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Julian Assange, the major domo of Wikileaks, ought to be in jail.

There is a word away from a whistler blower and Assange. The whistle blower sees something wrong in his sphere of work and tells the public what it is. Assange is releasing documents not because he’s concerned for the truth but as a universe class trouble maker. And he’s doing seriously dangerous things such as disturbing relations between Russia and the United States.

Who has not said to his/her spouse “here comes Aunt Mary to the door, “what a pain in the ass she is!” closely followed by “Hi Aunt Mary, wonderful to see you again”.

There is no way that civilization could operate if all personal notes, or in the case of governments, all private observations, were open to the public.

If what Assange is doing was just embarrassing, that would be one thing, but when those embarrassments are made public much more harm than good comes from it.

Suppose, in a briefing note from staff, the President, prior to a meeting with the Russian government, sees a very candid assessment of, say, Vladimir Putin, an assessment made to have Mr Obama understand the man fully. That document, leaked, could have and indeed has had a terrible after effect,

The justification of Wikileaks is, evidently, the Pentagon Papers, which was study prepared by the Department of Defense, and a top-secret United States Department of Defense history of the United States‘ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of the New York Times in 1971. They disclosed the bankruptcy of truth in the American government’s public treatment of the war in Viet Nam which papers. Incidentally, are still held as secret.

I’m not sure I could defend Daniel Ellsberg,  the man who leaked this report, even though this disclosure shortened the war. I suppose one would have to say that the “end justified the means”. The distinction was that Ellsberg had the sincere motive of exposing the US government lies upon which they relied to keep the people out of the picture. He was a whistle blower not like Assange, a man who released documents for pleasure.

If Assange is captured and winds up in jail for a lengthy period he’ll certainly will have no tears from these eyes.

The enormous problem of preventing this happening again now faces the US government – not the Russian and Chinese governments which have been given a free pass by Assange. Being computer illiterate I have no idea what can be done. It may be that heavy penalties must be brought to bear and here’s one of the many consequences of Assange’s crime – legitimate leaking may in general be caught up in any law passed meaning that whistle blowers in general can no longer function.

It is, one must say, a grey, murky area between what Ellsberg did and Assange’s crimes and the US and other governments are going to have to find a way to safeguard governments from prying for the sake of prying while not making it impossible for someone who sees, from close in, a terrible injustice.

11 Responses to “Wikileaks”

  1. admin says:

    If you haven’t seen the documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America, do so, it does a great job of revealing the legal issues surrounding Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers.

    I agree with what you say here about Assange; just let the legal system run its course. However, I think some of the things said by Repugnikans about this are way over the top. For example, McConnell said, “I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.” McConnell seems to believe that U.S. laws should apply in every country on the planet.

  2. Grant Tomlinson says:

    I could not disagree more. The person who broke his obligations to keep the information classified is, in fact, in jail. Mr. Assange has no such obligation to the US government as he is neither a citizen nor a resident. Surely if we believe in the rule of law, we must apply it properly!

    As for the damage done; I don’t buy it. To take one example; do you seriously believe that Iran, a Shia nation, didn’t think the Sunni nations of the gulf secretly wished them ill? Iran is too aware of the murderous history between Sunni and Shia to be surprised. World leaders get their own diplomatic cables and know very well the frank talk that goes into them. Did anyone, apart from the terminally naive, doubt that the US twists diplomatic arms to achieve its goals?

    Even in Afghanistan – do you really think Karzai is unaware of what the western nations think of him and his family? He’d have to be unbelievably stupid and naive to not know … and he so far appears to be neither stupid nor naive. He’s played the west like a cheap fiddle.

    The leaks have been useful most of all as a clear test of who believes in the rule of law (not those calling for Assange’s murder) and who understands how international diplomacy has always been conducted (not those who genuinely believe this causes more harm than good).

  3. Tom Cretain says:

    These documents were accessible to 3 million people. The Russians read them long before Wikileaks got hold of them. As did, no doubt, every other government in the world.

  4. e.a.f. says:

    If the person who sent the material to Wikileaks and Wikileaks published them, wikileaks, in my opinion hasn’t done anything wrong. The people who access and forward the documents may have violated the terms of their employment, but that is something else again.
    A number of things which have been published so far, just looks like things people would talk about at any cocktail party. Then there are things the public needs to know, i.e. the money Karzi and his family receives and doesn’t go to the people of the country.
    I just wish Wikileaks would “out” some of the other countries documents, of course the U.S.’s are most likely the most entertaining.
    Most of what has been said, available to other countries via their own spy networks so what’s the problem.

  5. nef says:

    Sorry Rafe,
    he is just cracking the Matrix open a little more
    Have you perhaps misplaced your reading glasses ?
    Ever heard of City of London ?

  6. nef says:

    apropos McConnell comment:
    Public good
    Calgary Herald December 8, 2010
    However jocular, Tom Flanagan’s “manly” call to kill WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange coheres with President Richard Nixon’s rage at the Watergate exposure, and with the “disappearance” of thousands of political dissidents throughout the world. Even beyond the Third World, if a message embarrasses the tyrant, he kills the messenger. Perhaps if our journalism had not abandoned investigation to pander to celebrities, we would not be so jolted by the WikiLeaks. For exposing the lies and criminality in world governments, I’d nominate Assange for a Nobel Peace Prize.
    Maurice Yacowar,

    Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Public+good/3943664/story.html#ixzz17XjcjVFN

  7. G La flam says:

    Rafe you are off base: I as a citizen, who submits to a 33% government shakedown, every year, own my governments secrets: I paid for them. Most of the Wikileaks, stuff is not nessessary government information, rather it’s consealed informatrion that I should have in order to asses government effectiveness. You may be content to pay taxes and stay dumb, but I am not.

  8. Travis says:

    I’m unaware of what law Assange is deemed to have broken.

    If I, as a Canadian citizen, find top secret Canadian government documents lying in the street, I am in big trouble if I leak those to other governments, no matter that the documents were carelessly misplaced. If on the other hand they are American government documents, do I have any obligation not to reveal them? Not legally I don’t. I never pledged allegiance to that flag. There are moral implications, but that’s between me and my conscience.

  9. Kim says:

    I disagree with you too Rafe, Assange did not break any law, unlike Tom Flanagan, who suggested that Obama should commit murder.

  10. david hadaway says:

    Sorry to join the chorus, as usually I agree with almost everything you write. However I think that here you are looking at things with the eyes of an insider. The overblown reaction to the leaks in the USA, which has reached the point of seriously threatening long-standing constitutional safeguards, suggests to me the typical reaction of the guilty to the truth. You will be well aware of the parallels with John Wilkes and the reporting of the proceedings of Parliament.

    Here is the New York Times following the Supreme Court decision to allow publication of the Pentagon Papers. “We believe that it’s most profound significance lies in the implicit but inescapable conclusion that the American people have a presumptive right to be informed of the political decisions of their government.” That goes for us too, in my opinion.

    Assange is out of prison now, but let’s also remember Bradley Manning who brought the truth into the open, held in conditions that amount to psychological torture. A price is being paid beyond the momentary embarrassment of a few shameless politicians.

  11. Manny says:

    Mr Mair – You need to rethink your views on the WikiLeaks matter. Is the Guardian, which printed the leaks guilty of anything?
    What about the New York Times and Der Spiegel? did they break the law for having published said leaks? Is Assange guilty of anything for having released the material? Why is he alone accused of breaking “a law”.

    In fact which law has Julian Assange broken? Not the laws of England, nor any laws of his home country Australia? In fact i have not heard anyone accuse him of having broken any laws with regards to the wikileaks.

    Why do you not, with your thorough knowledge of Canadian Law, condemn and call for a full prosecution of Tom Flanagan who called for the execution of Mr. Assange. Last I heard it is a crime to make death threats in this country,

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