Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is in a London courthouse today fighting an extradition request from Sweden to face rape charges there, and his lawyer says if England lets Sweden get its hands on him, he'll end up at Gitmo, or dead.
The hearing is expected to last two days and will decide Assange's fate for the immediate term. Swedish authorities have issued a warrant demanding that he present himself for questioning over charges that, during sexual episodes with two women that began as consensual, he refused to wear a condom against their wishes. His attorney argues that such behavior is legal in England, that Sweden's charge of "minor rape" is a "contradiction in terms," and that any extradition to Sweden could result in Assange's "illegal rendition" to Guantanamo Bay and a potential death sentence. Assange has pledged to appeal to England's high court and to the European Union if he loses.
His defense team called a former Swedish appeals judge, Brita Sundberg-Weitman, to testify against the prosecution, and she launched into an unusual attack on the Swedish prosecutor overseeing Assange's case: "[She has a] rather biased view against men," Sundberg-Weitman said of Marianne Ny, the prosecutor. "I think she is so preoccupied with the situation of battered women and raped women that she has lost balance." Chicks and their rape charges!
The hearing is expected to conclude tomorrow; it's unclear when a decision will come down. You can read the Guardian's live blog here.
In other Wikileaks news, the Air Force Materiel Command has issued a novel legal warning to airmen and airwomen who would dare read the sites: If you do, you could be tried as a spy. The Air Force has already gone above and beyond in terms of hysterical overreactions to the State Department cable leaks by blocking access to the New York Times, which published some of the cables, on its networks. And the Obama White House has made abundantly clear that any federal employees caught sneaking a peek at the cables without a proper security clearance will be disciplined. But according to Secrecy News, the Air Force is now staking out the extraordinary legal position that anyone who reads the cables can be prosecuted under the Espionage Act:
To [read the cables] would not only violate the [Air Force] guidance on this issue, a violation of which subjects the violator to prosecution for dereliction of duty or for engaging in prejudicial/service discrediting conduct, it would also subject the violator to prosecution for violation of espionage under the Espionage Act.
The memo containing the threat also helpfully reminded Air Force personnel that their families are at risk:
Also according to the legal office, "if a family member of an Air Force employee accesses WikiLeaks on a home computer, the family member may be subject to prosecution for espionage under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 793. The Air Force member would have an obligation to safeguard the information under the general guidance to safeguard classified information."
Of course, it it's true that reading the cables violates the Espionage Act, there's no coherent reason why only Air Force personnel and their families would be subject to prosecution. So if, like millions of people around the globe, you've accessed the illegal information, congratulations on your promotion to a life of international intrigue.