So, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks was finally arrested in London – on some old charges related to sex crime committed by him in Sweden. While it should be noted that the charges have once already been dropped in Sweden, the case was opened up again apparently because the US told Sweden, “Look, you don’t like him and we don’t like him. So can you please look if there’s something in the charges against him?”
And yet, for record, if he is guilty of the charges, he should most definitely be held guilty and severe punishment should be meted out to him.
But everything suggests that the urgency is because he is the Founder of WikiLeaks, which is struggling to stay afloat online in the wake of cyber attack and stalling from not just the US and some other governments, but also hackers sympathetic to those governments. Assagne’s account in Switzerland was frozen yesterday (December 6, 2010). And, supporters like PayPal, MasterCard have withdrawn support (via providing an outlet for WikiLeaks to receive donations) on the pretext of “WikiLeaks being engaged in an illegal act”.
Illegal act, really?
WikiLeaks says the release of the documents “reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.”
It further states that the cables “show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.”
But in the United States, which is the principal target of WikiLeaks, legal experts would tell us that the sort of information that a news organization can be prosecuted for publishing is limited to: nuclear secrets (Atomic Energy Act), the identities of covert agents (Intelligence Identities Protection Act), and certain forms of communications intelligence (Section 798 of the Espionage Act).
Timothy Matusheski, a lawyer working with WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, said, “They accuse him of breaking the law. But they haven’t said what law.” Simply because there is none, as yet, to prosecute the WikiLeaks Founder in the US!
So then, can he be tried in any other country?
The only place he is hurting the most at the moment is USA; so what would make any other country want to prosecute him?
Tricky? Yes, because this is a new territory for the present governments – that of “self-governing opposition to its governance”.
Yes, that is the most fascinating part of WikiLeaks – ‘it is completely agnostic on ‘existing laws created by nations’. It does not necessarily break any one particular country’s existing law – whether or not its activity is considered friendly or otherwise by the affected country. At the same time, no country can claim to be the host nation to WikiLeaks. It is present wherever someone wants it to be present!
In other words, WikiLeaks is the first 21st century ‘project’ that “governs itself” beyond the geographical – and thereby the moral, legal and legislative – limitations of any one country or a union of nations. Coming soon is a new ‘system’ by its break-away group.
Even more invigoratingly, it seems to put an individual on a higher pedestal of respect than the artificial ideas of human states.So, while individual privacy does indeed matter to WikiLeaks, as illustrated by the following mail by Julian Assange to US ambassador in London, Louis Susman on 26 November,
“We urge the United States Government to privately nominate any specific instances (record numbers or names) where it considers the publication of information would put individual persons at significant risk of harm”
the privacy of governments and big corporations, that seem to be acting in a manner contrary to public perception, is not considered fit for protection.
In other words, what WikiLeaks seems to suggest through its action is that, privacy is for private individuals. Governments qualify more for the ‘right to be transparent’ to those that it claims to represent.
It is the most spectacular teaching of the Internet – holding great promise for volunteers of seamless extension of an individual’s right across geographical boundaries.
What is even more exciting is that even WikiLeaks is not considered free enough by some of its own. “Built on similar ideas”, a former WikiLeaks associate has said that he and a number of other ex-members are preparing to “set up a system that is different from WikiLeaks,”
25-year-old historian and student Herbert Snorrason says: “It is a different type of project and we do not see it as competition, nor should it be considered to be a WikiLeaks competitor.” The difference, according to Snorrason, was that while WikiLeaks gathers leaked documents and dumps them on its site, the new project – the name of which he has thus far refused to divulge – will be “a safe haven where people can share information anonymously.”
“We will not be publishing information ourselves, but rather be the hub of where people can upload information without having to be associated with what they upload,” he explained.
“We aim for the organisational structure of the project to be as open as possible. We do not intend of having one person in control, but rather that majority of people involved will be present in all decision making,” Snorrason said.
Admittedly, in absence of further information, it does not help one ascertain if it is much different from the ‘dumping ground’ that WikiLeaks is accused of by its critics. But whatever its fate – or those of more such enterprises – be in future, the key here is to understand that what you shall be what you would be seen to be in the future, in case of governments and big corporations anyway.
It is this segregation of what is good for individuals and what their governments often project to be good for them is what makes this idea valuable. It understands that every individual understands what is good and what is not for him or her – and that the knowledge cannot be stunted by privacy of those governments, organizations or corporations that govern them.
It stands for an individual’s human rights. It stands for an individual’s liberty. If it is at the cost of governments, so be it.
With acute apology to Julius Caesar, this new chapter in our civilization can as well be described asVidi, WIKI, Vici – “I saw, WikiLeaks, I conquered” … a new world order where liberty really extends to every individual!