Julian Assange – Not a terrorist, just a naughty boy

The arrest of wikileaks founder Julian Assange is not an attack on democracy, free speech or any other such hyperbole you may want to throw at it, but a curious example of Sweden’s bizarre rape laws which seeks to criminalise consensual sex between two adults. No-one is above the law however, even the really really stupid laws, and the push to make Assange some sort of political prisoner for his sexual misadventures is misguided.

But enough about that, I’m hear to talk about wikileaks and why I disagree with it.

I agree with whistle blowing, openness and accountability, I also agree that governments need to conduct some matters in private. There is not a clear line that can show where a piece of classified information should be kept secret and where exposing it is in the public interest. Assange’s opinion seems to be that exposing truth is justified in all circumstances and any attempt by government to keep certain things classified is akin to corruption. What about when it is government information on private citizens however? I dont think many of the Assange supporters would support a massive leak of documents of the Australian Tax Office, that could be private information about them. Whats that, you dont support a leak of government medical records, that could have information on you. Well what about the private citizens names in the hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in the recent embassy cable and Iraq and Afghanistan leaks? Its nice and easy to be all for openness and accountability when the spotlight isn’t shining on you.

A silly comparison you say? Wikileaks is about shining the light on corrupt governments. But of the quarter of a million cablegate leaks most are fairly mundane diplomatic chatter. Americans think Prince Andrew is rude, Rudd a control freak. Its hardly Watergate, its more Perez Hilton. Sure, there are more important leaks such as confirmation of US nukes in Turkey and the former opposition leader saying he would back the US in a China/Taiwan standoff and I would defend wikileaks goal’s and mission if its leaks were reduced to just things that exposed corruption and governments lying to the people. But that is not what wikileaks is about.

Julian Assange is a former hacker and he carries the hacker mentality into wikileaks. More and more the leaks aren’t about what they reveal but how large the leaks are and how secret. Its about getting what is hardest to get, what is most protected and what will give the biggest reason to boast. Journalists dont publish everything that is confidential, they use their judgement to publish what is in the public interest. There is never a clear line as to where the public interest begins, but Assange’s idea of public interest seems to be any government material that is private.

A few months ago the national broadsheet felt the need to out a small time blogger and tweeter called @grogsgamut as a Canberra public servant and deemed it in the public interest because he had commented on politics and the head of the abc had mentioned him. The Australia deemed this “in the public interest” but most people saw it as a gross invasion of privacy with little justification. By and large the people that opposed Grog’s outing now support wikileaks, curious how opposing values of privacy and openness are so easily interchangeable. I’ll damn you to hell for outing a left-wing public servant but diplomatic cables about Prince Andrews manners are vital for all to know?

There will never be a clear line for where a right to privacy stops and transparency and openness begins, and with the internet lines will get blurred and redefined. Wikileaks seems less and less about fighting corruption than it is about redefining privacy by publishing anything it can get its hands on.

Update: Some other interesting wikileaks related posts.

Malcolm Turnbull is quite measured and sensible on the subject and doesnt seem interested in the current demonising US conservatives are in to.

Mischa76 on wikileaks

A background on the rape charges and a good blog post on those charges

Update 2: More info on the rape charges, doesnt seem as ridiculous as before.

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8 Responses to “Julian Assange – Not a terrorist, just a naughty boy”

  1. Some of them may actaully be saveable | IAIN HALL's Sandpit Says:

    […] Cosmic Jester […]

  2. Leon Bertrand Says:

    Good post.

    You have to wonder what the great benefit of the leaking of all those diplomatic cables is. It just damages relations between the US and other nations, provides from free intell for their enemies and will make governments more determined in future to make their secrets leak-free.

  3. Iain Hall Says:

    Well done CJ you have written a post worthy of a plug at the Sandpit and you will find said plug written and posted 😉

  4. Leon Bertrand Says:

    This article from Assange’s Australian barrister is interesting: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/swedens-justice-system-may-become-a-laughing-stock-over-the-rape-charges-against-wikileaks-figurehead-julian-assange/story-e6freon6-1225965652205

    The rape charges would appear to be quite silly.

  5. Samantha Banfield - Witty Sam Says:

    Fantastic post!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Perez Hilton has now done a blog about Rude Prince Andrew… that’s how “on the ball” that Perez is! (insert sarcastic drone here).

    I agree with you – it’s very easy for the lines of what’s in the public interest. There’s just so much crap out there that I just don’t believe anything I read – that’s why I make up my own news on my blog.

    Life has turned into a Reality TV world – people love gossip, drama and outing people. It’s sad really… what’s next? (Superman save us all from ourselves).

  6. mr_crash Says:

    As a geek, I’m not sure I quite agree with your comments about the “hacker” mentality. Let’s not forget for a moment that what’s presently being leaked was accessible to a private with no particularly special access privileges – let alone millions of others. I don’t think any hacker worth their salt is going to try and tell you this was particularly skilled or difficult in any fashion, beyond perhaps the sheer volume collected and some interesting logistical problems in distributing information when your website is getting banned left, right and center.

  7. cosmicjester Says:

    Glad you liked it everyone. Personally I wouldnt be surprised if a populist civil liberties crushing patriot act type bill quickly passes the US congress soon enough that would make anyone who publishes these types of leaks clearly guilty of a crime, and that would be a shame if wikileaks did result in governments being able to be less accountable than they are already.

    The rape charges do sound pretty stupid, reading more into it some people say the first accuser asked him to stop when his condom broke and he declined (which would make it rape as consent can be taken away at any time during sex) but more seem to indicate that she consented to sex after the condom broke but that afterwards she thought he tricked her or intentionally broke the condom or something. Its hard to know because Swedish rape law seems very different from our own.

  8. cosmicjester Says:

    @Mr Crash, it was being hyped as one of the biggest if not the biggest classified documents of all time by wikileaks and its supporters. To me it seemed the way they were pushing it what the leaks revealed seemed to take a back seat to boasting about obtaining a large leak that no-one had ever done before.

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