December 5th, 2011
03:30 PM ET

Call it a comeback for Assange? Maybe

In the past few days, the WikiLeaks saga has taken two sharp turns.

On Thursday, 287 documents appeared on the WikiLeaks site about the global surveillance and arms industry. The dump provided many documents to mine, and it's still unclear what they might all mean. The Washington Post and other outlets called it a comeback for the site and for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

And on Monday, Assange won the right to fight his extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden on sexual assault allegations. This is the latest (and last) chance Assange will get to avoid answering allegations made by two women in 2010 that he forced them to have sexual relations. Assange has not been charged with a crime. Sweden is seeking him for questioning.

Swedish officials have said that the sex crime case has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or anything published on the site, including a trove of classified American intelligence in 2010 and early 2011. But Assange has repeatedly said that he believes the Swedish case is a ruse, and that if he is extradited to Sweden he'll be more vulnerable to extradition to the U.S., where he could be prosecuted in relation to WikiLeaks' release of classified U.S. information.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, has said that Assange should be prosecuted for espionage. He also has said that the U.S. should classify WikiLeaks as a terrorist group so that "we can freeze their assets." King has called Assange an enemy combatant.

In less than two weeks, starting on December 16, the U.S. military will begin its case against Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier suspected to have leaked classified information that appeared on the WikiLeaks site. Who is Manning?

The soldier, in his early 20s, will face a military trial in Maryland on a range of charges that could send him to prison for life. It's been more than a year since the Swedish case first hit the news.

Here's a look at what has transpired since then.

In December 2010, Assange was detained in England on a Swedish arrest warrant. Two women were accusing Assange of sexual assault. Assange spent 10 days in jail in England (inspiring a "Saturday Night Live" spoof). He was released on $315,000 bail and placed under electronically monitored house arrest. Since that time, Assange has been living at a mansion in the British countryside, where he did an interview with "60 Minutes" in September.

In February, a British court ordered Assange extradited to Sweden for questioning in relation to the sexual assault allegations. He appealed, while his lawyers publicly challenged Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny to go to London to defend her handling of the case against Assange. "Today, we have seen a Hamlet without the princess a prosecutor who has been ready to feed the media within information, but has been unwilling to come here," Assange attorney Mark Stephens told reporters outside a south London courtroom.

In November, an appeals court denied his appeal against extradition. The decision sparked different reactions from key WikiLeaks players. It left Assange with one last option: Great Britain's Supreme Court.

On December 5, Assange got approval from the British courts to proceed with an appeal to the highest court.

Assange addressed reporters Monday, saying that his case will benefit other cases involving extradition.

"The long struggle for justice for me and others continues," he said.

In 2010 WikiLeaks posted 77,000 classified Pentagon documents about the Afghanistan war and 391,832 secret documents on the Iraq war. It also published a quarter million diplomatic cables — daily written correspondence between the State Department's 270 American outposts around the globe. The cables were released in batches for several months, until September of this year when they were released in total. U.S. officials called the release of the cables "dangerous" and "illegal."

An unauthorized biography of Assange, which he has fiercely criticized, was also released in September. According to several reports,  British newspaper The Independent published what it said were portions of the book. In one section of the book, Assange is quoted as saying, "I did not rape those women."

Since Assange's Swedish case began, WikiLeaks has struggled. The website, launched in 2006, has had financial problems. In October, Assange said that it would stop publishing until the group could raise more money. In February, former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg released a tell-all book about what it was like to work with Assange and for WikiLeaks. He blasted Assange, calling him a "paranoid, power-hungry, meglomaniac." Several articles, from CNN.com to the New York Times, have wondered whether Assange's legal problems and WikiLeaks' internal strife would kill the site. Perhaps reports of WikiLeaks' demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Last week's new release, which WikiLeaks is calling "The Spy Files," could mean that the site is far from doomed.

A few days before The Spy Files hit, on November 28, Assange addressed journalists at a News World Summit in Hong Kong via a video link from England. For at least 30 minutes he went on a rant criticizing Washington, mainstream media, banks and others, while accepting an award from a noted journalism group, the Walkley Foundation of Australia.

CNN.com was at the event.

Among other statements in his acceptance speech, Assange said a federal grand jury in Washington is investigating WikiLeaks and that people and companies around the world have been or are being coerced to testify against WikiLeaks. He accused banks of blockading WikiLeaks. He also said that journalists have become ladder climbers and must be held to greater account, and that there is a "new McCarthyism" in the United States. Assange vowed that WikiLeaks' next "battle" would be to make sure governments and corporations cannot use the Web as a surveillance tool.

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Filed under: Julian Assange • WikiLeaks
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. David

    Our government will do anything to make someone look bad that exposes the truth.

    December 5, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Quite true David, quite true.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. test

    test

    December 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ronvan

    A young, misguided soldier started this whole mess and he is in jail! This ASSange, idiot, is only interested in making money and doesn't give a hoot who he hurts or kills. He should be locked up for LIFE, to show others that "secrets", at least most of them, should be just that, SECRETS!!!

    December 5, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      If the government isn't doing anything wrong, they have nothing to hide.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      @Chad..........now where have I heard that before? oh yeah, that silly Patriot Act. "We" have nothing to worry about, as long as "we" have nothing to hide.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      Don, what came first, Wikileaks or the Patriot Act? Fight fire with fire.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • slustu

      Sorry Chad, Don's saying Wikileaks and the Patriot Act are both fires that need to be controlled or put out altogether!

      December 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. blake

    Why is this lowlife not in prison?

    December 5, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      Maybe it's because this "lowlife" is actually trying to give the people information that the government is/has been hiding for years. Go be a sheep on Fox News and pray to your republican overlords, maybe they'll start a few more wars, cripple the middle class some more and give out more bonuses paid by us citizens.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • sharky

      @Anon–

      So says the one using "Anon" for a name.

      So you think it is all right to display private information for all the world to see. Ok well with that in mind, empty out the skeletons from your closet, expose all of your information. You no longer have privacy, needless to say the Government is working to protect your behind.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Corey

    Good luck Mr. Assange the truth is on your side.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Angela

    He better get back to work soon, cause he's getting fat!

    December 5, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ken

    lets hope not, wikileaks is trash and it costs lives. burn this man.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      let me guess, you're a middle aged+ conservative american male, aren't you? typical, ignorant response from one that i have come to expect. it's people like you that ruin our country and run it into the ground, and in the end people like you that lead nations to anarchy and corruption in the hopes of preserving tradition.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marine5484

      Very well said, Jesus. Thank you. These ignorant people like this ken here, taking up for this government make me sick to my stomach! This government does need to show for what it is, a bunch of useless, self-serving right-wing bureaucrats in Washington!

      December 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete/Ark

      @marine**** : I mistrust anyone who claims to be one of us and backs someone who put my brothers in harms way. You sure as hell aren't a COMBAT marine.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. vero

    This is very shoddy reporting. You need to say that Assange has offered to answer questions in various ways, including at the Swedish embassy in London, and Sweden could fly out there and question him in UK. They have to question before they arrest him, according to Swedish law, so the idea that he is "just" wanted for questioning is a coverup–Sweden's lawyers have made it clear he is wanted for arrest. The legal system there is very different from here–no jury, no press. a closed trial and 'lay judges' will rule–appointed by the political parties. This is totally a political event. In USA there would be no trial b/c it is a he said/she said with no evidence. The judges will rule on who they think is most 'believable"–no evidence is needed–it is just who they believe. Calling Assange's statements a 'rant' is completely biased reporting. He is criticizing banks–and USA politicians. Companies like Paypal, Visa, etc have denied him the ability to receive donations. The KKK can receive donations via these companies, but not Assange. CNN–please do a better reporting job–otherwise, you are not informing your readers–you are prejudicing them.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chance Edwards

    Julian Assange. The most wanted man in the world... Because he didn't use a condom.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete/Ark

      the most UNwanted man...

      December 5, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jas

    as long as you run and gun the battlefield, eyes closed, you are the "hero of this country". But when the same guy exposes the ugly truth he becomes an enemy of the state. Well done America for "supporting our troops". what a hash

    December 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sharky

    Not so tough are ya Assange.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Mr. Assange? Are you being served?

    December 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    You know what they say about Assume.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Texas Coyote

    I never thought I would live to see the day when the U.S. is censoring/filtering news at levels that would make China proud! In fact the Chinese are applauding the U.S.for attacking and dismantling peaceful OCCUPY protesters.So much for freedom of assembly/speech! You know something's wrong, when China is cheering you on! SUPPORT OCCUPY!

    December 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lyndsie Graham

      Thank you Texas Coyote, I couldn't agree more!

      December 5, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. George Patton

    Let's all hope that Julian Assange does make a comeback. We all need someone like him to show these right-wing thugs in Washington up for what they truly are. This government here is becoming more dictatorial by the day!!!

    December 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
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