He was packed off to considerably smaller and less plush living quarters in the pokey. He did not go gently into that good wet English morning.
Handcuffed and dragged to a waiting paddy wagon by a scrum of British bobbies, he screamed to a circle of specta¬≠tors that "the U.K. has no civility."
Being carried away like a sack of Irish potatoes would make anyone yearn for a facsimile of dignity and civility. But Mr. Assange asked for it.
Not long after his arrest he had to consider more serious in¬≠dignities, as he sat in the dock pretending to read Gore Vidal's book, "History of the National Security State." The United States hopes to persuade British courts to extradite him to the United States to answer for breaching national security secrets and publishing them on the Internet for all to read.
The founder of Wikileaks, the online repository of security secrets where all are invited to help themselves, is accused of conspiring with one Pfc. Chelsea Manning, a lady (loosely defined) who used to be a mister.
She spent seven years in the pokey until President Obama let her out. She had hacked into U.S. Defense Department files contain¬≠ing 750,000 documents, including many confidential battlefield reports and secret State Department cablegrams. The lives of thousands of Americans were put in harm's way.
Any gov¬≠ernment worth respect cannot tolerate that, and for once both right and left, Democrat and Republican, agree that crimes like that must be punished.
What the arrest revealed is that Julian Assange's publication of these files was not the passive act of the frustrated patriot he and his collaborators in press and tube have presented him to be.
"During the conspiracy," the Justice Department says, "Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning's transmissions of classified records to As¬≠sange. The discussions also reflect Assange actively encourag¬≠ing Manning to provide more information. At one point Mr. Assange told the private: 'Curious eyes never run dry in my experience.' "
It was almost like a game.
This is the commutation that Barack Obama might like to have back for further reconsideration. Private Manning, like most felons run to ground, had been properly remorseful at his sentencing, but as it turns out he was sorry only for getting caught. Now he's back in the maw of the law for contempt, for having refused to testify in the Wikileaks proceedings.
This episode could be a learning moment, if not a teach¬≠ing moment, for a lot of collaborators.
Mr. Assange, innocent until proven guilty (as everyone is), was applauded by many whistle-blowing fans as a front man for leakers everywhere, cheered for exposing crimes in a time of war. Now some of those hero-worshippers will be hor¬≠rified when the extent and effect of Mr. Assange's document drops are made clear in court.
The documents, dating from 2010, included 90,000 classi¬≠fied military files from the Afghan war, 400,000 from Iraq, and 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables covering almost every nation in the world.
The whistleblowers will learn an expensive lesson. Mr. Assange has been called to account for crimes large and small, from jumping bail to grave violations of laws against espionage and treason. His lawyers are girded for a struggle over extradition to the United States, where his lawyers fear he could be tried for treason or espionage and face the pros¬≠pect of the noose.
President Lenin Moreno said Ecuador would not have extradited Mr. Assange to a country with the death penalty. He has been living "the life of an astronaut on a space station," as he described his seven years in a small apartment within the Ecuadoran embassy. He exercised on a treadmill and used a sun lamp to substitute for the sun. The walls began closing in on him, in the telling of friends and supporters, and his weary hosts came to regard him as the man who came to dinner, became a bore, and never went home.
Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning cast their purloined secrets on the wind unedited, unredacted and unexamined for the risks they posed to the innocent. The idea seemed to be that the innocent would just have to take care of themselves, and if some of them had to die, well, that was just a risk the leakers had to take.
There's a broken heart for every light on Broadway, after all, and every omelet has a broken egg or two in it. Somebody has to suffer for a greater good, and all that. Now we're about to see who else can learn about suffering.
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