When Wikileaks founder Julian Assange went into hiding in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012, after publishing classified American intelligence stolen by a U.S. Army private later convicted of espionage, he did so as a hero to anti-secrecy activists. In exile, Assange repurposed his organization into a clearinghouse for laundered intelligence obtained via Russian intelligence services, and his reputation became much diminished among his former boosters. So, when Ecuador’s hospitality was finally exhausted on Thursday and British police literally dragged Assange toward a long-delayed rendezvous with justice, the Wikileaks founder couldn’t count on much overt support. And yet, the concern for Assange and his nihilistic mission wasn’t that hard to find. You just had to look for it behind veiled concerns for the supposed threat his arrest posed to “press freedom.”
Even before a statement from British police revealed that Assange had been taken into custody “on behalf of United States authorities,” and the Department of Justice had released an indictment detailing the charges Assange would face upon extradition, the Wikileaks chief’s sympathizers complained of the chilling effect his detention would have on the conduct of journalism.