Monday, January 31, 2011

Julian Assange "targets" Joe Biden and Sarah Palin

Julian Assange recently spoke to 60 minutes about the ongoing WikiLeaks-saga. In the interview, he spoke about the ongoing attempt to extradite him to the United States, and comments made about him by prominent American political figures.

Assange called the effort to extradite him to the United States “completely outrageous” and attacked both the US Vice President Joseph Biden and his contender in the last presidential election, Sarah Palin, for making what he referred to as "threats".

Biden recently called Assange a “high-tech terrorist” while Sarah Palin called for Assange to be "pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders."

“There’s calls either for my assassination or the assassination of my staff or for us to be kidnapped and renditioned back to the United States to be executed,” Assange said in the interview.

Assange said he “would like to believe” that Biden, Palin and others have simply exercised their First Amendment rights by strongly condemning WikiLeaks, he does feel endangered by what’s been said about him in the public arena. “The incitements to murder are a serious issue,” he said. “And unfortunately, there is a portion of the population that will believe in them and may carry them out.”

Assange clearly has a point here. That prominent politicians are repeatedly comparing Assange with terrorists is absurd and it can only lead towards inappropriate responses. The word "terrorism" is usually associated with people who agitate violence in some form, something Assange has never done. What Assange openly does is to promote transparency. Promoting transparency through publishing leaked documents is completely legal. The right to do it is guaranteed by the American constitution and it cannot be retracted by any political decision.

It could be that Assange's strategy used to promote transparency may be poor. If so, people has the right to respectfully disagree with it. It is difficult not to recognize that Assange has a point, however. Among the documents revealed by WikiLeaks, one made the striking revelation that the US and Canada are close allies. The mere knowledge that such a cable is kept confidential should underline to people that much that should never be confidential, is in fact kept confidential.

What politicians should be concerned with is what the over-willingness to stamp documents means for people's ability to make a decision on election day. Some of the information WikiLeaks has made available is information that clearly could have affected people's willingness to vote for a given candidate. It is not difficult to imagine, for example, that had the different information that has been revealed about the Bush administration's practices not been unknown to voters during Buh's re-election campaign, he might simply have been re-elected at all. Ensuring that people have access to this information is therefore completely necessary if voters are to be able to make a judgment on who to vote for.

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