Originally posted on Rounders and Rogues:
The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in order to face allegations of sexual misconduct. Assange, who has still yet to be charged with a crime, and has attempted to face questioning in a number of legitimate venues outside of Sweden (including the Swedish Embassy in the UK), isn’t concerned about what he feels are politically motivated attempts to discredit him. He fears that by being extradited to Sweden, the United States will have an unimpeded path to extradite him to their shores, so that they can prosecute him under the 1917 Espionage Act, for exposing thousands of “classified” cables unintended for public viewing. Assange has 14 days to appeal this decision, but it’s looking more and more like his extradition to Sweden is probable.
What’s important to remember, if Assange’s extradition to the US comes to fruition, is that any time a government has information disclosed that they would prefer to keep secret, particularly information that contradicts proclaimed rhetoric and propaganda, then there is no end to what the power structure will do in order to discredit the source of the disclosure. The question we must ask ourselves, if we believe our 1st Amendment right to free speech is worthy of protection, is what exactly Julian Assange and Wikileaks did that was any different from what all media is supposed to do? The purpose of the media is to share classified information that serves the public interest. To prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act would be a gross misallocation of the act itself, not to mention an unprecedented attack on journalists everywhere. Given the Obama Administration’s warped interpretation of this act, as proven by the record number of charges brought against government whistle blowers, we shouldn’t be surprised if Obama doesn’t hesitate to use this against an adversarial journalist. Particularly one that is not a US citizen.
If we’re to consider the weight of this potential case honestly, we must ignore the personal slandering, as well as the character degradation, and focus solely on what Assange has disclosed. When the truth of what has been “leaked” is studied, it’s clear that what Assange is “guilty” of, is exposing injustice, lies, deceit, and malfeasance, at the hands of America and her allies. This translates to governmental embarrassment. From there, the matter is elementary. The US does not appreciate being made a fool. This exposure cannot be tolerated. This is the authoritarian mind personified.
The Wikileaks phenomena, and the Obama Administration’s attempts to slander Assange, draw an interesting parallel to what the Nixon Administration attempted to do after the Pentagon Papers had been released in the 1970′s. The Pentagon Papers was a book of US government classified cables, that had been leaked to the press, unveiling the myriad government cover-ups and propaganda behind the Vietnam War. What was disclosed in the Pentagon Papers, was the intentional divide the government created between what the public was told about the war, and what was really happening. Nixon attempted to make the ringleader of this disclosure, Daniel Ellsberg, out to be an extremist with an agenda, going as far as having spies break into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, in an attempt to find personal information that could be used to make Ellsberg look like a lunatic. Nixon knew what Obama knows, that if the messenger’s reputation and personal character can be tarnished, the message will be rejected, if not entirely forgotten.
What about free speech? What about the democratic ideal of holding your government accountable and demanding that the populace knows the truth? The fundamental issue in all of this is that the US government didn’t approve these leaks. Often the government feeds major media outlets with so-called leaks and stories that they want the public to know. But these stories are usually little more than propagandist nonsense that are designed to manipulate the public’s understanding. The Wikileaks disclosures expose astounding levels of incompetency. They also display how dispassionate and devious both our military and government leaders can be, particularly when it comes to how its own citizenry is exploited. These kinds of media revelations are not unique to Wikileaks. But, because these leaks were provided by an insider (Bradley Manning) who experienced a crisis of conscience over what he was witnessing, and because much of the information Wikileaks releases is obtained by computer hackers, the source of this embarrassment and unauthorized leakage must pay the price. This is why Obama and his servile media minions are aggressively seeking to destroy Assange’s reputation and credibility. Obama is sending a message to all journalists, that there is a limit to what you’re allowed you to say and write and disclose. In essence, what Obama is conveying, is that free speech has parameters.
If Assange is extradited to the US and is prosecuted under the Espionage Act, think what this would mean to civil liberty. Consider the kind of precedent this would set. When I talk about the injustices of the United States, the common reply I recieve is that I should be thankful that I live in a country where I can voice my dissent without disappearing in the night. What we are beginning to understand however, is that free speech, even in the proclaimed bastion of freedom and democracy, has limits. In a country that actually has an amendment guaranteeing the right to speak one’s mind, there are things the government won’t allow you to say.
I urge you to go and read Wikileaks. Peruse the site and examine the kind of information Assange and his team releases. It’s the kind of information the public has a right to know. It’s what the media everywhere should be covering, disclosing, and sharing. Wikileaks is the very definition of adversarial journalism. It has proven that government and corporate narratives typically eschew reality. Wikileaks purposefully does not disclose information that could endanger or compromise the lives of specific individuals, nor do they share the kind of classified information such as troop and military base locations, because if such a disclosure led to the deaths of soldiers and/or government employees, then their espoused ideal of transparency in an effort to create change, would be discredited. Assange is no terrorist. He is no criminal. We should be stridently calling for his absolute release from all threats and charges, and allow him to get back to doing what he does best: standing up to corrupt power by keeping the masses informed.