SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This week, Ecuador announced that it would grant Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, political asylum. He's been holed up in Ecuador's London embassy since June facing extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims that he denies. But somehow he's got to get from London to Ecuador and he can't just buy a ticket, buy a canister of tea in duty-free and fly to Quito. The British government says that Julian Assange will be arrested if he sets a foot out of the embassy door.
So what does he do? Don a wig or Groucho glasses, arrange to be smuggled out on laundry day in a large bag? This week, Joshua Keating of Foreign Policy magazine posted a precedent. Not legal, a luggage precedent. In November of 1964, a 30-year-old man was found bound, gagged and drugged in a trunk in the Rome airport marked diplomatic mail number 33.
The New York Times identified the man as Mordecai Luk, some kind of renegade Israeli spy, and said that an airport guard had heard him moaning as the trunk was being loaded into an Egyptian airliner. The trunk had been outfitted with a small seat and head support. The Times speculated that, quote, "It had been used for other such shipments because the exterior appeared worn."
These days, of course, a passenger in a trunk can watch movies on his phone while in the air and a small trunk with a small seat and a few air holes - that sounds a lot like regular economy class travel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.