Wikileaks: A Big Dangerous US Government Con Job The story on the surface makes for a script for a new Oliver Stone Hollywood thriller. A 39-year old Australian hacker holds the President of the United States and his State Department hostage to a gigantic cyber ”œleak,” unless the President leaves Julian Assange and his Wikileaks free to release hundreds of thousands of pages of sensitive US Government memos. A closer look at the details, so far carefully leaked by the most ultra-establishment of international media such as the New York Times, reveals a clear agenda. That agenda coincidentally serves to buttress the agenda of US geopolitics around the world from Iran to Russia to North Korea. The Wikileaks is a big and dangerous US intelligence Con Job which will likely be used to police the Internet.

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  • spiked – Julian Assange is not Wikileaks; in other words, whether you regard him as a hero, villain, victim or egotistical malcontent, Wikileaks itself remains difficult to characterise. If it can be blamed for deterring diplomacy, derided for titillating us with diplomatic gossip, or dispensed with faint praise (by activist and writer Todd Gitlin) as the ‘Facebook of whistleblowing’, it can also be heralded for providing additional proof (if any were needed) of the gross hypocrisies and moral cowardice of the post-9/11 American security state.

    Consider these side-by-side articles in the New York Times, describing just a few leaked cables: In 2006 and 2007, US diplomats successfully pressured German officials not to honour arrest warrants against CIA operatives who kidnapped and tortured an innocent German citizen, Khaled el-Masri. Two years later, the US was pressuring China to stop persecuting its dissidents.

    This highly selective approach to human rights is as much a hallmark of the Obama administration as the Bush administration. Another leaked cable (described by Mother Jones) exposed the Obama administration’s efforts to stop the Spanish government from prosecuting high-ranking architects of torture under President Bush. No accountability for torture has been a guiding principle for each of our post-9/11 presidents. When El-Masri sued the US for his illegal detention and torture, the government invoked a state secrets doctrine and won dismissal of his claims. It also offered a state secrets defence in a lawsuit filed by Maher Arar, a Canadian/Syrian citizen who was kidnapped and tortured for 10 months before being released without charges. The Canadian government apologised to Arar and awarded him $10million in damages; the US government, under Bush and Obama, immunised itself behind a screen of state secrets. So which is more villainous: Wikileaks for releasing secret cables or the Bush and Obama administrations for pleading ‘state secrets’ to avoid accountability for summarily torturing innocent men? Or is that not a relevant question?

    Has Wikileaks done more harm than the government it seeks to embarrass? It’s difficult to quantify the threat allegedly posed to American and international security by Wikileaks, but the threats to free speech and a free press posed by reactions to its recent data dump are quickly becoming clear. That Julian Assange is an enemy of the state and Wikileaks an exercise in anarchism (at best) or terrorism, not journalism, are rare points of bi-partisan agreement in the hyper-partisan American scene (and Assange is reportedly the subject of a federal grand jury investigation). Democrats and Republicans alike have urged indicting Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which includes provisions criminalising disclosures of classified information. Whether or not this law would or should allow for prosecution of media outlets (other than Wikileaks) that have received and published classified cables (but were not responsible for the original leak) is a subject of debate. But independent senator and former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, for one, is undeterred by concerns about a free press: he denounced the New York Times for publishing some of the leaked cables, accusing it of ‘at least an act of bad citizenship… whether they have committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department’.

    But the New York Times and other major publications are not alone in their potential vulnerability to Espionage Act prosecutions: an expansive interpretation of the Act could make it a crime for you to download the leaked cables or ‘post a link to Wikileaks on your Facebook page’, Louis Klarevas observed at Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Obama administration is about to indict anyone, much less everyone, who has downloaded and emailed copies of cables printed in the New York Times or elsewhere; but it does mean that federal prosecutors could conceivably claim the power to do so and use it to target people they’re anxious to prosecute for other reasons. As Harvey Silverglate warns in his latest book, Three Felonies a Day, one great danger of a vague, expansive criminal code is that it enables prosecutors to focus on people whom they want to prosecute rather than focusing on crimes that merit prosecution.

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