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Late, last Wednesday evening, the Metropolitan police surrounded the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. This followed the publication by the Ecuadorian Government of the aide memoir from William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, on how the diplomatic status of its London embassy could be revoked. Observers assumed that the arrival of the police must be the presage to a raid. For those watching the unfolding events, in the end it all turned out to be an anti-climax. Though the outcome could have turned out very differently had it had not been for the interventions of certain cyber warriors – in the UK, Australia and elsewhere – whose quick-wittedness may have ensured that a major international incident was averted. Below is the inside story of ‘the raid that almost was’.
Note: all times quoted are GMT.
22.34 A group of Wikileaks supporters gather outside the embassy
22.44 Jennifer Robinson, Julian Assange’s Australian lawyer, is tweeted
23.01 Jennifer Robinson tweets the URL of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act
23.02 Tweet sent out by Occupy that police now surround embassy
23.15 Tweet sent with URL of Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act to supporters and Wikileaks orgs.
23.18 Tweet sent for someone to contact Gareth Peirce, Assange’s UK lawyer
23.24 Livestream video from supporter outside embassy shows police, accompanied by man in suit with briefcase, entering building via front entrance
23.25 Tweet sent to Julian Burnside, Assange’s Australian lawyer, advising that police look like entering premises
23.38 Police attempt to enter premises via the fire escape at the side of the building
23.39 Tweet sent to Jennifer Robinson advising her of latest developments
23.58 Jennifer Robinson tweets URL of CPS document covering diplomatic immunity and diplomatic premises
00.00 Police seen entering building via fire escape at side of building
00.15 Police outside and inside building
00.24 Burnside, Robinson and others updated
00.30 Police abandon attempt to enter embassy and regroup outside of premises
01.18 Jennifer Robinson tweets that to her knowledge the status of the embassy has not been withdrawn
01.33 AntiLeaks claim DDoS on livestream (no longer active)
01.45 Wikileaks announces via Facebook the release of new batch of Global Intelligence Files
01.52 Jennifer Robinson tweets Ecuador has called emergency summit of OAS
00.54 Police return to vans
00.57 Australian Wikileaks Citizens Alliance tweets that Christine Assange’s Twitter account blocked
01.02 Police leave area in vans, leaving only a handful of police outside embassy
01.25 Livestream back in action
When 20 or so police, backed by others in vans nearby, attempt to enter a building from two directions, they are clearly not there to protect that building or perform street theatre. It began as a raid, but then aborted. No doubt behind the scenes officials from the embassy and lawyers acting for Assange were making it clear to the police and Government officials that the premises were inviolate. But had the police succeeded in penetrating the embassy, the ramifications would have been huge, affecting the status of every embassy of every country around the world. As for the part played by the citizen journalists that evening, while this was no Tahir Square, the tactics were not that dissimilar and in shining a cyber spotlight on what the police were attempting to do they made certain the rest of the world were directly involved at every move.
Postscript… Later that day, an embarrassed British Government released a statement denying it had attempted to raid the embassy or that it ever intends to. Also, it became obvious that Hague’s memo to the Ecuadorian Government had not been supported by his own civil servants or, apparently, sanctioned by the Prime Minister. The following day the Organisation of American States carried a motion supporting Ecuador in its stance against the British Government. On Sunday, prior to a statement by Julian Assange from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, Snr. Baltasar Garzon, the former Spanish judge who is leading Assange’s legal team, stated that he will be taking steps to prosecute the British Government (no further details were added).
Posted from the darker net via Android.