chosen with the kind of visa I had. So I asked if it was possible to get another visa for this type of interview, to which they replied ”no”. I explained that I had to say goodbye and cancel the appointments I had already made but again they said ”no”. I had to break the contact immediately to be able to stay in the country, and they would know what I did, as they knew what I had been doing until then. At three o’clock they let me out to walk the long way back, in the Cuban summer sun.

It had become too difficult to continue, and I did not want to put my informants at risk, so I decided to leave Cuba. Instead I went to Miami in December 2006 and continued interviewing Cubans there.
So, who are Las damas de blanco? They're an anti-Castro group that has at least one former CIA operative for a supporter, the terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles. (See The devil wore white: Luis Posada Carriles and Ladies in White go out on a limb in Miami with Gloria Estefan, and the CIA File on Luis Posada Carilles.)

Just as the CIA-funded Reporters Without Borders chose a name to sound like a better group, Doctors Without Borders, Cuba's Ladies In White took their style from an Argentinian group, Ladies in White:
Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, has criticized the symbolic use of the white scarf, stating 'Our white scarf symbolises life while those women, that you are talking about Ladies in White, represent death.' Bonafini went on to remark that 'the so-called Ladies in White defend the terrorism of the United States, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo symbolise our love for our children who were murdered by tyrants imposed by the United States.'
After Ardin left Cuba, she wrote two articles, Vad Händer När Castro Dör? and Kuba Behöver en Ny Politik for Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas, which is published by Misceláneas de Cuba and edited by Alexis Gaínza, who, according to the Cuban press, has CIA ties. Misceláneas de Cuba is associated with Unión Liberal Cubana, whose president is Carlos Alberto Montaner, a supporter of the illegal coup in Honduras and another suspected CIA agent.

Oh what a (not so) tangled web we weave: Is Carlos Montaner Really a CIA Agent? has this about the NED connection to anti-Castro activity:
...the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), accused by some of being a CIA front, gave $225,000 dollars to the Asociación Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana this year, which edits Encuentro, among other things. It’s known that historically, this group has been a recipient of funds coming from the United States, specifically from USAID and the CIA, and so this figure should be surprising to no-one.
Macheteria needn't have qualified the CIA connection. One of the NED's founders, Allen Weinstein, admitted, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."

However, as Macheteria notes in On Anna Ardin, Israel Shamir and glass houses, these connections do not mean Ardin ever received a penny from the CIA. Anyone who says with certainty that she's working for the CIA is making an association fallacy, just like the people who say Assange must be guilty of rape because the majority of men who are accused of rape are guilty. The intellectually honest position is simple: don't reject possibilities and don't embrace them. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt until something conclusive is known.

Possibly relevant: Wikileaks Honduras: State Dept. Busted on Support of Coup | Just Foreign Policy.

June 16, 2011

Gender Politics - Sweden vs. Assange

November 26, 2011: Re Wikileaks and Julian Assange: Is Israel Shamir a Holocaust-denier?

In the smear campaign against Assange, the phrase "Holocaust-denier" keeps coming up because of one writer who worked briefly with Wikileaks, Israel Shamir. Here is his answer from Mother of All Smears:
As for the accusation of “Holocaust denial”, my family lost too many of its sons and daughters for me to deny the facts of Jewish tragedy, but I do deny its religious salvific significance implied in the very term ‘Holocaust’; I do deny its metaphysical uniqueness, I do deny the morbid cult of Holocaust and I think every God-fearing man, a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should reject it as Abraham rejected and smashed idols. I deny that it is good to remember or immortalise such traumatic events, and I wrote many articles against modern obsession with massacres, be it Jewish holocaust of 1940s, Armenian massacre of 1915, Ukrainian “holodomor”, Polish Katyn, Khmer Rouge etc. Poles, Armenians, Ukrainians understood me, so did Jews – otherwise I would be charged with the crime of factual denial which is known to the Israeli law.