As the Plot Thickens

The Strange Case of Julian Assange

As a novelist with a penchant for political mystery and suspense, I am familiar with the standard plot twist of the endangered protagonist: If only she can get the information out into the public, she’ll be safe. The men in black can’t touch her then and the world will have to grapple with the truth.

As the plot thickens in the strange case of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks and the man behind the latest uncovering of duplicity, hypocrisy and deception in American diplomacy, what is easily the most fascinating story of the year is also becoming the most important.

Say it ain’t so: The hero of our story cannot be a sex offender wanted in Sweden for something resembling rape. Even sexual misconduct, however it is characterized, is not permissible for our man of the hour. A good protagonist may be tortured, twisted, suffering extreme bouts of anxiety and depression but he cannot in any way be a sexual offender. Such a distinction would place our story in the waste bin of literature never to be consumed by the general public. We desire this story to be widely read.

This is not how our story goes. Rather, Julian Assange is under attack by the most powerful forces on the planet. Having outfoxed and outmaneuvered the intelligentsia, the wrath of the United States government is being brought to bear. When we learn that the Swedish government was not much interested in the case until an angry White House condemned the latest WikiLeaks release in terms normally reserved for terrorists and enemies of state, we begin to suspect that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is twisting some Swedish diplomatic arms. When we learn that Sweden is heavily invested in the international arms trade and may have something to hide, we wonder what bodies might be buried in the Swedish wine cellar. When we learn that the prosecutor refused even to talk the case over before posting Assange’s name on the Interpol most wanted list, our suspicions grow. When we learn that the Swedish Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on the warrant, we suspect our doubts concerning the Swedish judicial process are well grounded.

Moreover, when the Ambassador of Ecuador (perhaps inspired by the revelation of America’s betrayal of democracy in Honduras) came to the rescue, offering virtual asylum to our beleaguered hero, it was subsequently withdrawn for unstated reasons. The unseen hand of oppression no doubt belongs to the American diplomatic corps and an incensed Hillary Clinton. (How will this affect her still breathing presidential aspirations?)

Amazon announces that it will no longer allow WikiLeaks to use their servers and Pay Pal, a subsidiary of eBay, severs ties in attempt to cut off financing. The squeeze is on and we begin to wonder if it is even possible to reveal the truth in a corporate world.

In this case the cat is out of the bag. Elvis has left the building. But Assange and friends promise even more fun and games, the next episode exposing the highly questionable and perhaps illegal conduct of a certain powerful American bank.

So what have we learned from the latest WikiLeaks revelations?

Respectfully and with due deference to Julian Assange and his hacker friends, we have learned very little of substance. In fact, we have learned more from the reaction than from the documents themselves.

If anyone was surprised that the Saudis and their Sunni allies in the Middle East are more threatened by an empowered Iran than they are by Israel and, in fact, were cheerleaders for a preemptive strike on Tehran, then they had little interest in foreign policy and likely remain ignorant today.

If anyone is surprised by the extent to which this American administration has gone to protect officials of the Bush administration from charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, they have not been following along.

The sum total of the WikiLeaks revelations thus far is to confirm an already dark and cynical view of the American government. It adds to our disillusionment and the realization that a change in presidents and a change in ruling parties did not translate to a change in policy.

For me the most damning revelation (if it can be called that) was our government’s response to the military coup in Honduras overthrowing the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, in June 2009.

At the time I correctly read the coup as an unjustified reaction to Zelaya’s proposals to help his nation’s abundant poor. That he wanted to raise the minimum wage was just too much for that nation’s elite to bear. I incorrectly interpreted the Obama administration’s neutral response as a step in the right direction. Thanks to WikiLeaks we now know that our own diplomats got it right from day one: The coup was unlawful, ungrounded and therefore deserving of an immediate and forceful denunciation. Our official response neither condemning nor approving the coup was calculated to legitimize the coup with a subsequent election while Zelaya was exiled to the Dominican Republic.

The message to Latin America was, and is, clear: This administration like its predecessors is no friend to democracy for whenever the elite come calling we will answer. Tragically, the Obama administration continues to pursue a policy of exploitation under the guise of free trade though it has alienated the entire hemisphere.

This was the administration that was supposed to champion transparency yet the venom it has shown toward the man who forced some small measure of it upon them is palpable. There is nothing in these documents that poses a threat to any lives and the only policies they challenge are policies that deserve to be challenged.

What follows is an assault on the free flow of information through the worldwide web. Members of congress and the executive are scrambling to find ways to shut WikiLeaks down. Because the web is international and the WikiLeaks people are highly competent their efforts are likely to fail. For individuals and organizations with lesser resources the effort to suppress might well succeed. That is the greatest danger the WikiLeaks phenomenon entails: that freedom of the web might be compromised.

It is critical to bear in mind that WikiLeaks is not the source of its information; it is the conduit. It receives information from people within the halls of power who believe the public has right to know and that that right supercedes all other considerations.

We need a WikiLeaks. We can no longer count on our corporate-owned media to do the right thing when it may undermine their own interests. We need a neutral conduit. In fact, we need a thousand conduits so that none can be singled out for retribution.

Imagine what might have happened had someone leaked the Downing Street memos or something like them, exposing the lies of war before the first bombs fell on Baghdad. If an unjustified war could be averted and hundreds of thousands of lives saved, how sacred then is the right of government secrecy?

I do not know what happened with two women in Sweden but I have a suspicion that the case would never have come to light if not for the other activities of Julian Assange. If guilty, without question he should be held accountable.

In his role as a provider of information that enlightens or empowers the public, Julian Assange deserves all the protection that freedom of the press can provide. Toward that end we should extract a price on Amazon and eBay with a Christmas boycott for doing the government’s dirty work.

I sincerely hope that all efforts at suppression and revenge fall short and that our government finally learns that transparency is not only the best defense against security leaks, it is also the best policy.

This is how our story must end: Not with our hero in jail but exonerated and our government shamed into more open, honest and responsible policies. It must leave us yearning for the next installment.

Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by Dissident Voice and others. Read other articles by Jack, or visit Jack's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on December 6th, 2010 at 7:36am #

    I wouldn’t worry about Sweden. Nobody there seems to take the charges too seriously, but since they have been made, the authorities have to investigate them. However different the procedure may be from American criminal procedure, there is nothing unusual in what has happened so far and no reason to suspect “arm twisting”. Prosecutors and judges are independent of the government and diplomatic pressure would only come into play if the US sought to extradite Assange to the US (universal jurisdiction!). That seems unlikely. The charges seem to be fake and the idea probably was to hamstring Assange by driving him underground, thereby preventing him from giving press conferences. As long as Assange is in the territory of the Council of Europe (essentially, the whole of Europe, except Belarus), he is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and has a right of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

  2. bozh said on December 6th, 2010 at 7:52am #

    we all shld know that constitution is a holy writ to which every prez swears an oath of allegience.
    this means that people working for and under the protection, cannot ever commit a crime.
    the only crime they can commit is to not wage war, bailouts, poverty, ignorance when constitution commands such ‘defense’ of u.s. tnx

  3. Don Hawkins said on December 6th, 2010 at 9:42am #

    In fact, we need a thousand conduits so that none can be singled out for retribution.

    Better yet a few million to start.

  4. mary said on December 6th, 2010 at 10:38am #

    A B.C. lawyer has filed a complaint with the Vancouver police, urging them to investigate whether Tom Flanagan, a former campaign manager for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, broke the law when he said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be assassinated.

    Gail Davidson, a co-founder of the group Lawyers Against the War, wrote in the complaint that, on Nov. 30, Flanagan “counselled and/or incited the assassination of Julian Assange contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada,” while commenting on the CBC program Power & Politics.

    Flanagan, a political-science professor at the University of Calgary and Harper’s campaign manager in 2006, said he thought Assange “should be assassinated, actually. I think [U. S. President Barack] Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.”

    Davidson alleged that statement qualifies as a breach of s. 464 of the Criminal Code, which says counselling an offence, regardless of whether it is committed, can be punished by a sentence similar to what’s attached to the actual offence.

    The charge is usually levied against gang leaders or others in positions to order hits against rivals.

    Flanagan has since issued a statement apologizing and said that he was not being serious.

    Assange, for his part, has said the professor “should be charged with incitement to commit murder.”

    “We can’t just take to the airwaves suggesting that various people be killed,” Davidson told Postmedia News on Sunday. “I know that if it were me, if he had said, ‘I’d like to see Gail Davidson assassinated,’ I wouldn’t take it lightly.”

    Flanagan could not be reached for comment on the weekend.
    /…. {http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Complaint+filed+over+call+assassinate+WikiLeaks+founder/3932805/story.html#ixzz17LQylJVY}

    Swiss banks have frozen 30,000 euros of Wikileaks assets today.
    The Swiss post office bank, PostFinance, has frozen the accounts of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
    The whistle-blowing website says the freeze includes a defence fund and personal assets worth 31,000 euros.
    The move by Switzerland’s PostFinance to freeze the Wikileaks accounts is the latest setback to hit the whistle-blowing website since it began publishing the US cables last week.
    For its part, Wikileaks says it and Mr Assange have lost 100,000 euros in assets in a week.
    “Late last week, the internet payment giant PayPal, froze 60,000 euros of donations to the German charity the Wau Holland Foundation, which were targeted to promote the sharing of knowledge via Wikileaks,” Wikileaks said in a statement. (BBC website)

    BOYCOTT PAYPAL, EBAY, AMAZON

  5. hayate said on December 6th, 2010 at 12:47pm #

    From Mary’s post above:

    “Switzerland’s PostFinance”

    I wonder who owns that outfit.

  6. clive said on December 7th, 2010 at 1:51pm #

    Mastercard and Visa have frozen Assange’s accounts.
    I’m wondering if someone in England could setup a bank account which is in the name of say the ‘Julian Assange Defence’ account and have some prominent citizens signatories to the account. A website could then be setup to take donations or even just direct deposit. The US and other corrupt governments are just trying to starve him of funds.
    As for the actions of the Australian government just makes me ashamed to be an Australian.

  7. bluesapphire48 said on December 7th, 2010 at 2:08pm #

    Julian Assange’s leaks really didn’t reveal that much, except that The Emperor has no clothes. The American Government is afraid of its own shadow, and people who tell the truth are now terrorists.

    Yes, they ARE terrorists, because the rich are terrified of them. Imagine how much worse it would be if Assange’s leaks showed anything worse than State Department officials looking down their noses at poor countries and Hilary Clinton caught with her panties down.

  8. mary said on December 8th, 2010 at 6:54am #

    No irony then as PJ Crowley US State Department announces that the US will host World Press Freedom Day 2011.

    The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 – May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press.

    The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

    Highlighting the many events surrounding the celebration will be the awarding of the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize at the National Press Club on May 3rd. This prize, determined by an independent jury of international journalists, honors a person, organization or institution that has notably contributed to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom, especially where risks have been undertaken.

    The Newseum will host the first two days of events, which will engage a broad array of media professionals, students, and citizen reporters on themes that address the status of new media and internet freedom, and challenges and opportunities faced by media in our rapidly changing world.

    The State Department looks forward to working with UNESCO and the U.S. executive committee spearheaded by the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy, IREX, and the United Nations Foundation and the many civil society organizations they have brought together in support of the organization of events unfolding in Washington.

    For further information regarding World Press Freedom Day Events for program content, please visit the World Press Freedom Facebook page

    state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/12/152465.htm

  9. mary said on December 8th, 2010 at 7:00am #

    Craig Murray -

    December 8, 2010
    They got the wrong person
    There are many thousands of people imprisoned in Uzbekistan alone who should not be imprisoned and who suffer much worse conditions than even the genuine horrors of Wandsworth being visited on Julian Assange. But the Assange case has implications for ever deteriorating Western freedoms which should not be overlooked.

    Then there are many war criminals who ought to be in jail and who are not. Most prominent of these are Bush, Blair, Cheney, Straw and their crew. A minor figurewho ought to be in jail is Anna Ardin. Here are two tweets she published after being “raped” by Julian Assange:

    /….. craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/12/they_got_the_wr.html

    and

    December 7, 2010
    Ludicrous Attack on Assange
    The decision to put Julian Assange in a cell over ludicrous sexual offence allegations is a politically motivated act that must be resisted. Assange has never been in hiding from the police, and there is no reason at all to believe he would abscond if granted bail.

    This is kompromat – the use of sexual allegations to denigrate a person perceived as a threat to the state. They did it to Charles Parnell and Roger Casement and, a lowlier case, to me.

    /… craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/12/ludicrous_attac.html