Wikileaks, continued

A British judge was reportedly on the verge of granting bail (on some 200,000 British pounds of caution) to Wikileaks “editor-in-chief” Julian Assange on Tuesday, when it was rescinded as Sweden asked prosecutors to indicate they would contest the arrangement.

UPDATE: It was later reported that British Crown Prosecutors contested releasing Assange on bail, and not Sweden or the Swedish prosecutors.

UPDATE: The good news is that the British judge officially OK’d sending Tweets (for news or any other purposes, of course) from his courtroom… This story is posted here

So, Assange is back in jail, where he has been confined already for a week.

An appeal for Assange’s release on bail will probably be made to a higher British court within days.

One of his lawyers said it was astonishing that Assange will likely have spent at least two weeks in jail for a crime that does not carry any jail time in Sweden and is punishable, if proven, only by a fine equal to something like $750 U.S. dollars.

UPDATE: The New York Times reported on 19 December that the charges against Assange might involve a possible jail term of up to four years: “The unredacted police report obtained by The Guardian says that after arriving at her [Ms. W’s] apartment the two had sex using a condom. In the report, she described waking up to find him having sex with her again, without a condom … The assertion that Mr. Assange initiated sex without a condom while Ms. W was asleep led the prosecutors to list rape among the allegations they wanted to explore with Mr. Assange, according to testimony in a London court. Swedish legal experts have said that the section of the Swedish penal code involved in the allegation refers to the third and least serious of three categories of rape, known as ‘less severe’, commonly invoked when men in relationships use threats or mild degrees of force to have sex with partners against their will. The maximum penalty for the offense is four years”. This can be read in full here.

But, it is clear, that is not the only reason Assange is in jail. The U.S. is lstill ooking into pressing some very major charges, possibly related to espionage.

[Part of the legal debate may revolve around the question of whether or not Assange is a “journalist”. U.S. government officials have argued that he is not…]

David Samuels wrote recently in The Atlantic that “Julian Assange and Pfc Bradley Manning have done a huge public service by making hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents available on Wikileaks — and, predictably, no one is grateful. Manning, a former army intelligence analyst in Iraq, faces up to 52 years in prison. He is currently being held in solitary confinement at a military base in Quantico, Virginia, where he is not allowed to see his parents or other outside visitors … Published reports suggest that a joint Justice Department-Pentagon team of investigators is exploring the possibility of charging Assange under the Espionage Act, which could lead to decades in jail. ‘This is not saber-rattling’, said Attorney General Eric Holder, commenting on the possibility that Assange will be prosecuted by the government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Wikileaks disclosures ‘an attack on the international community’ that endangered innocent people … In a [Washington Post] column titled ‘WikiLeaks Must Be Stopped’, Mark Thiessen wrote that ‘WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise’, and urged that the site should be shut down ‘and its leadership brought to justice’. The dean of American foreign correspondents, John Burns of The New York Times, with two Pulitzer Prizes to his credit, contributed a profile of Assange which used terms like ‘nearly delusional grandeur’ to describe Wikileaks’ founder … For his part, Assange has not been shy about expressing his contempt for the failure of traditional reporting to inform the public, and his belief in the utility of his own methods. ‘How is it that a team of five people has managed to release to the public more suppressed information, at that level, than the rest of the world press combined?’ he told The Sydney Morning Herald … Assange may or may not be grandiose, paranoid and delusional – terms that might be fairly applied at one time or another to most prominent investigative reporters of my acquaintance. But the fact that so many prominent old school journalists are attacking him with such unbridled force is a symptom of the failure of traditional reporting methods to penetrate a culture of official secrecy that has grown by leaps and bounds since 9/11, and threatens the functioning of a free press as a cornerstone of democracy. The true importance of Wikileaks — and the key to understanding the motivations and behavior of its founder — lies not in the contents of the latest document dump but in the technology that made it possible, which has already shown itself to be a potent weapon to undermine official lies and defend human rights. Since 1997, Assange has devoted a great deal of his time to inventing encryption systems that make it possible for human rights workers and others to protect and upload sensitive data. The importance of Assange’s efforts to human rights workers in the field were recognized last year by Amnesty International, which gave him its Media Award for the Wikileaks investigation The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, which documented the killing and disappearance of 500 young men in Kenya by the police, with the apparent connivance of the country’s political leadership. Yet the difficulties of documenting official murder in Kenya pale next to the task of penetrating the secret world that threatens to swallow up informed public discourse in this country about America’s wars. The 250,000 cables that Wikileaks published this month represent only a drop in the bucket that holds the estimated 16 million documents that are classified top secret by the federal government every year”.

David Samuels’ article in the Atlantic also reported that: “According to a three-part investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin published earlier this year in The Washington Post, an estimated 854,000 people now hold top secret clearance – more than 1.5 times the population of Washington, D.C. ‘The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive’, the Post concluded, ‘that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work’.

He continued: “The result of this classification mania is the division of the public into two distinct groups: those who are privy to the actual conduct of American policy, but are forbidden to write or talk about it, and the uninformed public, which becomes easy prey for the official lies exposed in the Wikileaks documents: The failure of American counterinsurgency programs in Afghanistan, the involvement of China and North Korea in the Iranian nuclear program, the likely failure of attempts to separate Syria from Iran, the involvement of Iran in destabilizing Iraq, the anti-Western orientation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other tenets of American foreign policy under both Bush and Obama. It is a fact of the current media landscape that the chilling effect of threatened legal action routinely stops reporters and editors from pursuing stories that might serve the public interest – and anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying. Every honest reporter and editor in America knows that the fact that most news organizations are broke, combined with the increasing threat of aggressive legal action by deep-pocketed entities, private and public, has made it much harder for good reporters to do their jobs, and ripped a hole in the delicate fabric that holds our democracy together. The idea that Wikileaks is a threat to the traditional practice of reporting misses the point of what Assange and his co-workers have put together – a powerful tool that can help reporters circumvent the legal barriers that are making it hard for them to do their job. Even as he criticizes the evident failures of the mainstream press, Assange insists that Wikileaks should facilitate traditional reporting and analysis. ‘We’re the step before the first person (investigates)’, he explained, when accepting Amnesty International’s award for exposing police killings in Kenya. ‘Then someone who is familiar with that material needs to step forward to investigate it and put it in political context. Once that is done, then it becomes of public interest’.”

This article can be read in full here.

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