Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Free Julian Assange?

When Julian Assange was arrested in London to face charges of sexual molestation against two women stemming from a trip to Sweden in August many supporters showed up with signs regarding free speech. That kind of irked me. I mean, in my mind at least, rape and free speech have nothing to do with each other. One is a horrific crime that strips a woman of her ability to choose what she does with her body and the other involves being able to say what you want.

Many will argue that these charges are trumped up and that an international conspiracy involving the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Sadly, this would not surprise me, but there simply is no evidence of that at this point. What is significant is that these charges come after much more serious charges of rape were alleged against Assange and then quickly dropped. That already creates a shadow of a doubt of the validity of the current charges, even though they are from separate cases. It may not be right, but if a person is accused of rape by someone and then it turns out that the accuser was lying, it creates a cloud of suspicion over any other allegation brought by anyone else against that same person. Especially if the accused has had multinational talking heads openly calling for his assassination.

So I say, if the evidence is not there, free Julian Assange. If there is concrete evidence of this let's hand this over to the legal system to sort out. But to be clear, this has nothing to do with free speech; instead it involves allegations by two Stockholm women. If it comes to light that these women are lying, then shame on them for denigrating Assange and undermining true rape/molestation victims.

What does relate to free speech is the utter idiocy of America's elected officials. Take Senator Dianne Feinstein, for instance. She penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the prosecution of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917. Of course this would be a waste of government resources because history has shown us that this is nearly impossible. First of all, Assange did nothing illegal when he released these files because he did not steal them from the government, Bradley Manning allegedly did that.

So if we're to compare this to the Pentagon Papers, Bradley Manning is Daniel Ellsburg and the government should try to prosecute him, not Assange. If the government wants to try to get an injunction against WikiLeaks to stop publishing the cables they can do that, but they haven't because New York Times v. United States outlines what would happen. They may have a case with Manning, if they don't bungle it like they did with Ellsburg in the 70s. On other words, the vitriol directed at Assange is a classic case of shooting the messenger.

In summation, I'm all for defending Assange in the name of the first amendment, but I'm not going to blindly defend him against these molestation allegations until evidence comes out that the accusers are lying. I have a hunch that the charges won't stick, but a hunch is not enough for me to yell "Free Julian Assange." I'll wait until the United States detains him to do that. The truth about the molestation allegations will come out eventually and if it's not through the justice system then we'll just have to wait for WikiLeaks to release the documents.

Photo - Free Julian Assange? (Mataparda's Flickr)

1 comment:

  1. When did it become open season on the whistle-blowers? When did it become open season on the messenger? Maybe a little collateral damage will seep out from the secret chambers of statecraft (That's a misnomer isn't it?) What passes for Anglo-American statecraft is actually endless & boundless war! I say break down the doors, open all the file cabinets, throw hard disks into the street. Nothing should be spared in the task of embarrassing the military industrial complex to death. To death, I say.