Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Protest: Hands off WikiLeaks

Exposing US government duplicity and abuses is the morally right thing to do

Join the protest to defend WikiLeaks and Julian Assange1pm, Tuesday, 14 December 2010Westminster Magistrates Court 70 Horsferry Road, London SW1 P2Julian Assange will be appealing for bail on Tuesday

Protest to your MP and MEPs via this website: www.writetothem.com

Sign the AVAAZ online petition: http://www.avaaz.org/en/wikileaks_petition/?vl

The WikiLeaks revelations regarding secret US diplomatic cables have exposed the two-faced, dirty diplomacy of the US government and its support for unsavoury regimes and human rights abusers.

Exposing duplicity and injustice is a good and honourable thing to do, regardless of whether the whistleblowers are exposing such malpractices in the US, Britain, Russia, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, China or anywhere else.

In the absence of open, honest government, leaked documents are often the only way we have of knowing what Washington is really doing and saying.

The public has a right to know matters of public interest. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know many things that the US government (and others) wanted to keep hidden from us, like America's secret wars in Yemen and Pakistan.

Contrary to what Pentagon and White House officials claim, there is no evidence that WikiLeaks has put anyone's life in danger. The evidence presented by WikiLeaks is embarrassing, not life-threatening.

In advance of publication, WikiLeaks invited the US government to identify any documents that could potentially put individuals at risk. The US declined to do so. Despite this snub, WikiLeaks appears to have mostly acted responsibly by redacting and withholding certain documents. Where, in some cases, they have not protected the identities of individual people at risk, such as in Afghanistan, this is deplorable and wrong.

Washington is angry because the manifest contradictions between its public and private stances have been exposed by the on-going leaks of diplomatic cables. They show a clear lack of government accountability, honesty and transparency.

The WikiLeaks controversy is, first and foremost, a battle between state secrecy and misinformation on the one hand, and the public's right to know on the other hand. It's a freedom of information issue.

The allegations of sex abuse against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, are

something different - and worrying. They were made some months after WikiLeaks had previously embarrassed the US by exposing its war crimes and cover-ups in Iraq. Mere coincidence? Possibly.

Julian Assange is accused of rape. These allegations must be taken seriously. He might be guilty of sex crimes. If so, he should face prosecution and punishment, just like anyone else.

So far, however, he has not been charged with any offence and these rape allegations were previously dismissed in August by the Swedish prosecuting authorities. For the moment, he is innocent until proven guilty.

Although the charges against Assange look like a fix to silence and discredit him, there may be truth in them. It is impossible to be sure either way. However, what is beyond question is that some top people in the US are out for revenge. They want to destroy Assange and WikiLeaks.

Meanwhile, major war criminals and human rights abusers roam free. No judge dares touch them. But a non-violent campaigner like Assange feels the full force of the law. A man who exposes war crimes faces criminal indictment, yet the people and governments who perpetrated these crimes do not. Double standards or what?

Is the US seeking to frame Julian Assange? In the 1970s, they tried to discredit the heroic Vietnam war whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. A plan was hatched to portray him as mentally unstable. Are the charges against Assange a re-run of what they tried to do to Ellsberg? We don't know. Maybe. Maybe not.

The decision by a British judge to deny bail to Julian Assange looks vindictive and unjustified. Assange is not a dangerous, hardened criminal. He should have got bail. People charged with robberies, assaults and sexual crimes are often bailed. Assange is well known and not able to easily disappear. The chances of him absconding are slight. So why the hardline denial of bail in his case?

Is the judge an establishment stooge? Was he pressured to remand Assange in custody? Or did he conclude, of his own free will, that it is appropriate to refuse Assange bail?

Perhaps the judge sincerely believes that the sex allegations against Assange are credible - and, in addition, that Assange is a grave threat to public order and national security, who is unfit to remain free until he is extradited and put on trial. If so, in my opinion, the judge has lost his moral bearings and his sense of reality and proportion.

The US-inspired blocking of donations to WikiLeaks and the attempts to deny WikiLeaks internet access are outrageous infringements of press freedom, civil rights and freedom of expression. As of now, WikiLeaks has not been found guilty of any crime. Yet some governments and major corporations are acting as if the whistleblowing website is a proven criminal organisation.

The US appears to have successfully pressured Amazon, Visa, Mastercard and PayPal to withdraw their services from WikiLeaks. The Swiss bank PostFinance has closed Assange's personal account. This is a politically motivated witch-hunt that is attempting to use economic pressure to silence WikiLeaks.

Congratulations to Operation Payback and the Anonymous hacktivists. They are right to hit back at the people who have attempted to drive WikiLeaks off the internet and cut its funding. This suppression and censorship has to be resisted, by any reasonable, non-violent means necessary.

Limited, qualified cyber attacks are legitimate forms of protest against the way some corporations have victimised WikiLeaks, apparently under pressure from the US government. If Washington can lean on these corporations, why shouldn't the defenders of WikiLeaks retaliate and exert pressure on them in the other direction?

We, the people, have a right to know what governments are secretly saying and doing, in our name and allegedly in our interests. The government, police, security services and judges are our servants. We are not pawns in their power games, to be manipulated and hoodwinked.

All power to WikiLeaks for shining a light on the duplicity of the US government. Thanks to WikiLeaks we now have clear evidence that the US frequently says one thing in public and something different in private - and that it cosies up to tyrants, and ignores or acquiesces in human rights abuses. Bravo WikiLeaks and Julian Assange!

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