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Two Years After His Asylum Request, Julian Assange Is Still in Political Limbo

“I only wish there was a risk of boredom in my present situation."
Image: New Media Days/Flickr

Two years after his entrance to the London Ecuadorian embassy, Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, remains stranded; physically in an enclosed space, and politically, with no movement on his extradition to Sweden to face sexual allegation charges.

Assange found refuge in the embassy on June 19, 2012, seeking asylum. If he leaves the embassy, Assange fears that they will be sent ultimately to the US where he could face charges for his work with Wikileaks. Since then, he has been under 24-hour police guard, with a cost of £6million to the taxpayer, according to Channel 4 news.


On the first anniversary of his entrance to the embassy, Assange greeted fans from a balcony, and made a defiant speech. This year, however, Assange held a phone-in press conference. While Assange criticised the British press and exhorted that US Attorney General Eric Holder drop the investigation into Wikileaks, a relayed question from former LulzSec affiliate Topiary on how many miles Assange had clocked up on his treadmill while in the embassy was avoided.

Supplementing this discussion with the media was a more direct conversation with his fans. Today he spoke to them over cyberspace, in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.

“I only wish there was a risk of boredom in my present situation."

After a slow start, Assange first replied to a question about Narenda Modi, India's new Prime Minister, who has been the feature of many Wikileaks documents.

“The election of Modi is a very interesting development in Indian democracy,” he writes. “[…] it's clear that Modi can be most accurately described as a “business authoritarian.” Whether Indian [sic] needs a stronger centre to compete with China is an open question.”

Assange gave some additional insight into his life at the embassy, what his close friend Vaughan Smith described as “a prison cell with the internet.” When asked how he avoided boredom, Assange answered, “I only wish there was a risk of boredom in my present situation.

“Besides being the centre of a pitched, prolonged diplomatic standoff, along with a police encirclement of the building I am in and the attendant surveillance and government investigations against myself and my staff, I am in one of the most populous cities in Europe, and everyone knows my exact location.” Assange once said that he was prepared to stay in the embassy for five years.


His position as a radical transparentist was given some nuance. With regards to the balance between national security and putting information in the public domain, he said that, “Secrecy is, yes, sometimes necessary, but healthy democracies understand that secrecy is the exception, not the rule.”

Another question that seemed directed at the effects that his leaks have had—“Is there any one piece of information that you truly regret leaking?”—Assange instead focused on Wikileaks' relationship with its sources.

“No. We make a promise to our sources. We keep it.” What this promise entails isn't clear. It could either mean that they promise to publish whatever material they receive, or that they will do their utmost to protect their identity.

Apart from those snippets, nothing new was revealed. Talking about Snowden, Assange emphasised the role that Wikileaks played in securing his safety, something that he has done repeatedly.

Two years on from his asylum request, Assange is still in political limbo. He refuses to leave in order to be questioned on sexual assault charges, and the Swedish authorities will not send a representative to question him in the embassy. Until that conflict is resolved, nothing, no matter how many years Assange is stranded, will change.

What is changing is the world around him. Although Wikileaks is still publishing—just today they released this TISA agreement—more and more media outlets have signed up for SecureDrop, a whistleblowing platform maintained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. It allows leakers to anonymously send documents and files, something that Wikileaks had as its unique selling point.

With systems like that in place, and whistleblowers like Snowden deciding to bypass Assange and go to journalists, perhaps Wikileaks—as phenomenal as the organization's work was—is no longer necessary or relevant.