The Minh Quang Pham Precedent to the Julian Assange Extradition

WikiLeaks supporters say that extradition of Julian Assange to the United States threatens journalism. That is true.

They also say that his extradition would be unprecedented. I believe that’s true too, with respect to the Espionage Act.

But it’s not entirely without precedent. I believe the case of Minh Quang Pham, who was extradited to the US in 2015 for activities related to AQAP — the most substantive of which involve providing his graphic design expertise for two releases of AQAP’s magazine, Inspire — provides a precedent that might crystalize some of the legal issues at play.

The Minh Quang Pham case

Minh Quang Pham was born in 1983 in Vietnam. He and his parents emigrated to the UK in 1989 and got asylum. In 1995, he got UK citizenship. He partied a lot, at a young age, until his conversion to Islam in 2004, after which he was drawn to further Islamic study and ultimately to Anwar al-Awlaki’s propaganda. Pham was married in 2010 but then, at the end of that year, traveled to Yemen. After some delays, he connected with AQAP and swore bayat in early 2011. While he claimed not to engage in serious training, testimony from high level AQAP/al-Shabaab operative Ahmed Warsame, who — after a two month interrogation by non-law enforcement personnel on a ship — got witness protection for himself and his family in exchange for cooperation, described seeing Pham holding a gun, forming one basis for his firearms and terrorist training charges (though the government also relied on a photo taken with Pham’s own camera).

On my arrival, Amin had a Kalashnikov with him and a pouch of ammunition. I am not certain if he had purchased the gun himself but he did say he had been trained by Abu Anais TAIS on how to use it, I can say from my knowledge of firearms that this weapon was capable of automatic and single fire.

Warsame’s role as informant not only raised questions about the proportionality of US treatment (he was a leader of al-Shabaab, and yet may get witness protection), but also whether his 2-month floating interrogation met European human rights standards for interrogation.

Pham reportedly sucked at anything military, and by all descriptions, the bulk of what Pham did in Yemen involved helping Samir Khan produce Inspire. After some time and a falling out with Khan — and after telling Anwar al-Awlaki he would accept a mission to bomb Heathrow — he returned to the UK. He was interrogated in Bahrain and at the airport on return, and again on arrival back home, then lived in London for six months before his arrest. At first, then-Home Secretary Theresa May tried to strip him of his UK citizenship in a secret proceeding so he could be deported (and possibly drone killed like other UK immigrants), but since — as a refugee — he no longer had Vietnamese citizenship, her first attempt failed.

The moment it became clear the British effort to strip him of citizenship would fail, the US indicted Pham in SDNY on Material Support (covering the graphic design work), training with a foreign terrorist organization, and carrying a firearm. Even before he ultimately did get stripped of his citizenship, he was flown to the US, in February 2015. The FBI questioned him, with no lawyer, during four days of interviews that were not recorded (in spite of a recently instituted FBI requirement that all custodial interviews be recorded). On day four, he admitted that Anwar al-Awlaki had ordered him to conduct an attack on Heathrow (which made the 302), but claimed he had made it clear he only did so as an excuse to be able to leave and return to the UK (a claim that didn’t make the 302; here’s Pham’s own statement which claims he didn’t want to carry out an attack). While Pham willingly pled guilty to the training and arms charges, at sentencing, the government and defense disputed whether Pham really planned to conduct a terrorist attack in the UK, or whether he had — as he claimed — renounced AQAP and resumed normal life with his wife. He failed to convince the judge and got a 40 year sentence.

The question of whether Pham really did plan to attack Heathrow may all be aired publicly given that — after Pham tried to get a recent SCOTUS case on weapon possession enhancements applied to his case — the government has stated that it wants to try Pham on the original charges along with one for the terrorist attack they claim Pham planned based on subsequently collected evidence.

The parallels between the Assange and Pham cases

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that Assange is a terrorist (though if the US government tries him, they will write at length describing about the damage he did, and it’ll amount to more than Pham did). I’m arguing, however, that the US has already gotten extradition of someone who, at the time of his extradition, claimed to have injured the US primarily through his media skills (and claimed to have subsequently recanted his commitment to AQAP).

Consider the similarities:

  • Both legal accusations involve suspect informants (Ahmad Warsame in Pham’s case, and Siggi and Sabu in Assange’s)
  • Both Pham and Assange were charged for speech — publishing Inspire and publishing the names of US and Coalition informants — that is more explicitly prohibited in the UK than the US
  • Both got charged with a substantive crime — terrorism training and possession of a gun in the case of Pham, and hacking in the case of Assange — in addition to speech-based crimes, charges that would (and did, in Pham’s case) greatly enhance any sentence on the speech-related charges
  • Pham got sentenced and Assange faces a sentence and imprisonment in SuperMax in the US that is far more draconian than a sentence for the same crimes would be in the UK, which is probably a big part of the shared Anglo-American interest in extraditing them from the UK
  • Whatever you think about the irregularity and undue secrecy of the Assange extradition, Pham’s extradition was far worse, particularly considering the way Theresa May was treating his UK citizenship

Unlike the Pham charges — all premised on Pham’s willing ties to a Foreign Terrorist Organization, AQAP — the US government has not included allegations that it believes Julian Assange conspired with Russia, though prosecutors involved in his case trying unsuccessfully to coerce Jeremy Hammond’s testimony reportedly told Hammond they believe him to be a Russian spy, and multiple other reports describe that the government changed its understanding of WikiLeaks as it investigated the 2016 election interference (and, probably, the Vault 7 release). Even if it’s true and even if they plan to air the basis for their belief, that’s a claimed intelligence tie, not a terrorism one.

This distinction is important. Holder v. Humanitarian Law clearly criminalizes First Amendment protected activity if done in service of a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, so Pham’s graphic design by itself made him fair game for charges under US precedent.

The government may be moving to make a similar exception for foreign intelligence assets. As the Congressional Research Service notes, if the government believes Assange to be a Foreign Agent of Russia, it may mean the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions for the original charge, and Bill Barr for all the indictments) deemed guidelines prohibiting the arrest of members of the media not to apply.

The news media policy also provides that it does not apply when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person is a foreign power, agent of a foreign power, or is aiding, abetting, or conspiring in illegal activities with a foreign power or its agent. The U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russian state-controlled actors coordinated with Wikileaks in 2016 may have implicated this exclusion and other portions of the news media policy, although that conduct occurred years after the events for which Assange was indicted. The fact that Ecuador conferred diplomatic status on Assange, and that this diplomatic status was in place at the time DOJ filed its criminal complaint, may also have been relevant. Finally, even if the Attorney General concluded that the news media policy applied to Assange, the Attorney General may have decided that intervening events since the end of the Obama Administration shifted the balance of interests to favor prosecution. Whether the Attorney General or DOJ will publicly describe the impact of the news media policy is unclear.

There’s a filing from the prosecutor in the case, Gordon Kromberg, that seems to address the First Amendment in more aggressive terms than Mike Pompeo’s previous statement on the topic.But it may rely, as the terrorism precedent does, on a national security exception (one even more dangerous given the absence of any State Department FTO list, but that hardly makes a difference for a foreigner like Pham).

Ultimately, though, the Assange extradition, like the Pham prosecution, is an instance where the UK is willing to let the US serve as its willing life imprisoner to take immigrants to the UK off its hands. Assange’s extradition builds off past practice, and Pham’s case is a directly relevant precedent.

The human rights case for Julian Assange comes at an awkward time

While human rights lawyers fought hard, at times under a strict gag, on Pham’s immigration case, Assange’s extradition has focused more public attention to UK’s willingness to serve up people to America’s draconian judicial system.

Last Thursday, Paul Arnell wrote a thoughtful piece about the challenge Assange will face to beat this extradition request, concluding that Assange’s extradition might (or might have, in different times) demonstrate that UK extradition law has traded subverted cooperation to a defendant’s protection too far.

We need to reappraise the balance between the conflicting functions of UK extradition law.

Among the UK’s most powerful weapons are its adherence to the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Assange’s extradition arguably challenges those fundamental principles. His case could well add to the evidence that the co-operative versus protective pendulum has swung too far.

He describes how legal challenges probably won’t work, but an appeal to human rights might.

British extradition law presumptively favours rendition. Extradition treaties are concluded to address transnational criminality. They provide that transfer will occur unless certain requirements are met. The co-operative purpose of extradition more often than not trumps the protection of the requested person.

The protective purpose of extradition is served by grounds that bar a request if they are satisfied. Those particularly applicable in Assange’s case are double criminality, human rights and oppression.

There are several offenses within the Official Secrets Acts 1911/1989 and the Computer Misuse Act 1990 that seemingly correspond to those in the US request. However, human rights arguments offer Assange hope.

Three are relevant: to be free from inhuman and degrading punishment, fair trial rights and freedom of expression. Previous decisions have held that life-terms in supermaximum-security prisons do not contravene the “punishment” provision, while the right to freedom of expression as a bar to extradition is untested.

Assange’s best prospect is possibly the oppression bar. Under it, a request can be refused on grounds of mental or physical health and the passage of time. To be satisfied, however, grievous ill health or an extraordinary delay are required.

It’s a good point, and maybe should have been raised after some of the terrorism extraditions, like Pham’s. But it may be outdated.

As I noted, Arnell’s column, titled, “Assange’s extradition would undermine the rule of law,” came out on Thursday. Throughout the same week that he made those very thoughtful points, of course, the UK publicly disavowed the rule of law generally and international law specifically in Boris Johnson’s latest effort to find a way to implement Brexit with no limits on how the UK deals with Northern Ireland.

The highlight – something so extraordinary and constitutionally spectacular that its implications are still sinking in – was a cabinet minister telling the House of Commons that the government of the United Kingdom was deliberately intending to break the law.

This was not a slip of the tongue.

Nor was it a rattle of a sabre, some insincere appeal to some political or media constituency.

No: law-breaking was now a considered government policy.


[T]he government published a Bill which explicitly provides for a power for ministers to make regulations that would breach international and domestic law.


Draft legislation also does not appear from nowhere, and a published Bill is itself the result of a detailed and lengthy internal process, before it is ever presented to Parliament.

This proposal has been a long time in the making.

We all only got to know about it this week.


No other country will take the United Kingdom seriously in any international agreements again.

No other country will care if the United Kingdom ever avers that international laws are breached.

One of the new disclosures in a bunch of Roger Stone warrants released earlier this year is that, in one of the first Dms between the persona Guccifer 2.0, the WikiLeaks Twitter account explained, “we’ve been busy celebrating Brexit.” That same Brexit makes any bid for a human rights argument agains extradition outdated.

53 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Theresa May is an anti-civil libertarian, but circumstances have not improved since she left office. Her treatment of Pham and al-Jedda is as draconian as her fear-driven and whimsical management of the Home Office.

    In al-Jedda’s case, when her attempt to strip an immigrant of citizenship failed – because it would have left him stateless – she simply repeated the exercise, as if the court had never decided against her. Very Trumpian. Now, of course, being left stateless is no longer a bar to a naturalized citizen being stripped of his UK citizenship.

    That’s reality, but not something to celebrate, any more than that Johnson-Cummings have picked an Attorney General who is woefully in over her head, and a Justice Minister – underwhelming and minimally qualified as he is – who objects only to the prospect that the government might break the law in a way he does not like, and is hapless enough to admit it.

  2. Chetnolian says:

    I don’t think March’s last sentence is logical. The professed position of the government and its lackeys as described byEOH above is first, far from a done deal, and second, raises the profile of the rule of law. We need to recall that the last time Boris tried to break the law, by suspending Parliament, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed his decision. If someone decides that there is a convincing human rights argument it will get considered. And then there’s the ECtHR. This could run and run. Don’t organise the welcome party for Assange quite yet.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I don’t think my comment applies to your point; it’s more of a background observation about the frailties of the current government, which are broadcast endlessly in daily newspapers. I think Marcy makes the point that the law has narrowed, its penalties are draconian, it is not remotely sympathetic to these defendants, and that, given Assange’s conduct between 2011 and now, there’s no reason that it should be.

      I think at times Baraitser has acted unjudiciously, but I suspect she has the full support of senior judges. But there’s a long way to go. The proceeding at Westminster Magistrates Court, inevitable appeals by one or both sides to the High Court, the possibility of further appeal beyond that.

      As you say, it’s more than possible that Assange’s defense will also appeal to the ECHR – a non-EU entity, whose jurisdiction arises under a separate treaty and which is not affected by Brexit. I wholeheartedly agree with your second comment.

  3. Chetnolian says:

    I don’t have a strong view one way or the other on Assange. All I have been trying to do is predict a possible course of the hearing, devoid of prejudice for or against him.

    • emptywheel says:

      This level of hearing is unlikely to be all that successful for him. And I suspect that by the time he appeals, the human rights claims — aside from the very basic and true for all extraditees that the US carceral system is utterly inhumane — will become more questionable.

    • bmaz says:

      No, I do not think that is right. At root it is a real problem for real journalism. But there is a serious dichotomy in between the portions of Asange’s history that “do” imply that, and those which really do not. There is plenty of the latter, as there is plenty of the former. But recognizing the dichotomy is key. Marcy has done a very good job of laying out most of both and, yet, people mostly still line up on one extreme or the other. That is unfortunate.

  4. skua says:

    With the US having repeatedly demonstrated that it uses torture on detainees who have been accused of directly supporting attacks on the USA, I’m waiting to see if the British justice system has sufficient integrity to address the question of whether the USA government is a fit authority to have control of Assange. Releasing someone from UK custody to an authority who may well torture him would be deeply corrosive of the standing of, and respect for, the British justice system.
    I’ve read almost nothing beside EW on what Assange has done. But whatever he has done, it will not be good for as civilized peoples, to have, or allow, him to be tortured.

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s the human rights argument I laid out here. But it is no more true for Assange than any other possible extraditee and far less true than it was for Pham (because of concerns about the circumstances of Warsame’s interrogation).

      Which is why I think the human rights argument is important. The primary basis Assange has to avoid extradition is that the UK should never extradite to the US. I think that’s true, until the US cleans up its gulag.

      • Chetnolian says:

        On that we are completely agreed. Particularly at a time when if a US citizen drives on the wrong side of the road for twenty seconds (count it out} over a blind summit and kills a teenage motorcyclist, the USA conjures up a fake diplomatic status for her and spirits her out of the country.

      • bmaz says:

        Lol, it is not just extraditees. Unless Assange were being sent to Guantanamo, which is laughable bullshit from WL groupies, then it is the common American detention and prison system. But the amount of space that extradited defendants take up in that is negligible. I am all for prison reform, but Assange has made his own bed. He has also been whinging about the UK facilities. Maybe he just doesn’t like where he has affirmatively placed himself in the service of being an international asshole and Russian facilitator.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It’s not much of a stretch to argue that HMG is intentionally punishing Assange – before he’s been convicted of a crime – by keeping him in solitary and in HMP Belmarsh. (He’s already served his time for violating bail.) It’s nothing like a normal prison in the UK or US. It’s more like one of those US Gitmos that never put into port.

        • bmaz says:

          Agreed. But if HMG wanted to really punish Assange, they could easily do so. In fact, probably easier than the case here in the States, as Marcy has discussed. It appears they just want rid of him, which is not an unreasonable position all things considered. Also, he was convicted of a crime; now he is being held pending extradition, a situation totally on Assange himself for jumping bail and hiding out in a broom closet all those years.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Assange was convicted of violating bail and served his sentence. His current incarceration relates solely to these extradition proceedings. If HMG’s aim were simply to keep him around for them, it wouldn’t need Belmarsh and solitary confinement to do it. Those are to keep him incommunicado, including from his defense counsel, and pour encourager les autres.

        • emptywheel says:

          Yeah, well, I’m sure that Vault 7 did a good deal of damage to the UK as well as the US.

          I think it really likely they’ll affirmatively say he’s a Russian spy by the time this is done.

        • bmaz says:

          Except that has nothing to do with Assange. Can’t say the US position on Sacoolas was, or is, right. But they are not analogs.

  5. di says:

    The U.S. Is Determined to Make Julian Assange Pay for Exposing the Cruelty of Its War on Iraq
    Prof. Vijay Prashad

    “Robert Gibbs, the press secretary for President Barack Obama, said in April 2010 that the events on the video were “extremely tragic.” But the cat was out of the bag. This video showed the world the actual character of the U.S. war on Iraq, which the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had called “illegal.” The release of the video by Assange and WikiLeaks embarrassed the United States government. All its claims of humanitarian warfare had no credibility.

    The campaign to destroy Assange begins at that point. The United States government has made it clear that it wants to try Assange for everything up to treason. People who reveal the dark side of U.S. power, such as Assange and Edward Snowden, are given no quarter. There is a long list of people—such as Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, James Hitselberger, John Kiriakou, and Reality Winner—who, if they lived in countries being targeted by the United States, would be called dissidents. Manning is a hero for exposing war crimes; Assange, who merely assisted her, is being persecuted in plain daylight.

    On January 28, 2007, a few months before he was killed by the U.S. military, Namir Noor-Eldeen took a photograph in Baghdad of a young boy with a soccer ball under his arm steps around a pool of blood. Beside the bright red blood lie a few rumpled schoolbooks. It was Noor-Eldeen’s humane eye that went for that photograph, with the boy walking around the danger as if it were nothing more than garbage on the sidewalk. This is what the U.S. “illegal” war had done to his country.

    All these years later, that war remains alive and well in a courtroom in London; there Julian Assange—who revealed the truth of the killing—will struggle against being one more casualty of the U.S. war on Iraq.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      As bmaz might say, rubbish. You have to look at all of Assange’s behavior, not a single incident, to assess whether the USG is badly overreaching or has a credible case. You can’t ignore the behavior that might expose him to legal liability, because you like something else about him – or reasonably hate something about the government prosecuting him. That’s what Marcy has been trying to lay out.

      • BobCon says:

        I think a big problem with the linkage Prashad is asserting is that it wildly inflated any embarassment Assange may have caused by releasing in 2010 a video from 2007 of a cold blooded killing by US helicopter forces. Compared to all of the prior revelations, like Abu Ghraib by CBS and the New Yorker, this was one boulder in a mountain.

        The US absolutely tries to clamp down on people who release information it doesn’t want in public. But this specific scenario is pure fantasy.

  6. d4v1d says:

    This article points out that those who wield swords are fearful of those with ink-filled quills. I wondered what would make Trump bury the guy who did more to make him president, but I return to what is clear – a mobster like Trump has much to fear from an Assange (upon whom I lavish not one quantum of sympathy).

    Speaking of quills, I got whiplash from this construct at the top of the piece: “his extradition would be unprecedented….But it’s not entirely without precedent.” That nib needs sharpening.

  7. jaango says:

    An Assange-oriiented trial here in the USA would be a victory for Assange and his legal and political cabal. Thus, Assange would quickly become acquitted due to our nation’s Human Rights Violations, of years long gone.

    A juror would decide that the Bush43’s behavior, starting with his advocacy of the AUMF Resolution, followed by the ultimate in economics/politics for maintaining the international oil transfer ‘connections’, discarded or rejected the Idea of our “lending our National Constitution to political franchisees in the Middle East, continue to establish “women as second class citizens, then, and today, in this regard, the “women remain as second class citizens” even though they are the majority of the citizens in these nations in the Middle East.

    Consequently, an American juror would quickly reject Assange’s indictment and trial, thereby discounting the “journalism’ aspects as well as the national security emphasis for being a Russian stooge.

    • bmaz says:

      This is absolute bullshit and garbage. None of that, and I mean none, is pertinent, relevant nor admissible to a jury on any charge Assange could or would be tried on. Please do not spew utter bullshit here.

      • jaango says:

        Do Federal Courts maintain a “jury pool” and if so, we need only to bring an Assange Trial into our wonderful Sonoran Desert, and therefore, Chicanos and Native Americans would refuse to vote for a conviction on Human Rights Charges.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Don’t forget to buy your ticket for the unicorn lottery. With rare exceptions, these cases are brought in the EDVa or DCDistrict. The “jury pool” is the same for every case, whether it’s Scooter Libby or Mike Flynn.

    • PeterS says:

      I did a bad thing but, hey, I did some goods things too AND that guy over there did some worse things – is that really how you want the law to work?

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    When Donald Trump holds an indoor campaign rally, as he did last night, does he insist on healthcare waivers from attendees or are Covid-19 healthcare expenses charged to his campaign? Asking for a friend.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Democrats preemptively snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Diane Feinstein Edition. California’s Sen. Diane Feinstein is indicating she will reinstate the “blue slip rule,” the one the GOP tossed under President Obama. They continued to ignore it under Trump, allowing McConnell and the FedSoc to appoint 25% of the federal judiciary – and relieve Koch-funded think tanks of the pressure on their oversubscribed kindergartens.

    The blue slip rule gives Senators a veto on nominations to the federal judiciary in their state. Republicans ignored it under Barack Obama, eventually leading to a virtual halt on his judicial nominations. Trump filled the resulting vacancies with young, underqualified, and extraordinarily partisan members of the Federalist Society.

    Ms. Feinstein, however, harkening back to a simpler time, hopes to revive a mythic world of bipartisan camaraderie. If there’s one area of federal staffing that requires aggressive attention from Joe Biden, other than the DoJ, it is the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. Californians need to escort Ms. Feinstein to the nearest exit at their next opportunity.

    • BobCon says:

      The LA Times article that is the basis for that Kos piece is less definitive than that. She seemed to be evasive on the issue rather than hinting at a position.

      Considering Feinstein’s history, though, I think it’s smart for progressives to maintain pressure on the issue.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The LA Times report has Feinstein saying she “wasn’t aware of a controversy over blue slips or that Republicans had confirmed judges without them.”

      “I have never heard a problem. No one has — in 26 years — brought me a problem on blue slips,” Feinstein said. “I’m not aware of it. If you can bring me the objection, I’d like to know what it is.””

      That comes after the LAT reports that Graham, and Grassley before him, “abandoned” the practice at least 17 times. Feinstein is either playing word games with “controversy” and “objection,” or is being willfully ignorant. (Even at 87, I don’t attribute it to faulty memory.) I think she coyly understates the GOP’s serial abuses over judicial nominations. Admitting to more would simply open questioning about why the Dems did not respond more effectively. Saying that they had no power to do so, for example, is not a good look, even on the brink of retaking the Senate.

      Feinstein’s refusal to take a position I can discount, because effective politicians don’t box themselves in by saying silly things to reporters. (It’s hypothetical, anyway, until the Dems elect a useful Senate majority.) So, I think the DK contributor’s take is accurate.

  10. TomA says:

    The treatment of Assange is about one thing only. Send a clear and definitive message to all potential future whistleblowers (be they rouge insiders or the journalists that publish them) that such conduct will get the full weight of the US legal system thrown at you; and with relentless prosecution, conviction, and long term imprisonment to follow.

    Assange, by virtue of his international notoriety, is to be made into an archetypal warning shot aimed at anyone else who may be tempted to go rouge.

    And as to the British handling of his status, at least in the US Assange will be simply incarcerated. Were he to remain in the UK, he very likely would have an unfortunate poisoning accident very soon or perhaps simply disappear like the Skripals.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That is NOT what this is about. Do the US and UK governments despise Assange? Probably. Do they want him in jail? Certainly. Do they want to deter future whistleblowers? Obama answered that for the USG with a resounding, Yes.

      But neither government is likely to act the way you imagine, not when solitary confinement is available to them. More importantly for the issues at stake, and as EW has pointed out at length, Assange’s legal exposure is about a lot more than journalism or blowing the whistle on US atrocities. That’s the point and the problem, it’s about all those things.

      • TomA says:

        “But neither government is likely to act the way you imagine, not when solitary confinement is available to them.”

        So that’s what happened to the Skripals. The benevolent UK authorities are keeping them in indefinite solitary confinement so they won’t be incidentally poisoned again. Whew, and I thought it nefarious! Thanks for clearing that up.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        And you know that how, exactly? Has Luke Harding whispered a word in your shell-like?

        You might want to consider, for example, that if the UK’s description of events is correct – a big if – it might have put the Skripals into some sort of witness protection program, instead of a cell block inside Porton Down or face down in a ditch. Failing to protect them the second time round might embarrass even this government. You need to get out more.

        • Chetnolian says:

          I am not sure what you mean by “a big if”. It is fairly clear that the Skripals were in a witness programme of some sort. They were free to come and go as they pleased and had been for some time. It also appears likely however that, on account of family connections, their whereabouts was not so much of a secret that Putin’s goons could not find them.

          I agree that TomA should get out more. The idea of poisoning Assange in a British jail, though it might make some of our contributors here quite happy, is the stuff of fantasy..

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I would have described Skripal as having been resettled more than his being in a witness protection-like program. I assume that’s where they are now, which means the great and observant public ought to hear no more about them.

          I say “if” because the government’s description of events does not all hang together. It’s marred by a number of inconsistencies and improbable coincidences. But that’s tangential to what’s happening to them now.

        • TomA says:

          Fair enough. You place your faith in the belief that the UK government has “resettled” the Skripals into a new, and presumably safer, anonymous life somewhere outside of the public eye. And that explanation covers both possibilities very nicely; e.g. they are in fact living a comfortable new life in the country or they may also be dead and buried in unmarked graves. Either way, we’ll never know the truth unless a whistleblower happens along someday.

    • John K says:

      I think I may have to go rouge. Between Black Lives Matter and all these hurricanes in Louisiana, this ultra pale complexion just isn’t working for me anymore.

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