Wikileaks founder's passport confiscated

Julian Assange, the founder Wikileaks (a whistleblower site that exposes classified and covered-up government information) reports that customs officials at the Melbourne Airport confiscated his passport and told him that the passport would be canceled.


  1. And then returned the passport 15 minutes later. They likely didn’t know who he was. This was almost certainly routine. As the article notes, this isn’t rare at all, if for example the passport has become damaged.

    1. They returned, it, but…
      “When the passport was returned to him after about 15 minutes, he says he was told by authorities that it was going to be or was cancelled.”

      The article implies it’s common to take damaged passports (makes some sense), but is it routine to cancel citizens’ passports in Australian airports?

      1. I’d say that’s probably overstating it – to the best of my knowledge, they probably would have said “You might want to be careful with the condition of your passport, as if it’s too damaged it might get cancelled” – And Australian airports and airport security don’t have the power to do that, I’m pretty sure.

        Most likely, his RFID chip was damaged – the article doesn’t say – and if he used the most popular method, the microwave, it would have left a telltale burn mark, which counts as tampering, and is illegal, and will result in your passport being cancelled.

        It seems to me to be little more than a routine check. I’m an Ex-flight attendant, and it wasn’t uncommon for my passport to get checked every now and again, because I had this terrible habit of dropping things on my passport, sometimes repeatedly, which invariably damaged the RFID chip. But hey, I’m an FA, passport gets a lot of use, things get damaged, you know?

        1. If overstatement is involved, it certainly would not further Assange’s credibility. Given his professional situation, his public statements need to be consistently reliable and matter of fact. Even repeating idle threats is probably not a good idea in the public limelight. It looks squirrelly and implies that he might be a questionable source of information.

          1. If there is overstatement, it can’t automatically be pinned on Assange. The BB link goes to one Aussie paper, which references another Aussie paper (sites look the same, however), which sources an Aussie news program as the original. In the transcript (scroll to the end), it wasn’t a direct quote from Assange, but the interviewer’s close to the piece–which put the anecdote in the context of Assange’s current dealings with the Australian government regarding Wikileaks’ publishing of an Internet blacklist.

            In a general context, it could have been just a common incident. But in the context of Assange’s activities, it’s not unreasonable to consider that there may be something else going on. Either way, it’s not Assange that made allusions to government shenanigans, but the SBS interviewer.

          2. Thanks for that transcript grimc.

            I watched the episode too.

            I found Assange to be thoughtful, sensible and quite precise. Actually,exactly what I was thinking of as necessary.

            He is in contrast to the episode which presented him, from opening to close, with numerous allusions to “mysterious,” “mercurial,” “paranoid,” “elusive,” etc., etc., etc. Also he is in contrast to the headline of this article, which suggests far more trouble over his passport than the episode intones. (The passport issue was almost an afterthought.)

            I would like to think, and had the impression that Assange follows a sensible strategy of: if carrying a big stick, walk/talk softly. But it is hard to be certain. Most verbiage in the episode is not his responses, but given to a colorful intro and closing–the latter of which spawns this topic–constant narration, persistent framing of questions and regular allusions to rumor and hearsay.

            Guess that is modern journalism though.

            Maybe if it is a real issue we will read about it on his site.

          3. If the 23rd character in agnots reply is a ‘d’, it certainly is a concern troll. I’m not saying that it is, but i’m also not saying that in case it’s not a ‘d’ agnot isn’t a concern troll. Just, you know, dropping the word; essentially unrelated to agnot who might not be a passive agressive jerk.
            @agnot: RTFA; media (including BB): squirrely, Assange not determinable through article.

        2. Unlikely to have been anything to do with the rfid chip as these were only introduced to Aus passports in recent years. Assange has been living overseas for a while so presumably had an older passport. And just because it is routine does not mean it is not suspicious.

          Many people in Australia who are or have been involved in subversive activities know what happens when you catch the attention of the the Feds or ASIO. Harassment, surveillance, confiscation of personal documentation, potential incarceration. It’s all part of the game in this country. Sadly most Aussies never see it and when confronted by it cannot believe it is happening in the country they think they know.

          There’s a reason Assange doesn’t live here and why Wikileaks could never be based here.

          1. “Assange has been living overseas for a while so presumably had an older passport”

            His could be newish. It depends on when he got it renewed. My son’s current passport is about two years old and it has the RFID chip.

            But it could also have taken a beating with the travel he does. I know a guy who got turned back leaving the country because his passport was within three months of expiry. Another person was warned about their passport because it had been dunked in water. I suppose that is a good way to falsify a passport to they keep an eye out for it.

  2. If you’re quick, there is a good video interview with Assange at If you’re not quick, it will still be there somewhere but not so easy to find.

    The passport incident is true, not so sure about the 15 minute part. He did get it back eventually though. It is routine for the authorities to have a closer look at worn or damaged passports, so that may be all there was to it.

    More interesting is the fact that the Australian Federal Police are onto Assange about Wikileaks leaking Australia’s internet blacklist. They knew he had entered the country. A letter about that is shown in the video above.

  3. I’ve had the exact same thing happen to me, except at Sydney airport instead of Melbourne. It isn’t a conspiracy – it just seems to be what they do for damaged passports.

    They take the passport away – check that it’s fine and tell you to get a new one. I think any damage that stops the automatic scanner from reading it properly triggers it. (In my case the pages were quite wrinkled from being immersed in water)

    What do you expect them to do? They are simply telling you to get a new passport.

  4. If I were Julian I would naturally be a little paranoid when traveling. While I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here, I’d be on edge when it comes to the ownership of his passport.

    If a government has their eye on you, anything can happen, even the little things can add up to subtle or strong hints of intimidation, even here in the U.S., not just Australia. For example, my husband (now ex) and I went to Melbourne for part of our honeymoon, and while we were there met Julian (nice guy and one of the brightest people I’ve ever met) through a journalist friend of his, who was also a friend of my then-spouse. He had been interviewed for a book published over 10 years ago on encryption so he was a good source for her.

    After that trip, every time we went to an airport, foreign or domestic, our bags were either sniffed, x-rayed or doubly-inspected by hand without fail, no exceptions. A few months before 9/11, someone attempted to steal our car or gain entry to it, but didn’t steal anything as a phone, laptop and lots of change were left behind. Judging by the state of the car, the person was interrupted by one of our neighbors, as they left the glove box open. From then on, I would occasionally yell into it, half-jokingly asking “our friends in domestic surveillance” pointedly to “Leave us alone” with addition of other language I’m not going to include here. This all stopped when the spouse and I split up and I moved to L.A.

    To S & J, if you’re reading this, even though it got weird for a little while, thank you for the brave work you’re doing! Love, I

  5. My previous non-RFID Aussie passport caused me to get taken aside while they checked it out a few times returning to Melbourne.. frequent use, and some countries habits of stapling bits of paper inside the passport had caused the staples to make holes near the photo and other bits of key information that made them keep double checking for tampering.

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