A view to an Embassy

Anonymous.
Anonymous in front of London’s Ecuadorian Embassy.

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations. ~ George Orwell, British author (1903-1950)

It’s a rare sunshiny day in June when I pop by Harrods the famous department store in Knightsbridge to stockpile my favorite brand of knickers before heading back to Kenya.

Large families – mostly Mid East and Asian – enjoy lunch under green and gold parasols at an outdoor Harrods bistro.

Just about everyone is ogling an ugly beige Bugatti Veyron  sitting in front of the department store entrance. Retailing for $8m it is the world’s most expensive car. A parking attendant snaps a ticket under the windshield wiper. For the owner of the Dubai-registered roadster, what’s a parking ticket?
Most are carrying on with their lives likely unaware that the hulking red brick building with white stucco trim across the street harbors Julian Assange, now the second world’s most famous whistle-blower/leaker turned fugitive. The Colombian and Ecuadorian Embassies, each occupies half of the first floor.

Have you ever seen Julian Assange? I asked policeman standing across the narrow alley.

“I’ve seen him twice,” he said proudly with a Scottish accent.

What was he doing?

One time he was giving a speech on that little balcony. The other time he was boxing.

Boxing? Why, was it Boxing Day? I said trying to be chatty.

I reckon he was trying to keep fit, he said.

Makes sense; Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, has bunkered at the embassy for a little over a year now, hiding from British authorities, who want to arrest and extradite him to the US on charges of espionage.

-1

I’d also heard he’s suffering from Vitamin D deficiency from the lack of exposure to sunlight.

The glorious light of day.
The glorious light of day.

An elderly woman passes us. ” I hear it’s his birthday. Is he coming out today? If he does give him a push, eh?”

“No, we want him in there,” the policeman mutters under his breath.  Indeed, it’s likely the fugitive will stay in the Embassy for the rest of his life. But it’s more appealing than the alternative – solitary confinement without trial like his fellow leaker, Bradley Manning. Across the street aging hippies strum the guitar to serenade Assange on his 42nd birthday. They’re all hoping the famous fugitive will make a birthday appearance. A Ecuadorian woman brought a chocolate cake and doles out pieces to the two dozen or so fellow supporters, policemen and a SKY news crew. The SKY news presenter emphasized to viewers he was not there to cover Assange’s birthday, but to announce that a microphone bug was discovered in the Ambassador’s office.

“What’s Assange up to today?”, said a tall wiry man, who looked in his 70s says. If he comes out someone should hose him down.” He shakes his fist at the building. “What a waste of bloody money!”.

“He [Assange] is in the UK because of YOU Americans,” the news presenter said to me pointedly.

The UK and US governments foot the bill for the five uniformed police who work in shifts and are stationed around the building at all times. A plainclothes officer monitors the building from an open window across the street. The Ecuadorian government provides the living space in a building consisting mainly of rented flats.

A dingy piece of cloth partially drapes a greasy window located toward the back of the embassy. I keep thinking I might glimpse former National Security Agency (NSA) technical contractor turned whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, boxing with Assange.

But Snowden is stuck in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport awaiting for a country in South America to offer him asylum.

May be a good thing Assange doesn’t have a view of the sunshine, bustle and cheer outside. Unless he sneaks over to the Colombian embassy his main view is of a brick wall, policemen, and a narrow alley with a dead-end.

-4

Related stories –

[The Guardian’s] Glenn Greenwald Takes MSNBC‘s Mika Brzezinski, to Task for Using NSA WH Talking Points 06102013′

Side note on Mika Brzezinski –

According to Wikipedia, brother of MSNBC presenter Mika Brzezinski, Ian Brzezinski, served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO and was a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton. (My note – Booz Allen Hamilton is the technology consulting service the NSA hired to Hoover data from Internet users).

(continued) Ian Brzezinski is a Senior Fellow in the International Security Program and is on the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisors Group.  Key highlights of his tenure as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy (2001–2005) include the expansion of NATO membership in 2004, the consolidation and reconfiguration of the Alliance’s command structure, the standing up of the NATO Response Force and the coordination of European military contributions to U.S.- and NATO-led operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.[29]

Glenn Greenwald to the “caviar correspondents”: (Socialist Conference 2013):
The purpose of Snowden and whistle blowing [whistleblowers Wikileaks, Manning, Drake] is not to unilaterally destroy the [surveillance] system, but… has been to shake up foundation of corrupted and rotted roots of America’s political and media cultures.
Socialist conference 2013
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Uulv4ve6RJ8

Anonymous calling card. "You found the card now find the truth".
Anonymous calling card. “You found the card now find the truth”.

Categories: Conflict In Context - Field Notes, PassportTags: , ,

Margot Kiser | Conflict in Context

I am a Kenya-based American correspondent, focusing on conflict in East Africa. I have contributed to Newsweek, Al Jazeera, The Daily Beast, among others.

Follow me on Twitter: @margotkiser1

Best long read ByLiner 2011 for my Newsweek feature, 'Pirates in Paradise' http://byliner.com/margot-kiser/stories
http://www.newsweek.com/authors/margot-kiser

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