Julian Assange has been having a rough December. Amazon.com, PayPal, and EveryDNS stopped doing business with him, forcing thousands of his followers to change their bookmarks to his WikiLeaks web site before dashing off to grab a latte at Starbucks and smash some windows to protest globalization. WikiLeaks’ bank accounts have been canceled, and its servers have come under attack. The deputy foreign minister of Ecuador offered him asylum, but then the president of Ecuador stomped on his instep and told Assange to get lost. Respected conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said it was time to make the WikiLeaks founder “afraid to walk outside.”
The Krauthammer imperative must have worked, because Julian Assange turned himself in to British police on Tuesday. He’s wanted in Sweden on charges of doing the same thing to a couple of Swedish girls that he’s been doing to the U.S. State Department, except without the assistance of Pfc. Bradley Manning. If novelist Brad Thor is reading this, it just occurred to me that “The Krauthammer Imperative” would be a sweet title for an espionage thriller.
Not many people surrender to the British police, who spend most of their time arresting citizens who defend themselves against criminals, so the U.K. is reeling from this unexpected development. Assange will appear at Westminster Magistrate’s court today, according to the Associated Press, where his lawyer says he will fight extradition to Sweden. A group called “Justice for Assange” is promising to protest outside the courthouse. WikiLeaks vows to continue its operations, but has not published anything new in more than 24 hours, and its Twitter feed has gone silent.
The beleaguered Australian hacker has been threatening to release the password to a “doomsday file” filled with sensitive documents if he were arrested, or the operations of his web site were tampered with. Both of those things have happened now, but the data bomb has yet to detonate. Perhaps he’ll release the password when a guilty verdict comes down in his rape trial, or people stop pointing cameras at him, whichever comes first.
Assange maintains the rape charges, which Sweden earlier dropped but then reinstated, are a political hit job designed to silence him. He might have surrendered to the bobbies in order to clear his name… or perhaps he’s worried about actual hit jobs designed to silence him. After all, his “doomsday file” provides an excellent reason for governments hostile to the United States to slip him a little polonium and get that password released. Even the more weak-kneed Western governments were beginning to realize Assange’s operation made international diplomacy impossible… and some of the governments on the other end of the cables he’s been leaking do not have week knees, or senses of humor. If there was no room to crash on Roman Polanski’s couch, British custody, or even Swedish custody, might have seemed like the next best option.