Today is Julian Assange’s birthday.
Assange thinks human beings have a right to privacy, but democratic governments owe their citizens transparency.
Julian Assange isn’t an ordinary guy, but an innovator. Not mired in preconceived notions, he is a prime architect of WikiLeaks, the first Stateless news organization. WikiLeaks was designed to anonymously accept, vet and publish information that the public should be privy to.
It appears that elements of the United States government prefer to operate without citizen oversight. Some decades past, US government leaks given to Woodward and Bernstein brought criminal behavior in the Nixon government out of the shadows and into the open. For this service to their government and their nation, Woodward and Bernstein were lionized.
Although Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks were well thought of for their efforts in support of freedom in repressive regimes, the U.S. government attitude changed abruptly with the release of the the “Collateral Murder” video where military personnel cavalierly used unarmed civilians for target practice. As far as I know, no attempt has been made to address this problem. The war criminals implicated in the video don’t even appear even to have been reprimanded.
However, Bradley Manning, the young intelligence officer accused of being the WikiLeaks whistle blower, (the modern day equivalent of Bob Woodward’s “Deep Throat”) has been isolated, incarcerated, and held in conditions that suggest attempts to “break” if not “brainwash” the young man. It must be noted that Bradley Manning’s extreme loss of liberty has been effected even before he has been convicted of anything.
Wikileaks, and anyone associated with it, has also come under fire.
Julian Assange, as “the face of WikiLeaks,” has drawn the lightning. Various powerful people have leveled threats against Mr. Assange, including Canada’s own Tom Flanagan, reputedly a friend and mentor of our sitting Prime Minister, who advocated assassinating Julian Assange on Canada’s national public broadcasting network, CBC Radio-Canada. The video of Flanagan’s crime (counselling to commit a crime is in itself a criminal offense in Canada) has been seen around the world. Yet in spite of citizen complaints, petitions and public pressure, no Canadian police force will even bring charges against this well connected Canadian.
Currently, Mr. Assange is being held in the United Kingdom under house arrest, with an electronic surveillance ankle bracelet and draconian terms of “bail.”
Ostensibly, this is because Mr. Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors wish to question him. They had previously questioned him, and declined to bring charges. Many people believe the real agenda for Mr. Assange’s extradition is simply a sham to keep him “on tap” until the American government manages to find laws under which to charge him. Failing that, existing American laws, which currently allow protection to news media when publishing material that may have been obtained illegally by whistle blowers, may be changed.
So today, on his birthday, Julian Assange remains a prisoner.
House arrest may not be as bad as incarceration in an actual jail, but it is, nonetheless, a deprivation of liberty.
In spite of this, I hope Julian Assange can have a good 40th birthday, and take heart that many ordinary people around the world support the cause of freedom, and we do appreciate his efforts.
Julian AssangeThis photo by New Media Days / Peter Erichsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Free Bradley Manning photo by Steve Rhodes released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No derivs License
Thanks to my brother, humor columnist, Larry Russwurm, for spotting and photographing the graffiti below in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and releasing the image under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.