Julian Assange, the notorious Wiki leaker is currently planning his next move as he now enjoys the safety, comfort and hospitality of the modest Ecuadorian Embassy that provided him asylum on August 16th, 2012. Assange is accused of sexual assault allegations from Sweden as well as being under investigation in the United States for accusations of information terrorism and/ or espionage in connection with government documents and cables being published in 2010 by Wikileaks.
He cannot, however, currently leave the embassy due to the certainty of being arrested and possible extradition. Ricard Patino, the Ecuadorian prime Minister, gave reasons for his asylum including: “serious threat of unjust prosecution by the United States,” even though the extradition would be to Sweden and not the U.S.. Assange has claimed the charges being brought against him in Sweden are part of a plot and attempt to further extradite him to the States for prosecution involving the Wikileaks publishing the sensitive, classified and embarrassing documents Officials and parties involved deny the accusations. The U.S. has maintained that formal charges are not file and Assange is under investigation only.
This is likely to be a lengthy stay for Assange; politics and diplomacy are now being tested. Ecuador is standing against three significantly involved parties: Britain, Sweden and the United States. Britain has a law that enables them to enter the Embassy and arrest Assange; however, it has its own potentially dangerous consequences and has little, if any, possibility of being enforced. British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has stated they would “not allow safe passage to Latin America…..There is no legal basis for us to do so.” So short of smuggling him out in some fantastic way, Julian Assange will be enjoying an extended stay and hospitality of the Ecuadorian government.
He addressed the public and the media from a balcony of the embassy on Sunday, August 19th, 2012 thanking his supporters and making assertions to the U.S to “end their witch-hunt on Wikileaks” and calls on President Obama to “free Bradley Manning,” the military soldier now known as the Wikileaks “whistle-blower” that was arrested for supplying the documents released.
President of Ecuador Rafael Correa has stated, “Since Mr. Assange has received asylum from the Ecuadorean state, he can stay in the embassy indefinitely.”
Assange and his history of events continue to pose several controversial issues:
- Wiki Leaks released non-classified as well as classified and secret documents. He didn’t steal them, but he did publish them with minimal consideration for anyone that might be put in harm’s way as a result.
- Accusations of sexual assault filed from Sweden on the behalf of two women.
- Political and diplomatic tensions are heightened between Britain and Ecuador and also being tested between Australia and the U.S.
- Freedom of Speech, transparent administrations, and blurry lines of espionage and terrorism are all being questioned.
Assange is a self claimed activist, journalist, editor, and hacker. He is also known for being a political talk show host, computer programmer and publisher. This is a man that likes to stir the proverbial pot. Offensive and dangerous as he may be, the question remains; did he cross a line of legality? Does true transparency trump the safety and well being of our nation? History says “No.”
Throughout history those in charge decide what is and is not permissible for the “people” to know. Claims of honorable intentions pave the way of compliance; “for the greater good”…“to better society”…”to protect the people from themselves”…“the safety and well being”…or “in the best interest of” are nothing more than the justification of control. One group of people controlling the other- control the knowledge and information and you control the perception and likely response.
The “Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.”
It also should be described as fickle and dynamic. It was passed in 1967 and has been amended, restricted and expanded eleven times since 1974. There are nine original exemptions but each administration seems to have their own idea of what is and isn’t protected under the umbrella of National Security.
It should be noted: the first exemption is:
(b)(1) EXEMPTION – Protects Classified Matters of National Defense or Foreign Policy
This exemption protects from disclosure national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified in accordance with the substantive and procedural requirements of an executive order.
Some of the documents and cables in question were of this nature; but is reporting this information as heinous of a crime as stealing, leaking…misappropriating, whatever tag you label it with? Bradley Manning was military and that alone demands a level of loyalty, responsibility and a separate set of rules.
The idea of Wiki leaks is valid; there needs to be organizations that watch what corporations and governments do- history has proven that time and again. The difference is lines are drawn when people’s lives are in jeopardy; no one has that right. That is the reason it is the first and most important exception within the FOIA.
Personal responsibility for one’s actions should be the standard here, from all concerned, but especially of the three parties involved: journalists, the military and from our presidential administrations. Assange has demonstrated a blatant disregard for all others concerned. Wikileaks has resulted a firestorm of embarrassment, questionable policy procedures and, more likely than not, death. Assange holds the position that any risk to informants’ lives was outweighed by the overall importance of publishing the information.
He is willing to allow Ecuador lose their political standing and possible alliances for his cause. He rebuts sexual assault charges with claims of conspiracy. He has watched as his informants are threatened and possible killed or prosecuted for treason and espionage. He has skipped bail and hid behind loopholes taking advantage of the international laws. He claims righteousness yet is not willing to answer for or stand by his actions. He is willing to let others take the fall for his principles, but is too cowardly to defend his convictions under the scrutiny of a formal inquiry. That is his true crime.
True transparency will never be…or will it? Our world is getting smaller and smaller. Technology has given truth to lies; evidence is caught more readily and authenticated with higher efficiency. Anyone with a cell phone is a potential reporter or whistle-blower. Skills with computers have enabled access to sensitive and classified information all over the world… and people have been killed as a result. Information and knowledge have always been and will always be elements of power and control. Like it or not, true transparency is becoming a by-product of technology. Don’t let any politician tell you differently- the amendments to the FOIA are the proof.