The Legal Grounds for an Extradition of Julian Assange to the US

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Marco Werman: Police in Britain say their poised to arrest Wiki leaks founder Julian Assange should he decide to leave the embassy of Ecuador in London; Assange sought refuge inside the embassy yesterday and asked Ecuador for asylum. In so doing police say the Wiki leaks founder broke the terms of his bail. Assange has been battling extradition from Britain to Sweden, where he's wanted for questioning in a sexual assault case, but he says it's not the Swedish authorities he wants to avoid. John Quigley is a professor at Ohio States Moritz College of law, so professor a reality check here for us, Assange is clearly frightened that he'll end up in the United States, is there any basis for that fear?

Quigley: Well there is a possibility that he could wind up in the United States if he is sent to Sweden it's conceivable that the Swedish government could be asked by the United States for extradition and that Sweden might conceivably agree to that request.

Werman: Has the United States ever asked any country for Assange to be handed over?

Quigley: It is not for Assange to be handed over, as far as we know there's not any charge against Assange in the United States.

Werman: And why have they not asked for him to be handed over? why have charges not come up?

Quigley: Well apparently the federal authorities are investigating to try to get more evidence that would connect Assange to the receipt of the information from Bradley Manning who is under prosecution for giving the material to Wiki leaks, but so long as the government can't find the efficient evidence that Assange was involved in that transmission, that it's that he should be charged with aiding and abetting the offense of Manning its difficult for the federal find a charge against him.

Werman: Well US senator Dianne Feinstein stated that Assange was violating the espionage act of nineteen seventeen, can you tell us what that act is and whether you think that Assange is infact as the senator says violating that act?

Quigley: Well the act is rather unclear, this is title eighteen of the US code it says anyone who has unauthorised possession of material relating to the national defence, which the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation who communicates that information is subject to prosecution, so it would need to be shown not only that he transmitted the information but that he had reason to believe that it would be used to the injury of the United States, so I think there is some question as to whether the espionage act would work and the federal authorities have not charged Assange with that offense.

Werman: Professor do you find it at all curious that the rhetoric coming out of Washington about Assange doesn't really match the kind of pursuit of him?

Quigley: Well I think that the federal authorities are being a bit careful they want to be sure that they have something that would be solid in particular for extradition purposes, if it appears that you are prosecuting for political purposes then the other state is not obliged to extradite, so that and extradition request potentially it might be made by the United States, Sweden would be much more solid if it looked to be strong in general legal terms and didn't appear to be done out of political revenge let's say.

Werman: If Assange manages to get asylum to Ecuador do you think the story is over, I mean is he essentially protected from extradition and prosecution, does he sip cocktails on the beach forever?

Quigley: I don't it will ever quite be over, I mean even if he does succeed in getting the Ecuador government to grant asylum, and even if he does succeed then in getting himself out of the UK physically to Ecuador, the United States would presumably continue to put some pressure on Ecuador and it's not clear how that would play out, I mean Ecuador is reliant on the United States in many ways, economically, there's quite a bit of leverage that the United States potentially has over Ecuador

Werman: John Quigley professor at Ohio States Moritz College of law, thank you very much for your time.

Quigley: Thank you.