Assange empowers those in need - it’s time we allowed him to stand up for us Australians.
Because of WikiLeaks the people of Kenya learned that their government was carrying out extra-judicial killings and stealing billions of dollars of public money. The people of Iceland also learned the details of a banking scandal that their media were forbidden to report.
In late 2008, WikiLeaks published a local NGO report on Kenyan Human Rights abuses. This had previously been difficult as the report detailed Kenyan police murdering Kenyan citizens. Later, the local authors who contributed to its content (Oscar Kamau Kingara, and John Paul Oul) were assassinated in Nairobi two weeks after they presented their findings to the government in 2009.
WikiLeaks also published a leaked report on financial corruption in Kenya that appeared to be from the accounting firm, Kroll. The report detailed how members of Kenya's previous government stole billions of dollars of public money. ‘The looting of Kenya’ became a major news story both in Kenya and worldwide, and may have affected the Kenyan elections in 2007. Questions about the report's authenticity and its merit are disputed, but major media published stories imply it was authentic.
In 2009, an Icelandic news channel reported that although they had a story about possible fraud at a major Icelandic bank, the government censored them. To get around the censorship, the news channel filled the allotted airtime with a static shot of the WikiLeaks.org logo. At the time, the site featured leaked documents detailing the Icelandic bank's corruption. The Icelandic government soon lifted the gag order and bankers were imprisoned for their crimes.
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.
Accusations of Assange raping women in Sweden must be cleared before he stands in our Senate.
Swedish police requested the arrest of Assange in their preliminary investigation into a criminal complaint of rape. Although he has not yet been charged, two women were interviewed by Swedish police and Assange faces ‘possible prosecution’ from their testimony.
While it is important to note that Swedish officials have not yet charged Assange with a crime, the Wikileaks founder is refusing to return to Sweden and answer questions regarding the issue.
Specifically, the Swedes stated that “requesting the arrest of Assange is in order to enable implementation of the preliminary investigation and possible prosecution”.
The possible prosecution stems from the reports of two women who contacted Swedish Police and described situations that constitute rape under Swedish law. The interviews that these women 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.