Embrace Julian Assange as hero
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested yesterday morning. He has been refused bail for fear of fleeing the country and that his life will be taken by a political radical. The recent leaks, which have shown the United States to be less-than-reputable in some takes of international politics, have sparked debate, focusing mostly on whether the truth about politics is worth running the risk of American diplomats losing credibility in the realm of international relations. The answer is unequivocally yes.
The leaked cables revealed that the United States escalated the war in Yemen, spied on Canada and countless others, compares Putin to Batman, talked with Saudi Arabia about bombing Iran and showed that China is considering stopping its support and regulation (to some extent) of North Korea. This information endangers the political relations among these countries. However, it is necessary for democracy. This nation was founded on, upon many other things, the balance of power housed in government. This nation is one "of, for, and by the people," to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln. WikiLeaks is simply a means of ensuring that politicians and diplomats do not abuse the powers they have been given. In short, they have.
Diplomatic reactions to the cables have not been varied. Republicans and Democrats alike are calling for the arrest or assassination of Assange as a terrorist. At this point it should be known that Assange is the founder of the site, not the actual "leaker" of the information. That person, Bradley Manning, was arrested and is kept in a military prison in Kuwait. He faces up to 52 years in federal prison for leaking classified information, particularly a video of American airplanes attacking unarmed men, including two Reuters journalists. He has also been labeled a "person of interest" in the Iraq and Afghan war logs, which were released this summer without much controversy.
Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks and believes in journalism in its truest form, with the unerring approach of truth despite controversy. Basically, blaming Assange is like blaming the deaths of murder victims on the inventor of the gun. Assange was simply the producer of the means to allow the leaks, not the actual "leaker" himself. He has, however, admirably stood by what he believes to be the right thing to do.
Assange is not without controversy. His arrest was based on two rape charges that occurred in Sweden. What the American media has not popularly reported is that these charges are based on a law in Sweden, translating to "sex by surprise." His neglect to use sexual protection is the cause of the offense. There is normally no jail sentence for this offense, only a fine that equates to $750. Assange was put on Interpol's wanted list and turned himself into British police yesterday morning for standing by WikiLeaks and the journalistic integrity of it, only nine days after the initial leak. By comparison, Osama bin Laden has not been found in a decade for orchestrating murders in the United States. Also, the Ku Klux Klan can still use Paypal, but donations to WikiLeaks will not go through. The politicians in Washington surely have their priorities in order.
The debate ultimately boils down to a stance of protectionism against absolute truth. People must decide whether the actions taken by diplomats should be swept under the rug to save face internationally or to unveil their negative actions and hold them accountable for the actions they have taken. Who is more to blame for the Enron scandal — the whistleblowers or the traders themselves? The answer is quite obvious and relevant to this case. Are WikiLeaks and Assange to blame for the fallout in international relations? Or are the scheming politicians who got themselves into this mess? My personal stance is to reflect the views of those politicians who endorsed the TSA searches: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about." This may seem hypocritical, but the difference lies in the fact that there is no Constitutional law that protects the rights of diplomats to endanger lives and condone murder, whereas the Fourth Amendment protects the American citizens' freedom to unreasonable search and seizure.
All in all, Assange idealizes what this country is founded on — checking the power of elected officials to protect against abuse. When even that ability is blocked and condemned by the governments, action is necessary. "The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Thomas Jefferson's axiom still holds true. For the United States, and other global actors alike, to actually take strides in acting unilaterally, the liars and schemers in government must be exposed and voted out. It is time to embrace Julian Assange for the hero that he is.
Cody Gorman is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "The Tuning Fork," runs on alternate Tuesdays.