There’s a lot of upset about the arrest and possible extradition of Julian Assange. Many of his supporters claim that the case has come as the result of US pressure, but to believe this is to conflate two issues that may be completely separate.
My views on Assange are reasonably well known, I think he’s extremely creepy and there’s something that just doesn’t seem quite right. However, although he may argue with this, Assange is not Wikileaks. Although I believe Wikileaks have been very irresponsible in their actions (when compared to other similar sites), I don’t make the mistake of bundling one with the other.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume support for Wikileaks. I’ll even adopt the rhetoric of some of Wikileaks’s most avid supporters and claim that they are “changing Governments”.
So, now that my Wikileaks support is (temporarily) established, we’ll establish something as ‘fact’;
Assumption 1: What Wikileaks is doing is 100% right, they couldn’t have made any changes nor done anything differently.
So, with this in mind, what does this assumption do for Assange? Nothing, that’s what. Whether Wikileaks is 100% in the right, or the wrong, has no bearing on whether or not the man is guilty of rape. Although the term ‘sex by surprise’ has been bandied about, the charge seems to be that he had unprotected sex with a woman whilst she was asleep (knowing full well that she wouldn’t have consented if she were awake.)
Whether or not you consider this rape is immaterial. If Swedish law says that it is, then in Sweden committing that act constitutes rape. I think it would be fair to say (assuming the allegations are true and accurate) that most women, in any country, would be somewhat upset if you were to do the same to them.
The Underlying Problem
The problem is, too many supporters seem to have been sucked into Assange’s reality distortion field (he can expect to be sued by Apple, I bet they’ve patented it!). Because they support the actions of Wikileaks, they automatically assume that Assange is being falsely accused.
In fairness to these supporters, it can be very difficult to separate Wikileaks from Assange. The mans ego seems to ensure that the two are as closely intertwined as possible, a point which has led to Wikileaks staff abandoning Wikileaks to start another project.
The Truth May Differ
Documents published by the Guardian, however, suggest that he (or his lawyers) may have been less than honest with the world. Most evidence is (apparently) available to his Swedish brief, and the allegations make no mention of the much touted “sex by surprise”.
Assange claims he was allowed to leave Sweden, which certainly appears to be true. What’s not been so widely publicised it that he had agreed to return to Sweden on a specific date. He then decided not to. Although Assange’s supporters have claimed that the case was initially dropped as having ‘no merit’, the documentation pertaining to the case seems to disagree. Mr Assange was permitted to leave Sweden, but had been due to return for interview in the week beginning 11 October. Mr Assange himself told friends in London that this was the case, but that he had decided to ‘stay away’.
When asked why he was fighting return to Sweden, Mr Assange said that he did not need to be “at the beck and call of people making allegations” and that there were “serious problems” with the prosecution against him. The arrogance of this cannot be understated; as the accused, it’s not really his place to decide whether the prosecution has any merit. Those accused have a simple means of recourse – provide the investigating authority with any relevant information that they require.
More Facts to Come?
Although I have a dislike for the persona that Mr Assange presents, I’m not ready to make a judgment as to his guilt. The simple fact is, we don’t yet know about the case. Assange and his lawyers have been busy providing the media with statements alluding to conspiracy theories, yet nothing of substance has actually been presented. Despite this, quite a proportion of internet users seem to have already made their minds up.
It’s quite clear that Mr Assange is keen not to be returned to Sweden, but there could be any number of reasons for this. As others have pointed out, it’s likely to be easier for the US to extradite Mr Assange from the UK than it would be from Sweden. Especially as, once Mr Assange is in Sweden, the Swedish Government would need to ask the UK for permission to extradite him to the US. That fact alone somewhat undermines the rabid claims of conspiracy that seem to be in the orbit of Mr Assange’s ego.
Of course, there may be a hidden motivation for the case, but it’s far from clear that there actually is. The brief profiles of the accusers that are available suggest that these women are quite anti-establishment; indeed this may have been what drew them to Mr Assange. It seems unlikely, then, that they would make these accusations unless they felt they had been wronged (or could make substantial gain!).
The ‘leak’ of the Swedish police file to the Guardian has been roundly criticised by Assange’s supporters as an attempt to ‘smear’ him. Whilst this could be true, there’s an alternate possibility; Assange’s defense team may have been the source of the leak. As they’ve already claimed, the publication of these documents could severely prejudice Mr Assange’s right to a fair trial. It could, in fact, be enough to have the case thrown out of court. If there is a case to answer, what better way to avoid it than to create the appearance of a prejudice against the accused?
This, of course, is speculation, but it does highlight an important point: Where Mr Assange is involved; you need to consider every possibility.
Hopefully this post has provided the reader an insight into the case against Mr Assange, and how it’s quite possible that it is almost entirely unrelated to Wikileaks and their actions. Wikileaks raises its own concerns, but they are a completely different issue to that of whether Mr Assange did or did not commit rape under Swedish Law. If he did, then regardless of the good/bad that Wikileaks have done, he should be punished.
The concerning thing is that we will probably never know the truth. With all the conspiracy theories bouncing around, even a definitive conviction will probably be used as ‘proof’ of the conspiracy by supporters of Assange.
I’ll be making my own mind up on the basis of the facts presented to us, I just wish more people could separate Julian Assange from Wikileaks. It’s not too difficult to understand that even someone who does good things (if that’s what you believe of Wikileaks) could still be a bad person in other ways.
Notes on Wikileaks
In the introduction, I referred to Wikileaks as being irresponsible with their disclosures. I stand by this statement, but not everything Wikileaks have done has been ‘bad’. They’ve actually done some fantastic work in helping to highlight humanitarian abuses around the world, and received an award recognising this.
Unfortunately, they’ve also failed to maintain such high standards, one of which I shall touch upon shortly. First, however, there’s the issue of Pte Manning. Wikileaks collected donations , in his name, for a defense fund should he be arrested. Pte Manning’s legal team claim that no money has yet been received from Wikileaks from this fund. If true, it’s a truly damning indictment of Wikileaks. If the money was donated to help Pte Manning defend himself, use of it for other tasks is nothing short of fraud on the part of Wikileaks.
As a final note, I’d like to touch upon a Wikileaks bone of contention. It’s often asserted that the US Government allowed the unredacted publication of classified documents. Wikileaks approached the US Embassy in London and asked for help in redacting names etc. The Embassy refused, which has been used as ammunition to ‘prove’ the Government either doesn’t care about the resulting loss of life, or doesn’t believe that a loss of life could occur.
Simple question: Why would the Government give you any help, whatsoever, when your stated aim is to publish documents that they don’t want published? What Government would feel comfortable being viewed as actively supporting these leaks?
I can’t think of any that would actually help, can you?