The Cable Guy Julian Assange Becomes US's Public Enemy No. 1

REUTERS

By and

Part 2: A Battle for the Internet


The digital slugfest has begun, as the showdown over WikiLeaks becomes a battle for the Internet. American conservatives like Marc Thiessen, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, had already called for a similar cyber attack by the US military after the Afghanistan leaks. The battle for the virtual presence of the organization has the potential to expand into a cyber war.

According to Assange, his case shows the extent to which the "privatization of state censorship" has already flourished. Amazon, he says, "caved in" to Liebermann and the US Department of Homeland Security. "These attacks will not stop our mission," the Australian claimed at the end of last week, "but should be setting off alarm bells about the rule of law in the United States."

The massive attacks also have to do with the feeling many Americans have that WikiLeaks is on an anti-American crusade, a charge that is only partly true. The first document that the organization leaked, in December 2006, was a letter from an Islamist who called for the formation of an "Islamic republic" in Somalia. Assange himself had selected the letter with the intention of launching the site with something special that would defy people's expectations. In a declaration of principle from its early days, the group wrote that it mainly hoped to receive documents from repressive regimes like those in Russia and China.

Taking on Repressive Regimes

WikiLeaks' first major success was the publication of a report, classified as secret, by a British detective agency that documented the corruption of the ruling clique surrounding former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi. Assange had analyzed the report, together with Kenyan human rights attorneys and journalists, and released it shortly before the country's presidential election in late 2007. He is still convinced that the poor showing of President Mwai Kibaki, who was supported by Moi, had something to do with his leak.

The WikiLeaks archives also contain hundreds of documents from countries like China and Thailand, where freedom of the press is restricted. It's only been since this year, when the "Collateral Murder" helicopter video from Baghdad, the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs and the embassy cables were published, that it has seemed as if there were a "one-dimensional conflict with the United States," as Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the former WikiLeaks spokesman who left the organization after a dispute, puts it. From Assange's perspective, this concentration on America also has to do with the fact that the United States is the only superpower, and that it is waging wars on two fronts, in Iraq and Afghanistan, thereby meriting the attention of whistleblowers.

Rarely has an individual divided the world's population as sharply as the white-haired Australian. The global elites are now afraid of WikiLeaks, and repressive governments like the ones in China and Russia are worried about disclosures coming from their computer networks. The WikiLeaks Internet address is blocked in many countries, including Thailand and China.

Modern-Day Robin Hood

On the other hand, Assange can depend on the support of an international flock of followers, which has formed on the Internet and celebrates the Australian as a modern-day Robin Hood: a just renegade, devoted to a good cause.

Time has nominated Assange as a candidate for its "person of the year" designation, which is traditionally used to distinguish the individual who has had the strongest influence on the world in recent months. In justifying the nomination, jury member Lauren Zalaznick says that he has "put journalistic integrity on a knife-blade edge." "What is the responsibility of the journalist to make public or keep private?" Zalaznick asks. "The very name WikiLeaks raises the issue of digital media with respect to politics, society and culture."

The Internet poll is still underway. Late last week, Assange was in second place, with about 130,000 votes, behind Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan but well ahead of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, US President Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Last week, even the Bank of America learned how influential Assange has become. When Assange announced that WikiLeaks intended to leak the internal documents of a major bank, the bank's share price fell by more than 3 percent.

In light of this worldwide polarization, it would be an irony of history if Assange were to stumble over a private matter, of all things: the Swedish sex scandal.

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Naturhuf 12/07/2010
1. Witch Hunt
maybe he did something, but this sure feels like modern witch hunt at its best and I am surprised that Sweeden is playing along........just sad
mae 12/08/2010
2. transparency and hypocrisy at Wikkileaks
For someone like Assange who loudly proclaims himself to the be the champion of transparency, he refuses to be transparent about his own legal troubles in Sweden. Prehaps Mr.Assange should practise what he preaches and publish on Wikkileaks the testimony of the women who have bought charges against him in Sweden. Surely if the Swedish authorities have issued an arrest warrent this is serious. How I wish someone would give Assange a dose of his own medicine and publish all the details of the women's testimony - then we get to know the real Assange, not the fame seeking meglomanic masquerading as a freedom of speech advocate. Assange knows releasing leaks from Burma or North Korea will not get the same worldwide media attention.
robertlaity 12/08/2010
3. Obama is America;s "Number One" enemy.
Obama is a Usurper: http://www.thepostemail.com/2010/08/17/there-is-no-president-obama/
mae 12/09/2010
4. What if German diplomatic cables were released - more shady and immoral ? Possible
It will be interesting what Der Spiegel's reaction would have been if WikkiLeaks had released German diplomatic cables ? Imagine reading about how German goverment turned a blind eye to greedy German companies selling WMD capability to Saddam, and building chemical factories for Saddam in the 1980's. Imagine reading about how now the German government is sponsering business fairs in Sudan in the name of the German export machine while the USA has laws against doing business with the genocidal dictatorship in Sudan and US companies can sell only humanitarian items such as food to Sudan. Imagine reading how Germany has no such laws and and German companies can sell anyting to genocidal regime in Sudan? Furthermore the German goverment is strongly pushing for stronger buisness ties with Sudan's despots in the name of German corporate greed? Worse of all imagine how Der Spiegel would look if it didn't fullfil its responsiblities as a free press to uncover and report the German goverment's shady and immoral conduct in Sudan in the name of exports? But then again Der Speigel didn't uncover the German government's shameful behavior when German companies did brisk business building chemical factories for a brutal dictator like Saddam who already had a well known reputation for using poison gas during the Iran/Iraq war. It was the New York times that broke the story. Shame on the German media that a foreign media broke the news of German government's misdeeds. Doubtful though that Der Speigel will feel any shame over that though. Der Speigel should look at its own hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to goverment transparency. Apparently transparency is well and good for the USA and only for the USA, not for Germany especially if it puts at risk German corporate profits - therefore we will never see any articles in Der Spiegel about the morally repugant behaviour of the German government in Sudan.
BTraven 12/09/2010
5.
Zitat von Naturhufmaybe he did something, but this sure feels like modern witch hunt at its best and I am surprised that Sweeden is playing along........just sad
I think it is wrong to mix up the two cases he is alleged to have done – the two women who felt they were sexual abused by him went to the police before the latest documents (cables) have been published. The only indication that Sweden's request for extraction could have something to do with his work is that the accusation was temporarily abandoned for reasons I do not know. I am not a lawyer but I think his chances to come out of the case unharmed are not bad since it should be no problem for his defenders to accuse the two women that they want to take revenge so everything is made up by them. I think it would be a very nasty trial. It's a pity that both parties had not find a way to avoid a scenario where the whole world will learn of what happened. It's disgusting.
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