I realized a few weeks ago that many people were seriously confused by this wikileaks drama. It’s been going on for a while now, but the background information to the case and the organization isn’t given in news reports. So who is and what does Wikileaks do? Why is Julian Assange in ‘trouble’ with the U.S. and other states such as Sweden and the UK?
So lets begin with the question: Who is Wikileaks? And what does Wikileaks actually do?
Wikileaks is a self professed non-profit organization which employs a few individuals full time, and has a host of other people around the world who contribute to the running and management of the organisation (like an umbrealla organization – a large group of people who sometimes contribute to the organisation in different ways on a non-permanent basis). In 2010 the organisation admitted that they had 5 fulltime employees working for the organisation. It’s servers are spread around the world, but are based in Sweden. Wikileaks has suggested that they may move its main servers to Iceland or Switzerland. Julian Assange is the founder of the organisation and its ‘front man’ but he is by no means the whole organisation.
What do they do and what is their purpose? According to the organization itself, their purpose is “to bring important news and information to the public… One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth.” Wikileaks acts as a ‘whistle blower’, as in, they keep the identity of its sources (usually the general public) anonymous and it is these sources that provide documentation that Wikileaks can then publish (usually confidential or secret information pertaining to governments).
It is a ‘media’ outlet which is not restricted to the laws of one land, working in cyber space. Julian Assange became a target when U.S. Bradley Manning provided Wikileaks with what is known as the ‘Afghan War Logs’ and the ‘Iraqi War Logs’ as well as U.S. diplomatic cables. Many argue that the release of the war logs which show videos of U.S. marines killing Iraqi militants and a journalist, helped stir the Arab spring uprisings. The U.S. would also without a doubt claim that it’s national security was compromised. Whistle blowing in many states is protected by law, so that governments are held accountable to its citizens. This is intrinsically linked to a free press which should not be controlled by the government in democratic nations. Hacking in order to steal confidential documents however, is usually punishable by state’s laws. As Wikileaks was not the original leaker of the cables (they were given the cables) it’s important to ask why the U.S. wishes to charge or accuse Julian Assange with an offence – after all, Bradley Manning is being held (he has not been charged yet – but has been held for over two years now) on charges of espionage.
The fact is, many media outlets have also been extremely critical of Assange and Wikileaks as they are essentially competition for traditional media outlets. Wikileaks is a new form of news publication. Traditionally it is newspapers that cover whistle blowers and their stories. If we look back at history, it was the Washington Post that covered Watergate – A team from the Washington Post received documents from Deep Throat in a garage. Funnily enough this is why the press and media outlets are usually protected by law in democratic states. Does the U.S. then see Wikileaks as fair game because they are not tied to any one state by law? The U.S. is the hegemonic power in this world, and I for one believe that the U.S. government is feeling threatened by Wikileaks. It is going after Assange so that they look like they are doing something about it, and perhaps it is a warning for other internet whistle blowers. I can understand why Wikileaks has so many supporters around the world. Is the UK really that outraged by the accusations of Assange’s illegal sexual assaults? I doubt it. Sweden’s prosecutor could also interview Assange via video link if it was the primary reason and concern for his extradition to Sweden. Since when have all sexual assault cases been taken to this extreme? Yes, perhaps Sweden wants to be seen as doing the right thing in this case in regards to the accused sexual assault since Assange is a public figure, however, as I mentioned there are other ways for Assange to be interviewed without him physically being moved to Sweden. If there is enough evidence in this case to try Assange, of course he should stand trial for his actions in Sweden. This however has not been yet proven to be the case. Assange is correct for thinking that it is mainly a ploy to have him extradited to Sweden and then the U.S. The U.S. has said that Assange is only trying to escape charges of sexual assault, however any logical human being would be concerned as the U.S. has arrested and kidnapped numerous persons for which it considered a threat to its national security.
If the publishing of the cables by Wikileaks is a ‘terrorist act’, does this imply that strong nation’s such as the U.S. are not to be accountable for their actions? Of course the U.S. believes that its national security trumps the rights of Wikileaks. However, if this was Australia instead of the U.S., I as an Australian citizen would want my country’s leaders to be held accountable for their actions, even in war and especially at war. Wikileaks have published other documents which reveal the actions of leaders or war lords in other states, such as the authorization of assassination of government officials given by a former Somali Colonel, however of course the releasing of this information has not come under such scrutiny. I’m also not that surprised that Ecuador is trying to ‘get back’ at the U.S. by granting asylum to Assange. How will this story end? It’s hard to say. I don’t believe that anyone expects this story to go away anytime soon. Would the UK or the U.S. be prepared to storm the Ecuadorian embassy if they get desperate? Maybe, however I would think that they would play the waiting game as long as possible in order to try and not cause more damage, after all Assange has many supporters. If they did storm the embassy, I am sure that many other smaller nations would also feel threatened by this action, therefore this decision would not be taken lightly by the UK or the U.S.
What are your thoughts on the Wikileaks saga? Please remember to be respectful and no derogatory comments will be allowed. They will be annihilated.
Until next time!