On trying not to prove your critics right

Julian Assange says that the authoritarian regimes of the world define themselves through their attempts at concealment and conspiracy.

Some governments – we don’t know exactly which, but the group seems to include the governments of Australia, the UK, Sweden and Switzerland – are apparently set on confirming his theory. There’s some recent evidence from Switzerland here.

I have to say that if a government thinks that what the Wikileaks people have done is criminal (and by extension, that what Der Spiegel, The Guardian and the New York Times have done is criminal) then they should issue an arrest warrant and, if relevant, start extradition proceedings. They shouldn’t act like anonymous, shabby harassers. It doesn’t help the cause of state secrecy to muddle the Wikileaks releases up with what Julian Assange may or may not have done on his nights off, or with his filling out a bank account application incorrectly. It does nothing for anyone’s confidence in government if PayPal gets leant on so that donations to Wikileaks don’t make it to Wikileaks, or if Wikileaks’s various web servers are serially taken out as and when they come into use. All of that stuff erodes the legitimacy of government.

Perhaps governments are shit scared by Wikileaks. If so, then I’d direct them to this piece by Martin Kettle. I’d also suggest that they be as nice as possible to their employees; I’m thinking of the ones doing jobs like Specialist Bradley Manning did. This would be just a prudential measure: I don’t suggest that what Manning did was the right thing for anyone to do.

14 thoughts on “On trying not to prove your critics right

  1. postbank states that you can’t have an account with them if you’re not resident. On the other hand Switch which handles the .ch domain states: SWITCH and wikileaks.ch
    SWITCH, the registry for .ch internet addresses, is currently receiving a large number of enquiries as to the circumstances under which SWITCH would delete wikileaks.ch. This is governed by law. As the registry for .ch and .li domain names, SWITCH is not responsible for the content of websites. Whether the content of wikileaks.ch is of relevance for criminal law is a matter for the courts to decide on.”
    Swiss bashing didn’t work this time. Try again.

  2. I didn’t know about any problem with wikileaks.ch, but thanks for adding this bit of information to the pool, Hans. As far as I can see, wikileaks.ch is working fine.

  3. I should add that yes, of course, some of the troubles cropping up for Wikileaks might have cropped up anyway, and yes, current circumstances will indeed tend to make all news of them seem salient to considerations of whether or not there’s a deliberate behind-the-scenes effort to shut Wikileaks down. But all of them?

  4. Mr. Assange stands accused of rape in Sweden. Sweden is a country with impeccable rule of law. If this charge is harrassment, as you indicate, it will undoubtedly show up in his trial, and he will be found not guilty. If, on the other hand, he is found guilty, it says nothing about Wikileaks as such, but it says something about Mr. Assange as a person.
    Charlie, aren’t you guilty of exactly what you accuse the various authorities of doing, namely failing to keep the issues separate from each other ?

  5. Henrik, see my previous comment. Note that there’s a big difference between:

    (a) A person trying to work out what’s going on by considering all available evidence, and;

    (b) A government throwing sand in the eye of someone who upsets them by using all available means.

  6. It does seem a bit of a coincidence that these charges should pop up when he’s just embarrassed a number of governments.

    OTOH, if he’d been a citizen of Russia, how long would he have lasted?

  7. Apropro of nothing, Charlie, but I was an SPC in the ARNG with the same MOS as PFC Manning. You’re treated pretty damn well. Manning had his own personal issues.

    It would be a good idea to repeal DADT. Other than that, though, the U.S. Army really is as “nice as possible to their employees” as it would be possible for any large organization under military discipline to be.

    Which is not to minimize the impact of DADT; it is just to say that as general advice, your statement seems a bit out of place. Other than that, I agree completely.

  8. “Sweden is a country with impeccable rule of law. If this charge is harrassment, as you indicate, it will undoubtedly show up in his trial, and he will be found not guilty.”

    Aren’t you sceptical of such charges that surface years later? And, harassment is by nature an extremely nebulous and ill-defined charge, whereas in civil court the defendant has to prove his innocence. What exactly is “harassment”?
    Does a ” how about dinner?” qualify? Because this is a term that is defined only in the mind of the plaintiff.

  9. I was referring to the alleged harrassment of Mr. Assange by some sort of world wide conspiracy against Wikileaks. My reading in the Swedish newspapers about the charges does not indicate any such conspiracy. Apparently a lowly policewoman was the main catalyst in making the charges (I am not up to speed on Swedish law in this area, so I cannot possible speculate on the veracity of the charges), but it seems to me that Sweden is an unlikely co-conspirator, if indeed there is a conspiracy.

  10. i do not feel sorry for julian in the least. he played the game and took his chances. his predicament is of his own making. spying is spying and and hacking the government is illegal. this nerdy aussie who thought he would challenge the u.s. and other countries is finding out now how the big boys play. he’s going nowhere for a long time.

  11. Oh! I just can’t wait to hear a bunch of men discuss the merits and demerits of a rape charge in Sweden! Already one of the Chief Gossip’s attorneys has trotted out the argument that the great differences in definition of rape in SWE and England should be taken into account and I see more traces of it above…plus ça change.

    However, no one points out the glaringly obvious: no danger of leaks coming from inside the PRC or any other truly authoritarian regime, where they really do protect their secrets. The self righteousness on this issue of “freedom of gossip” seems awefully one-sided, or old-fashioned, for better or for worse.

  12. However, no one points out the glaringly obvious: no danger of leaks coming from inside the PRC or any other truly authoritarian regime, where they really do protect their secrets.

    Alexandra, this looks a bit like a whatabout? argument, don’t you think?

  13. hum, you may have a point and thanks for the link. It’s certainly relativistic my thinking:
    the United States is certainly and clearly more open and unauthoritarian than other world powers such as PRC, RUS, BZ or India. So if you are attacking authoritarianism, would it not make sense to go after the latter category? Would an analogy be: you have two thieves, one is an occasional thief, the other a serial thief. You prosecute the former since you have a case against him. You let the latter go since you have no evidence?

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