Monday, December 13, 2010

Wikileaks

There are different kinds of heroes. Some are people who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time but who rise to the occasion. There are the quiet heroes who sacrifice to give their children a better start, the parents who break the cycle of abuse so that their children never have to endure what they did. There are professional heroes – fire fighters and ambulance operators. People like Police Inspector Mike O'Leary, who risked his life and suffered severe burns to rescue two children from a burning vehicle. These are the people we celebrate.

But there are those who bear as much emnity as acclaim. People who put themselves on the line in order to expose the truth and challenge power. The danger these people face is not from random natural events, from enemy soldiers or dangerous criminals. The danger they face is from their own governments and its allies, their armies, their police forces and their secret services.

One of these is Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of Wikileaks which last week released 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables into the public domain. The cables have already proven to be highly embarassing both to the US Government and to others. They show the US spying on its allies and on UN officials, including taking iris scans, DNA samples and fingerprints from foreign officials. It shows the US Government condoning corruption and human rights abuses in “friendly” governments and using its diplomatic power to advance the interests of US corporations. It shows collusion in torture.

You may ask what is new about any of this. We know that the Whitehouse's rhetoric on 'freedom' and 'anti-terrorism' goes hand in hand with funding terrorists and supporting dictators. What these cables provide, though, is self incriminating evidence of the corruption at the heart of American foreign policy. It is worth reflecting on the role that the Waihopai spy base plays in this, as the New Zealand Government prepares to persecute the 3 men who helped pull the cover from that place almost 3 years ago.

Of course Mr Assange isn't sounding much like a hero after being accused of various sexual offenses in Sweden. He is currently detained in Wandsworth Prison, London after being refused bail and is being held almost incommunicado. On Wednesday, according to The Guardian, he was allowed one 3 minute phone call with his lawyer.

Rape accusations should not be belittled. Women face major obstacles to get justice in the courts, especially in Sweden. However I can't help noting some suspicious elements to the case. First, no charges have been laid. He is only wanted for questioning. The allegations led to a police arrest warrant in August but it was rescinded a day later by a senior prosecutor. Apparently she said that she believed the women, she just didn't feel what happened was a criminal act.

It is hard to see how Assange can be denied bail and extradited just so he can attend a police interview. Katrin Axelsson of 'Women against Rape' has remarked at the unusual zeal of Swedish and British authorities to pursue Assange. “There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women's safety” she writes. “Women don't take kindly to our demand for safety being misused, while rape continues to be neglected at best or protected at worst”.

According to media reports the USA has already talked to Swedish authorites about on-delivering him to the USA, where media commentators are calling for him to be assasinated and the Justice Dept is talking about espionage charges. Given Sweden's compliance (documented by Wikileaks) in delivering prisoners up for torture to Egypt under US pressure, it seems unlikely they would refuse. What remains to be seen is whether making a martyr out of Assange will weaken Wikileaks, or just make it grow.

(from my Waikato Times column 11 Dec 2010)

7 comments:

Ngatidread said...

Very good points. I hold the same notions true too. No charges, american guilt, Julian even offered to be interviewed by police in Sweden before he left...with no reply. So here we see another terrorist act not by Assange but by the Numero Uno terrorist of all american policy. obama has been quoted as saying "We recognise the inherent dignity and rights of every individual" haha Tui ad much. This all stinks to high heaven on high end colusion and coruption. Enough is enough. What is good is Julian has stated that if he is extradicted to the US (for what exactly?-freedom of speech?) he will have leaked on his site evidence against large enough to bring down the biggest Bank in america. Brilliant full power to the man and all the crew working tirelessly night and day to prevent CIA from hocking shut wikileaks. And I doffs me hat to the leakers...good work those men.

bigblu said...

I believe that Wikileaks have much more explosive revelations to make yet.They have said on UK TV that they have 'banked documents' which will be released if Julian is harmed in any way which I presume means extradition to any country. Unfortunately UK has very loose extradition arrangements with the US, agreed with Bush, and people can be extradited even without Prima Facae evidence, a much weaker arrangement than with Sweden. I read that the US Attorney General is working flat out to get this going pronto. He appears again Tuesday I think, at which time he will ask the Court to lift his detention & bail him. The US may at the same time fight this & ask the Court for more time to prepare an extradition case or actually request his extradition at that time.

ben said...

kind of annoying Nandor, wikileaks did not release 251,287 documents last week - only 1463 have been published at the time of this comment. Misreporting of this kind simply gives support to the falsehood that wikileaks indiscriminately publishes these documents without any thought for the ramifications for innocent people named in the documents, this is not the case at all.

Nandor Tanczos said...

thanks Ben, I stand corrected. I was going off a media report. I did go to some efforts to double check most of the info I put in the post, but I should have checked that too.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't give any more weight to the what politicians say in private than what they do in public. Just because it is said in 'private' doesn't mean they are telling the truth.

david.

Grassroots said...

Hi Nandor. Always been a fan of your work mate. At a local level I'm trying to start a wiki leaks about a 3ha Tauranga park council was gifted and now want to sell for housing. They have been very secretive about the whole thing, but a council insider has informed me that the maintenance budget was cancelled in Dec and an onsite tenant given eviction notice. I've started a couple of sites and got a mate to take some aerial photos. What can I do next? Any advice or support you can offer is mucho appreciated!
www.savethispark.co.nz
facebook: Sydenham Botanical Park

Grassroots said...

Sorry, site should read:

www.savethispark.blogspot.com

(I've had a few late nights getting it all together!)