Assange has catalogued the real cost of war to help lead towards peace. That's the kind of accounting our Senate needs.
The Afghan and Iraqi ‘warlogs’ that WikiLeaks leaked created new clarity for the events of those wars. American citizens were shown a more accurate view of the expense of war in both financial and human losses. It's time Australia deployed the same idea of accountability in its own Senate.
Although the ‘warlogs’ were reported on by various media agencies around the world the utility of that kind of information continues to be explored. However, independent researchers recently used the Iraq ‘warlogs’ to show that the public reporting of deaths probably missed around 60% of the casualties that are confidentially recorded by the US army. Wikipedia is a decent place to start understanding if these documents changed public perceptions of war and if they caused harm for locals or soldiers.
Like all politicians, Assange is power hungry. Even if WikiLeaks was a good idea, Assange in the Senate is not.
With WikiLeaks, Assange tried to create a radical publishing mechanism for greater government and corporate transparency. However, his need for credit and control has hurt the WikiLeaks project and the ideals behind it. Now he's using the goodwill associated with WikiLeaks to help fight his personal legal problems in Sweden - that's not transparent or right. There's good reason to expect these patterns to continue if he is elected to the Senate.
With regard to using the Senate bid to escape his legal problems, Assange has stated that “Australians won't swallow” him being extradited to Sweden or the U.S if he becomes elected. Meanwhile, since Assange has been in the Ecuadorian Embassy, WikiLeaks has not publicly accepted any new documents for publication.
Assange's past behaviour has led to severe disagreements with many of his colleagues. Journalists of The Guardian, The New York Times, and his former associate Daniel Domscheit-Berg have all publicly renounced Assange.
One of the first members of WikiLeaks was Daniel Domscheit-Berg. In his book, Domscheit-Berg describes Assange's self-centered idea of leadership and refers to an occasion when the ex-hacker insisted Wikileaks staff members ‘not question leadership [Assange] in times of crisis’ (p. 160, 200). Daniel Domscheit-Berg was eventually sacked for insubordination.
The Guardian journalists who helped Assange publish WikiLeaks data also had a falling out with him. In their account, he backtracked on publication exclusivity when things weren't going according to his plan. Their public treatment of Assange has been decidedly negative ever since.
While he worked with Assange, the executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller, consistently wrote about the troubles he encountered with the Wikileaks founder. Times columnists also wrote that people were abandoning Assange because of his “erratic and imperious behaviour, and a nearly delusional grandeur unmatched by an awareness that the digital secrets he reveals can have a price in flesh and blood.” Later, Keller summarised that Assange was “elusive, manipulative and volatile (and ultimately openly hostile to The Times and The Guardian).”
For this Belief Byte, it's important to note these quotes only show one side of a very complex story. Robert Manne and Alex Gibney comment on details about Assange's character in a working environment, and how that affects activities around him, here. While WikiLeaks offers its own version of these events here.
Assange is not afraid to speak ‘truth to power’ - we need that more than ever in the Senate.
Assange has published facts about powerful entities without concern for his personal safety. Further, the documents that Assange has leaked have made corporate and state powers more accountable for their previous actions. He wants the ‘default setting’ for government information and power to be open and accessible. He claims he will take these ideas and apply them to the Senate.
When WikiLeaks launched in 2006 it justified publishing leaks because “documents pertaining to large public institutions, such as governments and corporations, should presumptively be available to the public. The burden is on a government or corporation to argue that a document should be kept secret.”
Assange despises any organisations that create secrets. He believes “governments and corporations are by their nature secretive” and this will inevitably take power away from the people.
The Wikileaks founder has attempted to ‘speak truth to power’ by publishing numerous documents through WikiLeaks.org and in the mainstream media (The New York Times, The Guardian etc.). While the success of this is debatable, one example shows how it worked: The New York Times Newspaper relied on WikiLeaks data for news stories in over 50 of the first 100 days of 2011.
The WikiLeaks party claims its aim is to “restore genuine independent scrutiny into our political process.” That aim is not detailed with specific policy on their website, other than to say, if elected, they will “demand thorough transparency [of the government's] contractual arrangements with private companies.”
However, the party also promises to: “push for radical change in media policy to increase Australian media innovation…demand that all information on data seizure and storage of citizens by government agencies and allied corporations be made public…expose the collusions between the Australian state and the military-industrial complex…ensure Australia stands tall as a responsible global citizen…and protect whistleblowers.”
Assange shows no concern for national security and the rule of law - a senator must respect those.
We can debate whether Julian Assange has strengthened democracy, but the facts prove that he has broken laws, disregarded governments, and prefers anarchy to order. Assange admitted to crimes as a hacker, defied the rule of law in England, and decides for himself what should be secret - instead of honouring what elected governments decide.
In the 1990s, Assange called himself “Mendax” when breaking into computer networks. He was arrested in 1995 and pled guilty to 25 charges after 6 were dropped. The judge who sentenced Julian Assange noted that he believed Assange had hacked into computer systems out of curiosity and to empower himself, rather than personal gain. The judge warned that if Assange had not had such a disrupted childhood, he would have been imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Assange is currently defying British and Swedish law. While it is important to note that Assange has not yet been charged with a crime by Swedish officials, he is hiding from an Interpol extradition request to arrest him in Sweden. Specifically, the Swedes stated that they were “requesting the arrest of Assange in order to enable implementation of the preliminary investigation and possible prosecution.” Assange's legal team argued that the request was not enough for extradition to Sweden. The Swedes felt that because Julian Assange's “surrender is sought in order that he may be subject to criminal proceedings”, he should be extradited.
The British Judge for Assange’s case ruled that “there is an unequivocal statement that the purpose of the warrant is for prosecution”, and that, despite other concerns that were raised but not substantiated, Assange should be sent to Sweden. Assange appealed to higher court and lost. After losing the appeal, he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London – in defiance of British law.
It is important to communicate that the criminal complaints against Assange concern rape. Specifically, two women contacted Swedish Police and described situations that constitute rape under Swedish law. The interviews that these victims gave to Swedish police suggest that they were involved in rough sexual encounters that escalated to acts that they did not previously consent to (including penetration). Further, they were unsure whether Assange stopped specific acts (penetration without a condom) when they asked him to. A full translation of these interviews is available online, or if you prefer you can read the original Swedish.