Thursday, 2 December 2010

WikiLeaks – champion of the truth
The release of 251, 287 United States embassy cables by WikiLeaks is the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents are giving people around the world an unprecedented insight into the policies and activities abroad of the US government. WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public. The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington.
Unbelievably a lone, lowly-ranked US soldier - Private First Class Bradley Manning – pretended to sing along to Lady Gaga songs while downloading thousands of classified documents from military computers. He was then able to pass these on to WikiLeaks. He was an intelligence analyst, and had access to an amazing amount of sensitive data.
According to friends, Manning was frustrated because of a career that he perceived was in a rut as well as with his personal life. Manning—who grew up in Oklahoma and then moved to Wales as a teenager — reportedly was teased and bullied at school because of his sexuality. However, his prime motivation seems to have been altruistic; he asked for no financial reward for the information. After reading some of these documents he felt so strongly that they should be in the public domain and so decided to leak them.
Despite the incandescent rage in Washington, the documents don’t reveal anything that could really endanger people’s lives or national security. What they do, though, is to show up the duplicity and cynical subterfuge of leading politicians and governments. The fact that Putin’s Russia is largely run by a business mafia or that there is widespread worry about Pakistan’s nuclear programme and that the country’s security services have close links to the Taliban are hardly revelatory. The documents also reveal that the spineless British government bowed to US pressure to let it keep its cluster bombs on British territory despite an Act of Parliamentary banning them. And it reveals the political interference of Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, despite his supposed political neutrality. OK, not earth-shattering titbits; in fact only items of high-level gossip, but highly damaging nevertheless to the ruling elites.
WikiLeaks’ founder, the Australian Julian Assange, has now been put on Interpol’s ‘most wanted’ list as a result of his publishing these documents. Coincidentally, he is also wanted in Sweden on a probably trumped up charge of rape. Freedom of information is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, particularly, in the USA, the land of freedom, where the WikiLeaks site, hosted by Amazon, has now been removed from the web as a result of pressure from the administration. But Amazon now faces a backlash from free speech campaigners, who say it should be punished with a boycott at what is its busiest trading period of the year. There is also a demand by backwoodsmen in the Republican Party for Assange to be executed for treason.
Only a short while ago WikiLeaks was lauded as a beacon of freedom. It won a number of awards, including the 2008 Economist New Media Award In June 2009, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange won an Amnesty International’s UK Media Award for its 2008 publication, Kenya: The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, about police killings in Kenya. In May this year, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first in a ranking of ‘websites that could totally change the news’, and it’s certainly done that.
In April 2010, WikiLeaks posted video of an incident in 2007 in which Iraqi civilians were killed by US forces. In July of the same year, it released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the war there. In October, the group released a package of almost 400,000 documents called ‘Iraq War Logs’ in coordination with major media organisations. It is no wonder the US government is after his scalp.
Julian Assange is now in hiding in Britain and the demands by the USA for his extradition should be vehemently rejected. Far from being a criminal, he should be celebrated as a most courageous journalist and publisher, more deserving of a Nobel Prize than being put in jail. He has done more to disclose the obsessive secretivity of governments and the blatant distortion of the truth by mainstream media. It is essential for everyone who values truth and openness to defend Assange and WikiLeaks from the bloodhounds now salivating for the kill.

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