I’m sure some of you have been following the Wikileaks news recently… how the founder and spokesperson for the organization, Julian Assange, has been arrested in England, over an accusation in Switzerland. There are reports, which I haven’t been able to confirm, that the US is trying to criminalize Wikileaks retroactively and get him extradited, though on what legal grounds I don’t know — he’s not a US citizen or even a US resident, so he’s not subject to US laws by any legal theory I’ve ever heard of.
His only true crime is that he has embarrassed the great and the powerful. And while that is rarely without consequences, those consequences cannot — and must not — be enforced by the US legal system.
The US government works for us, the US citizens. At least, in theory. More often the people in high positions in the government work for themselves, and do whatever they think they can get away with. Wikileaks, no matter what you think of the organization’s recent actions, is just showing US citizens (and incidentally everyone else) what their government is doing in their names. Like it or not, we need to know this stuff. To quote key points from that article:
[…] I believe Wikileaks as an organization to be flawed and Assange to be a problematic figure, to put it charitably. There are negative effects and public benefits from the project’s actions, so far. But Wikileaks has a right to exist, just as you have a right to know when your government’s secrets grow into public deceptions.
I believe we are better off knowing what we now do of those deceptions from the material Wikileaks has brought to light.
Just as past court struggles for the legal protection of free speech in America have sometimes involved characters or groups one might find flawed at best, and abhorrent at worst, so too is this an imperfect entity deserving of the full protection of law and due process.
Wikileaks may be flawed. But Americans cannot allow the US to criminalize Wikileaks. If we do, the rights of all citizens are jeopardized.
I won’t even get into the government’s sizable hypocrisy in this matter.
We need to keep an eye on what our government is doing, and throw the bastards out when they start getting grandiose delusions of power. To (possibly mis-)quote comedian Robin Williams: “Politicians are like diapers and must be changed frequently for the same reason.”
Fortunately, the Internet makes this sort of censorship a lot harder. As I’ve said before on this blog, if the governments of the world had realized the power that the Internet offered their citizens, they’d have quietly strangled it in its cradle.
Again I’ll haul out my favorite Supreme Court Justice quote:
Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.
— Justice Louis Brandeis, Other People’s Money, and How the Bankers Use It, 1933.
It’s the absolute truth.