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. Idea

    Assange is innocent of these bogus charges that the article mentions.

    December 5, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cat man stevens

      He is a narcissist. The world to him is just a big fantasy. So while real people die (informants and their families) and get tortured by the Taliban because of his actions, he gets to live on in the fantasy world he has created. He gets to be a grand hero who is saving Afghanistan from NATO.

      December 6, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • hey cat man...

      ...throwing out a straw man argument makes you look dumb. tell me, how people are being tortured by taliban because of his actions?

      December 6, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Cat man stevens

      Are you kidding? Makes sense that the supporters would suffer from the same tunnel vision. He apparently dumped a ton of information about Afghanistan missions. Missions that included support from locals. Locals who have no doubt, by now been identified and some probably killed in retaliation. The guy claimed to be looking for war crimes but he didn't bother to look too hard before just dumping everything online indiscriminately.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Then he should not mind going to Sweden to answer questions. But yet he will not.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Kerry

      Agree with Cat man.....Assange has blood on his hands, as does Bradley Manning. People died because of them, can't argue with the facts.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Karah

      Oh please, Manning and Assange have no blood on their hands, when a US soldiers torture and kill, who is to blame Assange or US army? Get real.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Hint of Logic

      "People died because of them, can't argue with the facts."

      If we can't argue with the facts, can we have some facts?
      Anybody have a name?
      Just one?
      Hello?

      Thank you for your time.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama_yo_mama

      Assange is Da Man! Skabossh!!!!!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. George

    Same accusations for Julian Assange and Dominique Strauss-Khan.
    Opposite reactions. Where is the difference?

    December 5, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obama_yo_mama

      He exposed the big brother!

      December 6, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • ricko

      @George

      One is an obvious smear campaign, the other is not. Try harder.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. vet2640

    assange? treat him as you would a "TERRORIST", foreign or domestic, take your pick.

    December 5, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • solarman

      Are you that scared of the truth?

      December 6, 2011 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. 911

    He is a hero and should be treated like that. We the people of the world need to know what is really going on and like to keep things transparent. All the accusation of him is no comparison to this grand objective.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:09 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don

      I am sure if one of the women assaulted was related to you, you would be singing a different tune.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
    • solarman

      The same women continued to live with him after the assault and one wanted to work for him. It's obviously a setup. The accusations came up the week after the video of US killing Iraqi reporters.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. American Citizen

    I do not think that a hacker-turned-plea-deal-convict should be rewarded. This man was knee-deep involved in hacking the privacy of some to use that information against the others. How is that seen as "good"?

    A right person is going to use the evidence on its face and seek assistance of law enforcement instead of always taking the law into his own hands.

    I do not think Mr. Assange is anyone's hero but he perceives himself as one to distract judges and the Parliament from prosecuting him further.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. solarman

    Sweden has helped the CIA with its rendition programmes. There's no doubt if Sweden gets hold of Assange he'll disappear into a secret prison to be interrogated using as Cheney calls them "enhanced interrogation techniques."

    December 6, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. katyan

    This guy is a hero with balls made of steel. He fights for justice. Our government needs to be run by good decent men, not by a mere 1% who starve and kill the rest. He's trying to help.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Winston5

    I like this guy.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Justa Messanger

    J. Assange has a key to the biggest leak that has yet to happen. It's in a book that has literally just been put into print and you gotta read it to believe it. I'm not sure myself. It's called "2019" by J.H. no further info given. If he really has this then the U.S. will definitely be nicer to him or we'll all be speaking Chinese. How he got it is anyone's guess but people send this guy everything so it's not surprising.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. rumsfeld009

    ASSANGE is a hero.
    The villans are George Warmonger Bush and all those that promoted the IRAQ WAR and made money on it.

    thank you mr Assange for exposing the USA war criminals.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Enrico

    Hang Him!! He should be killed! He is a cyber terrorist, a nobody that has found fame by leaking secret information putting honorable lives at risk! He is a pig and should be roasted!

    December 6, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Brozik 2.0

    I hope he is tried in a US court so finally we can find out that he is innocent since US law doesn't apply outside of the US and he isn't a US citizen nor is he nor are his servers in the US.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Arthur uzo

    He spoke against the Machines. Now the machines are after him.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Peter G Mackie

    I would say that Assange has probably saved lives by exposing infromation which we all deserve to know about. I am, personally, much more afraid of those who were sending people to secret prisons, which were reminiscent of the Nazi regime. Anything could have been going on there and it would have got worse if people hadn't spoken out against it.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dan Auerbach

    People need to open there eyes and stop giving all the power to the governments with the thought that father knows best. The thinking that the US is a well working democracy is one of the biggest frauds of our era.
    I do not know Assange and can only rely on what is broadcast to the media, which is not necessarily the truth. And Washington, which is full of secrets and corruption, definitely fears being found out as that is probably the best example of the Ponzi scam. Sometimes you need to step away from where you are to view things really as they are.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Thank you, Dan. I totally agree. Those people taking up for this government on this web site are only proving just how successful the right-wing news has been at brainwashing them!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
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