Earlier this morning, Julian Assange, the embattled head of the infamous WikiLeaks organization, turned himself in to London authorities over a Swedish arrest warrant in connection with suspected sexual crimes. He is expected to be in court later today to face these charges and make his plea. Despite asserting repeatedly that the accusations were a setup, Assange was under intense and unrelenting pressure from all angles to surrender. His funds were frozen, his organization was being attacked, and his ability to remain hidden was rapidly dwindling by the day. With few remaining options, the decision to submit to the warrant must have seemed the obvious choice.
The question now remains: What happens next? Mark Ellis, the Executive Director of the International Bar Association, told CNN today that there is little doubt that he will be extradited rather swiftly to Sweden and will have to talk with investigators over the sexual charges. The complication, Ellis asserts, will come if the United States requests extradition of Assange to face charges that can be brought in relation to the released diplomatic cables.
There is little doubt that the WikiLeaks organization will persist, and there are still many promised documents forthcoming. Assange was not operating a one-man group, and he has help that is still able to continue the work of the organization. However, Assange was an infamous figurehead who was simultaneously revered and reviled by people around the world. His arrest represents a significant blow to the whistleblower group, and could cause instability should Assange happen to face charges anywhere for his actions at WikiLeaks. It is unlikely that everyone in the organization is as steadfast in their convictions as Assange has been.
The wild card in this saga will come in the form of public reaction to his detainment. Will groups come out of the woodwork to take up his torch of press and information freedom? With the WikiLeaks website under attack recently, hundreds of people agreed to mirror the website, imitating those loyal to Spartacus in the popular 1960 film on Twitter, proclaiming “@iamwikileaks.” Will that ancillary support grow as the weight of legal proceedings weighs on Assange? There are many questions awaiting, and the next few days promise a fascinating drama that will involve many countries and may well be of paramount importance to international politics. I am anxious to see what comes of Assange and WikiLeaks, and how they represent their cause as the weight of the world comes to bear.