Can the USA make laws that bind non Americans living in other countries?
Julian Assange, an Australian living in London, and founder of Wikileaks, greatly embarrassed and offended the USA by publishing sensitive dioplomatic documents that had been given to him (and other media) by a US serviceman.
Clearly the serviceman broke a US law, making him liable to prosecution. Call him well meaning, whistleblower. naive, or a fool, but he was a sergeant and so should have known better than to breach the trust placed in him by his country.
Can anyone explain to me how Assange can be held accountable to US law. As a non citizen of the USA, he had no representation in the legislature that made publishing that information an offence for Americans in its jurisdiction. How can that domestic censorship law now be applied to a non citizen who at the time of the alleged crime was living in another country far outside of the jurisdiction of the USA?
Clearly it can’t, and that is probably why he has not yet been charged. Nevertheless, a Grand Jury has been appointed to hear an indictment, and the USA has requested extradition. On what basis does it intend to try him. Remember that this is a publishing offence, so censorship of another country is involved: how arrogant can we get? Indignation has been allowed to triumph over reason.
Whatever you think about the alleged publishing crime, there is, quite separate from that, a huge principle at stake here about libailty to the laws of foreign countries.
Would the USA sit still if one of its citizens were to be dragged to another country to account for an alleged offence for an action that is not a crime in the USA? (In Saudi it is against the law for a woman to drive a car alone) The same kind of thinking is allowing American music and film producers to pursue DRM and copyright offences which they allege have been committed by foreigners. At best these should be commercial disputes, but Australian Raymond Griffiths has already been extradited to the USA and is now in prison here for such a crime committed while he was living in New South Wales.
Of course the USA would not have accepted that for one of its own. At the time, the Australian PM, John Howard, was a sycophant crony of George W Bush: so eager to please that he would not stand up for the rights of his citizen. The Aussies should have simply told us to get fucked!
I think that we should return to the principle that (regardless of any treaties) if a person breaks a valid law of the jurisdiction that he is in at the time of the offence then he is accountable to that country only – and for an American, it does not matter if it is not an offence in the USA. The difficulty with this is that the internet makes it so easy to break the laws of other countries. Well, I say too bad, what a pity, never mind! The victim will just have to sue for commercial damages.
What do the nerds think?