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's participation in Parliament constitutes a contradiction of his - and WikiLeaks' - anarchistic politics.
Assange is (or at least, at one point, explicitly identified as) a political anarchist. He argues that government and the state operate on a foundation of lies and secrets - what he calls ‘conspiratorial government’ - that leaking can help to undermine and reveal. This is also the principled basis upon which WikiLeaks is founded.
Anarchism is not - as popular opinion, or the media, would have us believe - merely the pursuit of ‘chaos’ and ‘disorder’, but a sophisticated ideology premised on opposition to externally imposed hierarchy. One of its most famous adherent, Pytor Kropotkin, describes it as “the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.”
This is the social vision that motivates Assange, and provides the inspiration for WikiLeaks. Assange describes ‘transparency activism’ as WikiLeaks' operational principle, claiming the organisation's modus operandi is to “get out suppressed information into the public.” This aim of ‘setting information free’ has an explicitly anarchist political aim: to undermine the capacity of what Assange calls ‘conspiratorial government’ to keep secrets. Through the use of new technologies - especially computers, encryption technologies, and the Internet - WikiLeaks has positioned itself to undermine the capacity of the state to maintain conspiracies. As Assange told Time in 2010, when deceptive organisations are placed under public scrutiny, they can either “reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavours, and proud to display them to the public”, or they can “lock down internally and balkanize, and as a result of course, cease to be as efficient, open and honest, or the can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient”. WikiLeaks aims to ‘split’ these conspiracies by “eliminating important communication channels”. By revealing secrets through leaks, hierarchical organisations are less able to conspire. Leaks thus help to “carry us through the mire of politically distorted language and into a position of clarity”, with the hope of inspiring citizens towards “a course of ennobling and effective action.”
In participating in the upcoming Federal elections, WikiLeaks - and Assange himself - is fundamentally contradicting its ideological and operational principles. Perhaps they can bring more transparency and accountability to state institutions. But to do so by participating in the hierarchical structures they condemn, and which produce such barbarism as they've been set up to reveal, seems contradictory. Assange's reflections on ‘conspiratorial government’ (written when he participated in the ‘Hacktivist’ movement) can be found here.
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.
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.