The [Negative] Net Present Value Of Cute (Epilogue?)
Regular finem respice readers will recognize that calculations of present value that include infinitely high (or low) future value variables are a common theme in the prose found here. And, after all, if ascending to heaven is infinitely blissful, what future value is more infinitely awful than the heat death of the universe? Well, the Big Crunch, maybe, if you are a proponent of a closed universe (and you know how those people are). The always reasonable finem respice user will, however, probably forgive your humble author if she points out that the distinction is likely very (infinitely?) small. But, like so many of finem respice's inner monologues, this line of discussion occasions another. To wit: What is the value of an additional ten seconds added to the time until the heat death of the universe? If, dear reader, your own inner monologue immediately shouted "What's my discount rate?" you should seek professional counseling (or be working in finance, but probably both). Whatever the answer, it should seem clear that there comes a point when one's utilitarian contribution to the Cosmos is outweighed by the heat your body produces owing to the fact that this bled-off entropy hastens the coming of the heat death of the universe. If you have been living anywhere other than in the London Olympic Village (otherwise known as Hedonism IV) for the last many weeks it should also seem clear that Greece has long ago passed this threshold.
Oh, and the Julian Assange affair too.
The always sage, loyal finem respice reader will recall that these pages have oft commented on the shenanigans and folly of those caught in Julian Assange's psychic gravity well. And, certainly, finem respice attracted no small amount of ire from those in the more eccentric orbits around planet Assange when these pages speculated (and, it now seems, did so mostly correctly- despite much unimaginative criticism in the interim) about the methods that might be used to prosecute Assange should the United States ever manage to dig its sharp eagle talons into his ignoble person.
Clearly, Assange himself began to feel the approaching hazard as he has elected to spend his summer vacation in London this year instead of the South of France, or wherever else young and progressive groupies less disposed to insist on the use of barrier protection on the first, second, third, fourth or fifth dates may find repose. More specifically, Assange now finds himself with a private suite within the probably rather narrow walls of the Ecuadorian Embassy, where, his donation-funded appeals all the way to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom having exhaustively failed- it wasn't even close- he tries to add to the "number of periods" entry in his grand, personal discounted cash flow valuation model notable primarily for its "extradition and trial for rape and/or espionage" future value variable.
Since June, Assange has waited for his bid for asylum to be granted by the President of Ecuador. Since June, differing (but always dubious) reports on the likelihood of success in such an endeavor have bounced back and forth along the "impossible/certain" spectrum. Most recently, an (almost certainly Quito-engineered trial-balloon) leak emerged from an unnamed Quito official via the The Guardian suggesting that Ecuador had decided that Assange would be granted Asylum.1 Even if true (and Ecuador was quick to deny this) this, in itself, hardly decides the matter (as will be explored further infra).
In fact, a number of misnomers, mistakes, ignorances, and outright fabrications accompany the popular understanding of the circumstances of Assange's latest residence. The most keen at the moment seems to be the impression that while he sits in the Ecuadorian Embassy he is on Ecuadorian sovereign soil and that any attempt to remove him would be an act of war. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In actuality, the options open to Assange's extraditers are many and probably deleterious to Assange's future freedom. Tough cookies. In fact, the remainder of this prose shall endeavor to explore the many ways in which he is likely totally fucked, and why this shouldn't surprise anyone, including Assange.
For the best he could do anymore, fleeing to the Ecuadorian Embassy was not the worst choice Assange could have made. Rarely does the parasitic, prospective fugitive find a host so willing (or at least so irrevocably compelled by political morays) as Assange found in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. It remains to be seen if the last-minute embassy flight was pre-arranged or (as seems more likely) a very clever bit of manipulation by Assange in painting President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado of Ecuador into a diplomatic corner. (A matter that shall be addressed infra).
And really, doesn't the entire affair feel like the old days of the cold war, where the appendages of state of Radio Moscow (now "Russia Today"), Cuba (now Ecuador), Fidel Castro (now either President Correa or Hugo Chavez, depending) all meet in one great nexus to create, support, shelter and exfiltrate to their satellite states those Cuban and Soviet spies and Agents of Influence from beneath the evil clutches of The West? Really, if this sort of thing continues the United States might end up with that glorified University of Denver Soviet Studies Ph.D. (who cut her diplomatic teeth in the State Department of the Carter Administration) (slight retch) Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State.
Any number of universities in the beltway have long been populated with stories of one or another secret society, sorority, or fraternity that has contracted with consular officials to hold on their sovereign soil events of such bacchanalian character that no domestic establishment could endure to tolerate them. The Metro and D.C. police, you understand, lack jurisdiction to interfere with the proceedings atop the perfectly sovereign soil that lay within the perfectly sovereign walls of the Embassy of Durkadurkastan (Turkmenistan's facilities on Massachusetts Avenue being, you understand, quite a bit smaller than the nude pill party section threatened to require).
At least part of this lore is nonsense. Certainly, "embassy parties" existed, but (and finem respice will deny- in public- any personal knowledge thereto) don't quite live up to the hype- however steep the embassy's eventual bill was to host the event (and that was pretty steep as I remember). Of course, as soon as finem respice asserts this point, the Occupy Wall Street Chorus interposes itself suddenly and uninvited into the debate:
OWS Chorus: "That's bullshit, I have a ton of friends from Georgetown who have been to embassy parties with Chelsea Clinton. That's sovereign territory!"
Chelsea or the embassy?
OWS Chorus: "You can't go in there, you fascist. Here, read chapter and verse:"
The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.2 (Emphasis added).
OWS Chorus: "That and our inviolate drum circle will stop even the SAS! Take that evil Western powers! I mean... right?"
Well not really. Notice what the Convention does not say. It does not say the mission is sovereign territory of the sending state. It does not say this because (quelle surprise) the mission is not sovereign territory of the sending state. It is "merely" inviolable. Specifically:
1. Not to be violated; not liable or allowed to suffer violence; to be kept sacredly free from profanation, infraction, or assault.
a Of laws, treaties, institutions, customs, principles, sacred or cherished feelings, etc.3
The receiving state does not actually give up its sovereignty over lands it lends to the sending state. And, in fact, if the laws of the receiving state are broken within the mission, they are not somehow ignored. And the laws of the sending state may not actually apply within the walls either (permitting, for instance, the Saudi Ambassador quite a bit of leeway in his personal after-dark behavior- there's a reason that post is so highly prized).
But whatever law applies, this is not "immunity" in the sense that one sees it expressed in a Richard Donner film (though finem respice will, in weak moments, admit under interrogation to being a fan of Lethal Weapon 2).
To be clear, the citizens of the receiving state (or any state for that matter) who enter the mission and break the laws of the receiving state are entirely subject to prosecution therefor upon their exit and (presumed) apprehension by the receiving state. Alas, it will plainly be seen (contrary to the foundation lore of many a secret society and campus greek organization) that, in reality, the D.C. and Metro police in the District are really quite happy to have you making noise behind closed walls that they "cannot" (read: don't have to) police. However, if you paddle a sister to death in there, you're going to jail when you come out (no matter how hot it was at the time).
OWS Chorus: "Well why doesn't Ecuador just make Assange a member of the mission staff and give him a diplomatic passport. Then he'd have total immunity and could leave, right?"
They can't really do that, and not really, no.
As the OWS Chrous has pointed out, such matters are contemplated at great length by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.4 What impact might particular provisions of particular interest to the instant case have on Mr. Assange's prospects for fleeing the United Kingdom without the constabulary of that jurisdiction executing the arrest warrant for breach of bail conditions now outstanding? Well, let's just have a look, shall we?:
Members of the diplomatic staff of the mission should in principle be of the nationality of the sending State.
Members of the diplomatic staff of the mission may not be appointed from among persons having the nationality of the receiving State, except with the consent of that State which may be withdrawn at any time.
The receiving State may reserve the same right with regard to nationals of a third State who are not also nationals of the sending State.5
So Ecuador isn't likely to be able to sneak Assange in or out by making him a member of the diplomatic staff. Unless he was Ecuadorian he cannot be a member of the diplomatic staff of the Ecuadorian mission without the consent of the receiving state (the United Kingdom). Perhaps finem respice is going out on a limb here, but we feel the United Kingdom would be somewhat reticent to grant such consent.
The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable. In any such case, the sending State shall, as appropriate, either recall the person concerned or terminate his functions with the mission. A person may be declared non grata or not acceptable before arriving in the territory of the receiving State.
If the sending State refuses or fails within a reasonable period to carry out its obligations under paragraph 1 of this article, the receiving State may refuse to recognize the person concerned as a member of the mission.6
So the United Kingdom can essentially decommission the entire (probably very small) staff of the Ecuadorian mission whenever they like, and if Ecuador takes their time removing the staff or the head (Ambassador) the United Kingdom can strip them of their status as a member of the mission (and therefore their immunity- which will come in handy for the United Kingdom infra). Suddenly that cute little brownstone isn't an embassy anymore. Woops!
This is suppoted by statute in the United Kingdom. To wit, provisions of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987:
(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, where a State desires that land shall be diplomatic or consular premises, it shall apply to the Secretary of State for his consent to the land being such premises.
(2) A State need not make such an application in relation to land if the Secretary of State accepted it as diplomatic or consular premises immediately before the coming into force of this section.
(3) In no case is land to be regarded as a State’s diplomatic or consular premises for the purposes of any enactment or rule of law unless it has been so accepted or the Secretary of State has given that State consent under this section in relation to it; and if—
(a) a State ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post; or
(b) the Secretary of State withdraws his acceptance or consent in relation to land,
it thereupon ceases to be diplomatic or consular premises for the purposes of all enactments and rules of law.7
OWS Chorus: "But that would cause a huge diplomatic incident! Ecuador would kick British diplomatic staff from Quito, people would be outraged!"
It is not entirely clear that the United Kingdom would much care. British Petroleum, among other firms, suffered rather significant losses during the many rounds of petroleum nationalization conducted by e.g. Venezuela and Ecuador. It seems rather unlikely they are likely to give Ecuador a break here.
OWS Chorus: "FINE! But, like, so, can't the embassy just wisk Assange out the door, through the waiting British police (suckers!) and into a waiting navy blue BMW with diplomatic plates, tinted, bulletproof windows, and Jason Statham behind the wheel? The Ambassador would be waiting in the back seat with a smile on his face as the opened the door and Julian jumped inside before driving to Heathrow and boarding a jet with a diplomatic flight plan off into the sunset... I mean... to Quito? And seriously dude, like you can't fuck with the Ambassador. Look!":
The “premises of the mission” are the buildings or parts of buildings and the land ancillary thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for the purposes of the mission including the residence of the head of the mission.8
OWS Chorus: "And remember!":
"The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution."
Yes well, nice idea, but... probably not. First of all, Jason Statham is English. If he's driving he's probably a double agent for MI5. Second, yes, Ecuador certainly seems ready to take advantage of any laxity on behalf of British law enforcement. To wit:
The Ecuadorian Ambassador to the Court of
St. James' Official Car Waits Patiently For... Something.
But there is good reason to believe the United Kingdom is Not Fucking Around™ on this one (again, more on this point infra). And do notice that "the buildings or parts of buildings and the land ancillary thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for the purposes of the mission" doesn't include the sidewalk between the stairs and the car. And, given that the police are standing on them in this picture, probably the United Kingdom has good reason to believe the stairs are not included either.
OWS Chorus: "But what if they grant him asylum? You can't stand in the way of asylum!"
And where is that written? Asylum doesn't somehow give you a free pass to the border. You still have to get the hopeless wretch into an official car and then from the car into an official airplane.
OWS Chorus: "But what if..."
No. The United Kingdom would have to approve the diplomatic status of a C-17 so you couldn't just have the Ambassador's car drive up the back into one and take it off. Yes, the Fuerza Aérea Ecuatoriana has a few (4?) C-130s, but it's not clear how many are operational and, again, the United Kingdom is entirely unlikely to approve a diplomatic flight with one.
OWS Chorus: "What about this":
The personal baggage of a diplomatic agent shall be exempt from inspection, unless there are serious grounds for presuming that it contains articles not covered by the exemptions mentioned in paragraph 1 of this article, or articles the import or export of which is prohibited by the law or controlled by the quarantine regulations of the receiving State. Such inspection shall be conducted only in the presence of the diplomatic agent or of his authorized representative.9
OWS Chorus: "What if Julian climbs into a suitcase and is carried away as the Ambassador's personal baggage. The police can't search that right?"
Well, unless there are "serious grounds for presuming that it contains articles not covered by the exemptions mentioned in paragraph 1 of this article, or articles the import or export of which is prohibited by law or controlled by the quarantine regulations of the receiving State." Human smuggling is probably not going to fly. Also, you neglected to quote the first paragraph which reads:
The receiving State shall, in accordance with such laws and regulations as it may adopt, permit entry of and grant exemption from all customs duties, taxes, and related charges other than charges for storage, cartage and similar services, on:
(a) Articles for the official use of the mission;
(b) Articles for the personal use of a diplomatic agent or members of his family forming part of his
household, including articles intended for his establishment.
What sort of personal use might Mr. Assange be to the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the Court of St. James?
Her Excellency Anna Alban, Ecuadorian Ambassador
OWS Chorus: "DUDE! Do you see that rack?"
Hard to miss, one must admit.
OWS Chorus: "She could smuggle him out in between her boobs, dude!"
If he manages that, finem respice will wish him well.
OWS Chorus: "We're totally protesting now!":
UPDATE 12:09PM (AEST):
Protestors have had a brief scuffle with Police as a van parked to one side of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London moved off to be replaced by another.
Shouting accusations that sovereign territory was being invaded, the protesters attempted to obstruct the van movements before being pushed aside by police.
About 30 people yelling 'England, what part don't you understand, we are sovereign!' had earlier arrived at the Ecuadorean embassy to protest threats to forcibly remove WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, briefly trampling on a British flag.
Police have reportedly now taped off part of the footpath around the embassy.10
So you are. Good luck with that.
And as finem respice suffered itself to mention before, in blowing its load on the State Department Cables Wikileaks (read: Assange) raised the hackles of exactly the appendages that now have the most power to manipulate him into their waiting arms. Assange is now relying on very perverted (and simply wrong) interpretations of the traditions of the very diplomatic corps he labeled frauds, murderers, to wisk him away in a Hollywood ending. And the world is shocked, shocked that it's not working.
Some little while ago finem respice wondered:
Politically one wonders what the backlash will look like when the full weight of the United States federal government comes crashing down on a somewhat reticent, white haired, Australian former hacker (or similar).
That time appears to be at hand.
- 1. Caseli, Irene "Julian Assange Will Be Granted Asylum, Says Official" The Guardian (August 15, 2012).
- 2. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (April 18, 1961), Article 22 §§ 1-3.
- 3. Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition (1989).
- 4. "Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," Done at Vienna (April 18, 1961). (.pdf)
- 5. Ibid. Article 8 §§ 1-3.
- 6. Ibid. Article 9 §§ 1-2.
- 7. Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, 1987 Chapter 46, Part I, §§ 1-3.
- 8. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Article 1(i).
- 9. Ibid. Article 36 § 2.
- 10. "Ecuador to Announce Assange Asylum, British Threat to Raid Embassy," News.com.au (August 16, 2012).