Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Julian Assange, Public Servant

Wikileaks founder and international man of mystery Julian Assange has apparently been arrested in London on Swedish charges that he lied about whether he was using a condom.

This is a travesty of justice, quite figuratively. Under the pretense of prosecuting a sexual offense (and I won't even mention the absurdity of Sweden's he-said, she-said laws), the governments of the developed world are colluding to persecute a man who embarrassed them and broke the rules of the good-old-boys club. Why haven't they arrested him of espionage or something? Because he did not break any real laws. So while lawyers spend days finding some law in some country under which they can charge him, they want him safely held in a Swedish gaol.

This persecution is wrong on two counts, substance and form. In form, it mocks the systems of justice and fairness that underlie our societies. Global Review has long held that unenforced laws are nefarious, since they allow unscrupulous authorities pretext to arrest whomever they want. Thus in Assange's case. In substance, Assange should not be charged with a crime because he did the world a service. The soldier who gave him the documents should no doubt be court-martialed: he stole data and broke all kinds of professional codes. But Assange chose to release the data altogether at once, not using it as blackmail or to gain power. He published it responsibly, and did the world a service by showing what really goes on in diplomatic circles. The Arab governments fear Iran: everybody knew it, but now it's public, not an "open secret". And if the U.S. Department of State was used for illegal acts of espionage, that should be laid at the door of Secretary Hillary Clinton and her predecessors, who ordered the violations.

Transparency in government is vital for democracy. Assange should be applauded for presenting this valuable data in a transparent and straightforward way. If the governments of the world are so desperate to shut him down, we should ask: are they just angry at being caught, or do they really have something to hide?

No comments: