Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Is Serious, Mum

UPDATE : Julian Assange has been freed on bail, but with some incredibly restrictive conditions :
£200,000 in security, surety from two people, a curfew, daily reporting to police and surrender of his passport.
Good round up today's events in London, and background on the charges Assange still faces here.

UPDATE : Correction. Julian Assange has not been freed on bail. He has been returned to solitary confinement at Wandsworth Prison while British and Swedish prosecutors plot to keep him behind bars until the extradition hearing scheduled for February.


Julian Assange is probably the most famous man in the world right now. Surely the most famous journalist. And isn't it good to see someone reaching such a level of prominence for speaking the truth and trying to educate the public, instead of only getting so much media attention because of some sex scandal...oh, right.

Assange has had his life and his son's life threatened. American politicians have called for his execution. He has been accused of being a terrorist. Incredibly, a new term has entered the vocabulary of some politicians and media commentators. "Information terrorism." Assange is an InfoTerrorist. Think about that for a moment.

Distributing Truth Is Now Terrorism.

Assange, at the time of this posting, is in a London court to find out if he will be granted bail, after turning himself into police for questioning over charges he faces in Sweden for "sex by surprise." He has offered to wear an ankle monitoring device, and bail sureties numbering in the tens of thousands of pounds have been offered by journalist John Pilger and documentary maker Michael Moore.

It's interesting that the hammer really came down on Assange within hours of his announcement that he had documents exposing corruption in one of the United States' biggest banks and he was preparing its New Year release.

If he is set free today, Assange will be straight back into preparing that release.

Julian Assange's mum flew to London to see her son. She was refused entry to Wandsworth prison and offered only a 10 minute phone call instead.

Her story:

The Sunshine Coast Daily has a reporter 'embedded' with Julian Assange's mum in London, while her son faces court, and probable further, suspicious, detention. Assange used the phone call with his mother to issue a statement to supporters :
“My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have always expressed.’

“These circumstances shall not shake them. If anything, this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct.

“We now know that Visa, Mastercard and Paypal are instruments of US foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before.

“I am calling on the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral acts.”

Assange said his cell was under 24 CCTV monitoring due to fears of an assassination attempt.

David Frost interviews Assange's lawyer, who warns the United States may be preparing a grand jury investigation, and may seek to extradite him to the US :

Michael Moore :
WikiLeaks exists, in part, because the mainstream media has failed to live up to its responsibility. The corporate owners have decimated newsrooms, making it impossible for good journalists to do their job. There's no time or money anymore for investigative journalism. Simply put, investors don't want those stories exposed. They like their secrets kept ... as secrets.
Fellow Australian journalist John Pilger :

"That mindset that only authority can really determine the 'truth' on the news, that's a form of embedding that really now has to change.

"There's no question about the pressure on it to change coming from the internet and coming from WikiLeaks -- it will change.

"Authority has its place, but the skepticism about authority must be ingrained in people."

This is a letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, prepared by The Walkleys Foundation, and signed by dozens of prominent journalists, radio news producers and newspaper editors :
Dear Prime Minister,


The leaking of 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables is the most astonishing leak of official information in recent history, and its full implications are yet to emerge. But some things are clear. In essence, WikiLeaks, an organisation that aims to expose official secrets, is doing what the media have always done: bringing to light material that governments would prefer to keep secret.

In this case, WikiLeaks, founded by Australian Julian Assange, worked with five major newspapers around the world, which published and analysed the embassy cables. Diplomatic correspondence relating to Australia has begun to be published here.

The volume of the leaks is unprecedented, yet the leaking and publication of diplomatic correspondence is not new. We, as editors and news directors of major media organisations, believe the reaction of the US and Australian governments to date has been deeply troubling. We will strongly resist any attempts to make the publication of these or similar documents illegal. Any such action would impact not only on WikiLeaks, but every media organisation in the world that aims to inform the public about decisions made on their behalf. WikiLeaks, just four years old, is part of the media and deserves our support.

Already, the chairman of the US Senate homeland security committee, Joe Lieberman, is suggesting The New York Times should face investigation for publishing some of the documents. The newspaper told its readers that it had ‘‘taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security.’’ Such an approach is responsible — we do not support the publication of material that threatens national security or anything which would put individual lives in danger. Those judgements are never easy, but there has been no evidence to date that the WikiLeaks material has done either.

There is no evidence, either, that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have broken any Australian law. The Australian government is investigating whether Mr Assange has committed an offence, and the Prime Minister has condemned WikiLeaks’ actions as ‘‘illegal’’. So far, it has been able to point to no Australian law that has been breached.

To prosecute a media organisation for publishing a leak would be unprecedented in the US, breaching the First Amendment protecting a free press. In Australia, it would seriously curtail Australian media organisations reporting on subjects the government decides are against its interests.

WikiLeaks has no doubt made errors. But many of its revelations have been significant. It has given citizens an insight into US thinking about some of the most complex foreign policy issues of our age, including North Korea, Iran and China.

It is the media’s duty to responsibly report such material if it comes into their possession. To aggressively attempt to shut WikiLeaks down, to threaten to prosecute those who publish official leaks, and to pressure companies to cease doing commercial business with WikiLeaks, is a serious threat to democracy, which relies on a free and fearless press.

See the full list of who signed the letter here.

Finally, here's some interesting thoughts from Julian Assange on privacy, in 1994 :

''Privacy is relative. 'We run perhaps the most private multi-user computer system in the country. Nearly every piece of information can be obtained, depending on how many resources and/or time you want to expend obtaining it. I could monitor your keystrokes, intercept your phone and bug your residence. If I could be bothered.

''As one who's has [sic] one's life monitored pretty closely, you quickly come to the realisation that trying to achieve complete privacy is impossible, and the best you can hope for is damage control and risk minimisation.''

The Guardian has one of the best daily blogs on Wikileaks-related news. Hopefully the focus will soon shift back to the important, history redefining revelations of the diplomatic cables themselves, and away from Julian Assange.