The Daily Mail claims that Julian Assange is close to being arrested in southern England. The cops apparently know where he is, Assange having told them. Scotland Yard is said to be awaiting the correct paperwork before taking him into custody. The UK Independent says “a procedural error with the European Arrest Warrant had delayed the arrest of the 39-year-old Australian, who is wanted in Sweden over sexual allegations but has been in England since October.”
The cops “have apparently known for over a month where Australian-born Mr Assange, who is in hiding in south-east England, is staying. He supplied the force with his contact details upon arrival in Britain in October, said his London-based lawyer,” according to the Daily Mail. The Independent says his lawyer will fight extradition to Sweden.
When the arrest is made, Mr Assange will be taken before an extradition hearing at Westminster magistrates’ court. If he refuses to be extradited, a judge will preside over an extradition hearing and will rule whether he should be sent to Sweden or discharged.
Last night, Mr Stephens [Assange’s lawyer] said he would challenge any arrest in British courts. “The process in this case has been so utterly irregular that the chances of a valid arrest warrant being submitted to me are very small,” he said. Mr Stephens has accused Swedish prosecutors of launching a witch-hunt against his client, who strongly denies the rape allegations and says he is being smeared because of the exposés published by his website.
He has maintained that Swedish prosecutors have yet to provide any evidence against Mr Assange and have ignored his requests to meet with them. He also expressed concerns at the way the UK and Swedish authorities were handling the case.
Commenting on reports that an Interpol warrant had been issued for his arrest, I wrote in a previous post’s comment thread that “his main problem is that … they’ll ask him who leaked the documents as a way to avoid a long stretch in the hoosegow. Personally I don’t think old Julian will hold out once the prosecutors put it that way. He’ll fold.” The only way he will walk or emerge with a reduced sentence is to give the police the names of those who supplied him with classified information.
Of course whoever did leak him the documents knows this too. … If Julian’s sources are bad hombres, then Julian had better walk into a police station right now because the cops are now his best buddies.
In fact, he’d better surrender tout de suite to whatever law enforcement agent he trusts. Because then he has a chance to make a deal that will hold up. Otherwise he may discover that his “friends” may be his worst enemies. Because now he’s all that stands between them and the exposure. It’s a high price to pay for fifteen minutes of fame.
Once Assange is in the calaboose he will be asked the obvious questions. If his answers are in the negative he makes one set of enemies, if he answers in the affirmative he is likely to make another set of enemies. “He’d better surrender tout de suite to whatever law enforcement agent he trusts” and it looks like he has, or been fixing to. By surrendering in the UK Assange may be calculating that he can get enough political support there to thread the needle and talk his way out of a tight situation. He may have heard good things about the British police and decided to take his chances there.
Ultimately one of three things has to happen. Option one: the guarantee that WikiLeaks can provide anonymity to its sources fails; two: Assange proves that he has no idea who gave him the data and therefore cannot identify his sources; or three, he convinces the courts that he doesn’t have to tell them. Assange can only fully win if option three happens. Much of the power of WikiLeaks depended on not being able to put these questions to anyone. Julian Assange achieved the remarkable goal of establishing the truth of a set of assertions without reference to a known provenance. The fact that they were about classified information meant that the prospects of collateral confirmation or denial were small. As long as the leaks were plausible they could be passed off as true. In all likelihood the WikiLeaks stories are probably mostly true because disinformation consists of a lie embedded in a matrix of fact filler. Assange would have understood the power of a background process running amidst a mass of routine code; the importance of a wrapper around the core function. But what was the core function doing? You could never be sure if you couldn’t look very closely. And you could never look too closely as long as the leaks talked about classified comms. If Assange leaked about an entirely accessible event — if, for example, he leaked the location of every fire hydrant in the world — we could verify it. But if he leaked a claim about what we could only partially descry then his leak would only have to conform to the public visible truth to become accepted as entirely true.
He would have been well aware of the concept of deniable encryption. “Deniable encryption allows its users to decrypt the ciphertext to produce a different (innocuous but plausible) plaintext and insist that it is what they encrypted. The holder of the ciphertext will not have the means to differentiate between the true plaintext, and the bogus-claim plaintext.” How can the public know that WikiLeaks hasn’t given us the false plaintext of the real secret events if there is no other way of finding other plaintexts? It can’t. And we may never know for sure if Julian Assange’s leaks are true or whether a ringer is lurking in there somewhere.
But now we can ask him and the game changes ever so slightly, but significantly.
Of course, he’s not arrested yet. And its never over until its over. But if the Independent and the Daily Mail’s reports are not wholly fictive, Assange has probably decided that putting himself at the mercy of the Crown is a much safer option than running for it among his friends.