Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Different Take on Julian Assange

To most, he is either a hero or a villain.  He is either champion of the people against corrupt government or a terrorist.  I do not believe that either is an apt description of him, his supporters, or Wikileaks.

Before I get to Mr. Assange, though, I want to take a look at Bradley Manning.  He is not someone who I would hold up as being a picture of virtue.  For one thing, he is a homosexual.  Homosexuality is wicked behavior and should be condemned to highest degree.  Secondly, he is (allegedly) guilty of stealing classified documents.  Even though I agree with him that the corruption of government must be exposed, theft is not an ethical way of dealing with it.  But I do think that he should get a fair trial and shouldn’t be tortured for information or anything like that.  If it is proven that he really is guilty of this crime, he should face an appropriate punishment.  If it could further be proved that he intended to release the documents and that the information contained in them would aid our enemies, then this would be treason.  However, if some of the documents prove that our government undertook illegal actions, then I believe that his actions would be justified if only those portions were released.

Assange, on the other hand, should be protected by the First Amendment IF his only involvement was publishing information.  Remember the First Amendment protects freedom of the press.  There are no exceptions given.  The First Amendment came after the treason clause and the rest of the Constitution drafted by the Convention in 1787.  Therefore, it takes precedence.  The First Amendment originally applied to acts passed by Congress, and therefore any enforcement of any Act (such as the Espionage Act of 1917) would be limited to actions other than publishing and free speech.  I definitely think that there should not be a different standard applied to Wikileaks than the New York Times, which published the same information.  But even if Assange did not commit a prosecutable act, that does not necessarily morally justify it.  And neither does it justify the actions of the New York Times.  The First Amendment does not prevent people from voting with their wallets.  (Though I think the ACLU would interpret it that way.)

However, if it can be proven that Assange played some other role in this besides just publishing the information, then the United States may have a legitimate case against him.  Some possible suggestions are that he recruited people to steal the information and that he knowingly received stolen materials.  And if it were not for the incorporation of the First Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment (which is I believe is spurious) then it would be theoretically possible for Assange to tried by a state if it could be proven that the publication of the information aided our enemies, leading to deaths and/or injuries to citizens of that state.  That’s not going to happen, but maybe it should. 

As for the contents of the leaked material itself, I have not read any of it, but I am hearing lots of spin from both sides.  The pro-government side is saying that lives could be endangered because of these leaks, but I have not heard any of them provide a single example.  The pro-Wikileaks side seems to claim that this information helps people to see the corruption in government and that it proves that the actions of our government with respect to foreign policy are indefensible.  I would say that there was already plenty of evidence of this before the leaks and that it is generally wrong to steal classified information.  However, as I said before, if leaks can be used to show that illegal actions were taken by our government, then I believe that it is justified to release those portions.   So if corruption committed by individuals within our government can be brought to light as result of the leaks, then I think those individuals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  The release of the information may or may not be a net good or net bad, but since we can’t put the genie back into the bottle, we may as well make the best of it and use the information to educate the American people about the inappropriate conduct of particular individuals so that they are never elected again.  But it is clear to me that the main motivation of those in our government wanting to prosecute Assange is to preserve their reputations, not for the benefit of the American people.  I believe that they will try to make Assange a scapegoat for everything thing that goes wrong.  Democrats and Republicans will blame each other for allowing the information to be leaked.  The question is, will Americans see through this and will it further the trend toward blind loyalty to either party? 

It should be pointed out that the contents of the leaks are not just about American actions either.  Assange appears intent on exposing corruption wherever he can find it.  It is not all directed at the United States or its allies, which could be a key fact relevant to the question motive in any case brought against him. 

I condemn the sabotaging of websites by both our government and the adherents of Julian Assange.  Paypal, Mastercard, and Visa didn’t do anything wrong, so the supporters of Wikileaks have no right under common law to commit this act of destruction of property.  Assange’s websites should not be taken down until it is proven the he violated the law.  The principle of innocent until proven guilty should be preserved.

Whether or not the charges of rape are really true, Assange is a fornicator.  He admitted having sex with the two Swedish women on consecutive nights, but claims that it was consensual.  Even if his claim is true, he is definitely not someone who I would hold up as a banner of goodness and light. 

In conclusion, I believe that this Wikileaks episode is basically a conflict between forces, none of which possesses the moral high ground.  I do not think Christians should be parading Manning, Assange, Obama, our military, or anyone but Jesus Christ as a Banner of Salvation.  He is the only real Savior in this world.

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