Assange's options: How could he escape the UK?

Assange's options: How could he escape the UK?

Summary: Despite Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange's successful asylum bid, he picked the worst embassy to try and escape from. Here's why, and how he could possibly evade the U.K. authorities.


 |  Image 6 of 9

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • 4. Smuggled out in a diplomatic bag

    This is how government's transfer secure documents and goods to and from embassies to their home country's without third-country interference. On the whole, it works well, but only if the host country does not think their diplomatic guests are not abusing the system. 

    Assange could in theory get inside a diplomatic bag or be posted through diplomatic mail. This is immune from searches, but U.K. police and security services are allowed to scan the items to make sure they're not explosive or in breach of international law.

    The bag itself would have to go through a U.K. ports where it is subject to customs checks. If it is suspected that it does not contain legitimate diplomatic content, it could potentially be opened if say thermal heat given off only by a human was detected. At worse, it would be delayed -- held indefinitely -- and prevented from being posted. 

    Likelihood: 3/10.

    Image credit: Sean Michael Ragan.

  • 5. The Eurotunnel?

    One of the unique things about the U.K. is that it is connected to mainland Europe via a tunnel -- the Eurotunnel -- from Folkstone, U.K., to Calais, France. 

    The helicopter is out of the question -- partly due to the fuel factor -- but a diplomatic car could take the Wikileaks founder to France through the tunnel that connects the south-east of England to the very northerly tip of France.

    From there, he would remain in Ecuadorian soil within the car, but driving on French soil. Assange could get out of the car and would be free from U.K. police. He could even stretch his legs or get some much-needed sunlight. He could then pass to Switzerland (if he still has his passport) -- a non-EU country with a weak extradition law with the U.S. -- and fly out on a private jet to Ecuador from there.

    Again, it goes almost without saying, getting Assange from the embassy to the car is once again the tricky factor. Unless he can somehow evade U.K. authorities, it cannot be done. Nice try, though.

    Likelihood: 4/10.

    Image credit: CNET.

  • 6. Julian Assange: Ambassador to the U.N.?

    Diplomatic tensions between Ecuador and the U.K. are already tense as it is. Giving Assange diplomatic status, such as the next ambassador to the United Nations or a member of its mission in that country, would give the Wikileaks founder the right to walk out of the embassy without the chance of arrest.

    Only the ambassador's job is off the cards. 

    He would be immune from U.K. prosecution. The Vienna Convention states a diplomatic agent shall be "inviolable." It adds: "He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving state shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity."

    This option would significantly ramp up already fraught relations between the two countries, and could see such a flagrant disregard for U.K. justice as enough of a move for the U.K. to rescind Ecuador's embassy status in London. This would mean that little patch of Ecuadorian soil becomes U.K. soil once again and the police can freely walk in and arrest the embattled Assange.

    Likelihood: 5/10.

    Image credit: Flickr.

Topics: Government UK, Government, Government US, Privacy, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Now THIS is what I call a legit article.

    Unlike Gerwirtz's poisonous and uncalled-for "journalism":
  • Diplomatic bag?

    Seeing as the Royal mail can't deliver a letter nowadays reliably he could easily end up on someones' doorstep half way up a tower block in Hackney.
    • It's OK; I've mailed him a policemans uniform.

      He'll be able to walk out in a couple of days... just needs to wrap a quilt round him to get the riht stature first and he should be able to carry it off. Freedom is just a matter of time.
      • ok

        But he'll never pull off the charade of being a british cop unless he's seen bashing some students with a billy club.
        Scarface Claw
  • Ummm....

    No. Let the remaining, boring, mundane but necessary diplomatic stuff play out. The weakest player by far in all this is Sweden -- their behavior and responses have been confused and utterly unconvincing. They need to be pressed far more than they have been to both explain their behavior and why other options for questioning Assange (that apparently have been used before in similar circumstances) have not been offered.

    There is also the semi-secret (everyone seems to know about) US grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia that has been "investigating" connections between Assange and Bradley. That's been going on for well more than a year, which likely means they are at or near the indictment stage. While Obama and his crew have been running things laughably better than Bush and his people ever did, they have been very hawkish (timid, confused news reporting and Republican rubbish aside) and more than a little too harsh on whistleblowers. That eye-rollingly foolish business with Thomas Drake, even though it was a carryover from the Bush days, should never have gone as far as it did before being finally dropped, and even then only under pressure. The DC area newspapers are shadows of what they use to be, including the Washington Post and especially the Baltimore Sun, so there is very little of the snoopy reporter stuff going on anymore to at least help mitigate excessive "Big Brother" government misbehavior. This Assange grand jury stuff really needs much more "exposure," but unfortunately this being an election year, all serious inquiries and discussions are for all practical purposes off the table until after the Presidential election. On the other hand, this is not that far off (although Assange better hope that Obama stays President -- Romney's team already includes people who would very likely push for Assange to be made an example of to Anonymous and other hackivists.)

    As far as "Team GB" goes, they so far have been taking the low-brow, brutish "let's get on with it" middleman route. They may, however, become more susceptible to a diplomatic solution if they keep coming off overly cloddish and incompetent, especially if there might be political ramifications for their Prime Minister, David Cameron, from all this. They are actually in the best position to quietly negotiate with both Sweden and the US for a face-saving end to the mess.

    Now, as far as a more exciting solution to Assange's little predicament, I can think of a few off-hand, but I'm not telling. However, they are not completely unobvious....
    • Where should we send

      your recent orders of tinfoil hats?
      John Zern
      • What?

        You make tin foil hats as well as create pretend orders for them? Who says American enterprise is dead....
    • Sorry BC

      I don't consider the people doing the exposing as "Whistle Blowers". To be a W.B., you have to expose wrongdoing. All these guys did were to expose private information. Someone made a "derogatory" remark about someone in the middle east. Someone expressed an informed opinion about something. Are these wrongdoings? Of couse not. They are embarrassments, yes. Do they affect working with those people, yes. Is telling one of your coworkers that the big boss is an idiot and having someone post about what you said an exposure of wrongdoing? No.

      Now, do I completely put the blame on Assange? No. Why? Becuase if you are going to say something you don't want the whole world to see, NEVER ever put that information on the internet. Not even a private email. There is always someone looking. The most you can do is make things as secure as possible.
      • Really, that's all there was?

        Jeez, this it becoming like the Mike Barnicle Episode (He was this annoying, widely read columnist for the Boston Globe back in the 90's. One of his periodic columns would be a long list of trite quips along the lines of "Why don't they make the entire plane with the same stuff they use to make those indestructible black boxes?" One of his lists supposedly lifted items from a book by George Carlin called "Brain Droppings," which led to charges of plagiarism that went national, and eventually, indirectly led to him being dropped by the Globe. The problem? If you actually looked into the matter, Barnicle never plagiarized. Carlin's book was an encyclopedia of quips gathered from old joke lists and such, and at least two of the items Barnicle supposedly plagiarized were actually repeats from earlier Barnicle columns that predated Carlin's book, and the rest of the supposedly plagiarized quips were either long in the public domain or simply didn't match up well. I ended up in all these bizarre online fights with dimwitted writers over the whole mess. And I didn't even like Barnicle.)

        In any case you might want to fire up Google and do some more searching on what other info Wikileaks revealed that should not have been unknown in the first place. Take, oh, say Iraq civilian causalities. Remember all those "controversies" over how many civilians were actually killed during the war? There were counts ranging from that of the Iraq Body Count (~50k in 2007, and which was based on news and NGO reports) to higher numbers from that of statistically based, scientific surveys like that from John Hopkins (~600k) and even higher one from a polling firm, ORBS (> 1 million). The US military claimed that it didn't keep counts, and generally referred to the IBC numbers. But there was at least one report that indicated that they did keep some type of count, and the Pentagon did very quietly via (without notice --seriously: it was posted on an military site and the news media did not notice it for months) released a partial count in July of 2010, but that appeared to be only due in anticipation of a big Wikileaks release later in October that included much more info about Iraqi civilian causalities. Google up the BBC article "Wikileaks: Iraq war logs increase pressure for openness" by Paul Reynolds for more detailed info. (By the way, the John Hopkins/Lancet count is probably the most accurate overall.)

        We really don't have the journalism quality and strength we use to have to ferret out lies, deceit and misbehavior in government, and that's a situation that appears to be still steadily getting worse. People like Assange and organizations like Wikileaks and Anonymous are basically filling, however irregularly and unevenly, a large gap that has opened in what use to be called the "free press." I personally would much rather see journalistic standards tightened and a resurgence of investigative reports on serious issues, but....I would also love to see the return of full size Ring Dings. Not gonna happen. So for the time being at least, Assange, for all his faults, is not a villain and is indeed what we kind of need right now, whether you like it or not.
        • Thanks, Just

          I was gonna go all medieval on him for his morals-depend-on-temptation tack, but you did it much betta...
          Lightning Joe
  • Or...he could just surrender himself to UK authorities

    All of the Assange acolytes blithely and willfully forget that there is a victim in Sweden being denied justice.
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Or...he could just surrender himself to UK authorities

      Good. Then if Sweden is really interested in justice, all they need to do is guarantee that the extradition will be to address the rape charges and not lead to extradition to the US. If not, they can't be trusted. And based on the sort of details Julian has exposed, I would lean towards the "they can't be trusted" camp.

      • Yep

        Good point. Sweden has long been known as a hotbed of dark conspiracies, crooked judges, and slapdash judicial proceedings. The so-called Swiss Army Knife is feared around the world, and for good reason.
        Robert Hahn
        • Sweden is not Swiss

          They are Scandinavians. Just thought you should know!!!
        • re: Yep

          Hello Mr. Hahn, could you explain what a "Swiss-" Army Knife has to do with Sweden?

      • Why?

        He has violated the rights of the American people, is hacking no longer a crime? Who is Assange to decide for whole countries what they will do with their information? The man is a Fascist, since when is he the arbiter of all that's right? We have laws, courts, privacy, for reasons.
        • Why?

          Is he the one who did the hacking? Are you assuming that he is accountable to American law, even though he's not an American?
      • Hold a hearing at the embassy

        If the Swedes are interested in justice why don't they convene a hearing at the embassy. That way the prosecution can submit their charges and accusations and the judge can determine if it needs to go further.
    • I haven't followed the details

      and obviously it hasn't been proven in court, yet, (and not to diminish the victim's right for justice) but that 4 letter word has been used in much lesser and non-politically motivated circumstances. To use it in a much more visible situation and as a way to get to someone that you want to get......

      Is the accusation true? Don't know. Is this part of a larger plot? Don't know. Too many hidden agendas in the world? Absolutely.
      • Yes, it has not been proven in court, yet

        but only because he will not go and answer questions that could free him or lead to charges in court.

        The fact that it has not been proven in court is because he does not even want it to go to court, and he will hide behind wikileaks as a shield.
        John Zern