Julian Assange and wikileaks – where is the responsibility?

By Michael Vass | December 6, 2010

To paraphrase an old saying.

‘Your Rights end when they violate mine.’

The concept is simple, and most across the world would accept that. Even in some of the worst dictatorships, some form or degree of the above concept exists. It’s so universal that in some form it exists between nations – that is those not engaged in war.

Given this thought, is it a surprise that so many governments are concerned about the Wikileaks site, and the man behind its actions Julian Assange.

Supporters of Wikileaks like to claim that this is simply freedom of the press. That revealing State secrets is part and parcel of the freedom that is the internet. But there is another concept that supporters refrain from discussing, responsibility.

Every news organization, small or large, is responsible for the content they provide. The medium does not change the responsibility or content, just the delivery method. So existing on the web does not absolve anything.

News media should not, and are prohibitied from, blathering on about false facts or endangering lives. If a “news organization” claims that X is a pedophile, without valid proof, they are liable to legal repercussions. The media that they reach readers on does not change their liability. The same is true if a “news organization” reveals critical facts in an ongoing police investigation. Or causation of (pending) stock market fluctuations. And yes, national secrets of whatever nation.

So Wikileaks is responsible for the information it is putting out on the net. Information that removes the credibility of the United States, thus hindering to some degree the diplomacy of the US with other nations across the globe. Left-wing liberals shouldn’t cheer that.

When any nation loses credibility, it creates instability in their interactions internationally. When that nation is the US, it means global instability. Global instability is a key component leading to massive wars. Think World War I or II.

If nations can’t speak with America, for fear of their secrets being revealed, America isn’t the only nation with a problem. Countries that might use America as a go-between suddenly lose a voice. As an example nations that fear financial or other retribution, for say denouncing the genocide in Darfur, that would normally fund relief efforts via America may stop because they will not risk being exposed. Who loses? The refugees and those being killed.

Some would say that Wikileaks is providing a service to the world. That exposing the secrets of nations across the globe is a positive. But how does the world benefit from knowing that Saudi Arabia wanted America to attack Iran? How does that information LOWER tension in the Middle East, with Iran now angry with Saudi Arabia, and potentially other Arab nations equally upset? How does that remove the desire for Iran to build nuclear weapons and a conventional army – to fight off a potential threat from Saudi Arabia that they did not previously know existed (or at least did not think was viable)?

Better yet, what is the good that has come from Wikileaks? What nation is better off with its secrets revealed? How has the world become safer and more friendly with secrets no longer hidden? More directly, how safe do you think the informants in Iraq and Afghanistan feel right now (for themselves and their families), knowing that members of Al Quida and the Taliban are pouring over ever document and detail to find out who they are?

Julian Assange and Wikileaks are responsible for the potential lives that may be lost, and any future instability that comes from his “reporting”.

Look at it another way. Watergate was important for revealing a crime. It had major implications, and identified areas of executive power going wild. Where are the crimes Wikileaks has revealed? So far all that has been revealed has been information to embarass and hamper the efforts of America internationally. Again, no positive benefit has come out of what has been shown, just damage.

Given all the above, is it any wonder that multiple nations want to shut wikileaks down? Doesn’t it seem obvious that those responsible should be investigated at the least, and charged appropriately. Is it a surprise that punishment is sought for what in many nations is a capital crime?

Consider one more thing. Currently Julian Assange has threatened to reveal more embarassing information, worldwide, if he is arrested – for any charge by any nation. That sounds like blackmail by definition.

The New York Times does not threaten to embarass a nation because its editor-n-chief gets a parking violation, or commits a crime somewhere in the world. In fact, no news organization in the world makes threats, whose purpose is solely to damage, because employees are justifiably and legally investigated or charged with a crime. So how pure or ethical are the motives of Julian Assange if he is resorting to blackmail – of the world in essense.

Looking at the reality of the situation, Julian Assange is a criminal. He has taken posession of stolen property and is selling that information (he is getting donations for all this, it is not being done without a monetary gain). He is actively committing blackmail. He is potentially (if not already) placing lives at risk.

As members of the press we believe in Freedom of the Press. As Americans we value and uphold the Right to Free Speech. But that does not mean we believe anyone is beyond responsibility for their actions, nor that they should act in a manner that causes more harm than good. Especially to make a buck. Such acts are akin to the dregs of humanity. No matter how it’s dressed up, or what noble ideal some may try to wrap it in, it is ugly and vile.

Julian Assange is a coward, because he will not take responsibility for his actions. He is a criminal for what he received from PFC Manning (who is by definition a traitor and should be shot as traitors deserve), and what he has done with that information. His actions are a blight on what a news organization does, and their purpose.

Lastly, if Julian Assange is not a rapist, as he claims, he should face the charges in Sweden and clear his name. He should leave no doubt in the minds of anyone in the world. Because his threat, to reveal even more information that could embarass nations and realistically cause the death of individuals and families if he is arrested, sounds like a criminal evading justice through any means possible. Somehow we don’t believe that the supporters of wikileaks would be as generous to the editor of say the New York Times if he were being investigated for rape.

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