Special to the Network Journal
The jury, so to speak, is still out on the status of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks Web site, who was recently released on bond from a British jail. Assange, as the world has come to know, is either a crusader interested in exposing government affairs or a villain on the wrong side of the law.
One’s decision is obviously connected to the stance on transparency, and WikiLeaks with more than 250,000 classified documents sent to various news agencies, has given new currency to the concept.
Of course, Assange and WikiLeaks’ version of transparency clearly runs in the opposite direction of that intended by the Obama administration.
In possible retaliation to their leader’s arrest, WikiLeaks released a fresh batch of secret cables. According to U.S. officials, these cables could be very damaging to American’s security and relations globally. WikiLeaks has threatened to release even more sensitive documents if it comes under attack.
Some of those attacks have already begun, particularly from credit card companies such as Visa and Mastercard that have stopped processing donations to the group.
On the other hand, supporters of WikiLeaks have surfaced across the political spectrum from Ron Paul on the right to a host of leftists, including Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Glen Ford of blackagendareport.com, Bradley Manning, who has been charged with disseminating the files, and Daniel Ellsberg, famous for disclosing the Pentagon Papers.
Many of the supporters have signed their name to a petition available on Wikileaksisdemocracy.org. The petition states that WikiLeaks and Assange’s rights are protected under the First Amendment.
“WikiLeaks performs an invaluable service to the broad U.S. and global public with a commitment to the protection of human rights and the rule of law,” the petition goes on to state. “Government representatives have issued serious and unjustified threats against Mr. Assange and his non-profit media organization which serve only to maintain a cloak of secrecy around high crimes and violations of international law, including torture, tampering with democratically elected governments, illegal bombings and wars, surveillance, mass slaughter of innocent civilians and more.
“We call on all governments, organizations, and individuals of conscience forcefully to condemn and reject all U.S. efforts to fraudulently criminalize the legitimate journalism of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and related efforts to expose an increasingly lawless U.S. government to the indispensable democratic requirement of public scrutiny,” the petition continued. True or false, any charges which the Swedish government may pursue are irrelevant to the primacy of an independent free press.”
Don’t look for Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sarah Palin’s name on the petition. Both have been unwavering foes of WikiLeaks with Lieberman stating that Assange should be charged with treason and Palin accusing him of being anti-American “with blood on his hands.”
George Packer of the New Yorker magazine told the New York Times that he is opposed to any prosecution of Assange. “Discerning the legal difference between what WikiLeaks did and what news organizations do is difficult and would set a terrible precedent.”
During her recent appearance on television’s “The View,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Obama and decried Assange’s actions. “People aren’t going to talk to us,” she said, urging that Assange be dealt with harshly.
Rice applauded Obama and agreed that the matter should be turned over immediately to the Justice Department for review and appropriate action. “I hope they hurry up,” she said.
Assange’s fate will be determined in early January when it will decided whether he’s to be extradited to Sweden to face charges filed by two women of rape or possibly on to the U.S. where his release of classified documents has raised serious questions from the Justice Department.
Traitor or martyr? You make the call.