Forget what’s in the latest WikiLeaks release of classified documents.
I’d like to see the communications between the U.S. and Sweden, the U.K, and Interpol that resulted in Julian Assange, the Australian who runs WikiLeaks, turning himself into British police after being the subject of an international manhunt on “rape” charges.
The charge of “rape” conjures up images of violence and forced sex. It would certainly tarnish the reputation of this international folk hero if it turned out that he doesn’t respect women enough to obtain their consent before having sex with them.
But, as it turns out, “rape” in Sweden means something else entirely. That enlightened, progressive and politically correct democracy defines “rape” as having sex without using a condom. After you stop laughing, you’ll realize it’s not such a laughing matter when you learn that the penalty for this is a minimum of two years in prison.
According to Assange’s accuser(s) — I’m not sure if there’s one or two at this point — the sex was consensual and he used a condom, or started out to use one. But it broke. So it looks like he’s facing a minimum of two years in prison for buying a cheap condom. And Interpol spread a wide dragnet to bring this cheapskate before Sweden’s bar of justice.
Did the U.S. government promise something to Sweden or threaten the Swedish government? It sure looks that way.
I’d also like to see the communications between the U.S. government and Amazon.com, which was hosting WikiLeaks on its U.S. servers before booting them off Thursday. So would Daniel Ellsberg, who nearly four decades ago leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers that exposed the lies that got us into the war in Vietnam. Ellsberg has called on Amazon.com employees to leak any information they have about how the government pressured the internet bookseller to kick WikiLeaks off its servers.
According to news reports, Amazon.com dropped WikiLeaks after being contacted by the staff of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), but I’d be curious to find out what, if any, role the IRS had to play in this.
And what pressures were brought to bear on EveryDNS, a free U.S.-based domain name service (DNS) provider? A DNS resolves a uniform resource locator (URL) like www.wikileaks.org to a numeric internet protocol (IP) address. On Thursday, EveryDNS stopped resolving the WikiLeaks URL. Was the DNS provider threatened in some way?
Then on Friday PayPal, the online payment service, dropped its WikiLeaks account. MasterCard followed suit on Monday and Visa on Tuesday. All of them cited their acceptable use policies, which prohibit the use of their services to promote “illegal activity”. This is a crock, because those policies are intended to prevent people from using the services to pay for contraband, such as illegal drugs, or sex-for-hire. WikiLeaks did not use the services to pay for anything, but to permit people to make contributions to keep the site up and running. Again, were these payment services threatened in some way? Perhaps a leaker can provide the information.
And maybe a new leak can shed some light on who’s responsible for the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that have been made against the servers on which the WikiLeaks websites reside. Certainly the U.S. government has the capability of mounting a DDoS attack. If they’re doing it, they’re breaking the law because a DDoS attack requires hijacking thousands of computers.
We don’t need another leak to reveal that the government’s real target is Assange himself. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department is looking to prosecute Assange. But prosecute him for what? As former federal prosecutor Baruch Weiss pointed out in an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post, “there is no statute making it illegal to reveal classified information”. And, he said, the government has never successfully prosecuted a media outlet for publishing classified information.
And, yes, WikiLeaks is a media outlet. If the government tries to argue that WikiLeaks is somehow not “legitimate”, that it’s wrong for WikiLeaks to release classified information, but it’s OK for The New York Times to do it, it runs smack into the First Amendment. It is not for the government to decide what is or is not a legitimate media outlet.
The difficulty of finding a statute under which to charge Assange helps explain why Interpol was so anxious to find him and why the British have denied him bail. This gives the Justice Department time to research the law and develop a creative strategy for prosecuting him. Maybe they can do something like Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle did with Tom Delay — add two legal acts together to come up with a crime.
However, there is one crime they will not be able to charge him with: treason. Only an American citizen can commit an act of treason against the United States.
Whatever they do to Assange, they are not going to stop WikiLeaks. It is turning up on more and more servers. Before surrendering to the British authorities, Assange told reporters that he has a “poison pill”, a massive cache of sensitive documents protected by an almost-impossible-to-break 256-bit enrcryption key, and that it has been downloaded by tens of thousands of WikiLeaks supporters all over the world. If he is arrested or killed, said Assange, the key will be released.
Rather than try to kill WikiLeaks, governments would do better to revise their secrecy policies so that future leaks will not compromise security.