By Thomas Kwan
Julian Assange is either a hero or a villain depending on who you ask. But one thing is for sure; this case will determine what free speech and free press mean going forward for America and across the world.
Julian Assange is an Australian editor, publisher, notorious whistleblower, and activist who founded WikiLeaks in 2006. WikiLeaks is a worldwide media organization and library which houses leaked documents of the utmost importance and secrecy. Wikileaks specializes in exposing government spying, corruption, and war-related materials. With over 10 million leaked documents and analyses published on its website, they have become one of the largest online libraries in the world.
According to a report by The Week, the organization leaked 251,000 unredacted United States diplomatic cables into the public domain. At least 150 of the documents refer to whistleblowers, and thousands include the names of sources that the United States considered a threat to their identities, the newspaper reports.
According to an Aljeerza article, sensitive government material included previously unreported details about civilian deaths, friendly-fire casualties, United States air raids, Al-Qaeda's role in the country, and nations aiding the Taliban.
According to The Week news report, a British news outlet, WikiLeaks released various United State Department, Iraq war logs, top-secret files regarding Guantanamo captives, and videos depicting the United States military killing Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists from an Apache helicopter - with all the records leaked to the organization by former Army private Chelsea Manning. The leaks are just one example of how the United States handled the war on terrorism. Forty minutes of the apache helicopter raining down on civilians and Taliban revealed the extent of terror we imposed on them. According to a report by The Guardian, the soldiers were killing people like kids would in a video game. According to The Independent, Julian Assange would become a pariah of the mainstream media, accusing him of endangering the public by releasing such sensitive information.
"WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, analyze and promote them, and obtain more," said Julian Assange during a Der Spiegel Interview.
According to Wikileaks.org, Out of all the online publications that expose government corruption and associated acts. Wikileaks is one of the most extensive and profound online libraries in the world. Wikileaks has so much negotiating power due to its library of sensitive information. With the click of a button, they can change the world. More than 100 major media organizations have secure and contractual relationships with WikiLeaks.
According to an article by Pete Yost, a writer for Associated Press:
"Julian Assange is Being charged by the Washington Justice Department, and they will prosecute anyone found to have violated U.S. law in the leaks of classified government documents by online whistleblower WikiLeaks," said Washington Attorney General Eric Holder.
Attorney General Holder believes that if anyone puts America's national security at risk, they should be held accountable and punished for an act of espionage.
"To the extent that we can find anybody who was involved in the breaking of American law, who put at risk the assets and the people I have described, they will be held responsible; they will be held accountable," Holder said at a news conference on another topic. He called the WikiLeaks probe "an active, ongoing criminal investigation."
According to a report by The Guadian, Julian Assange is considered one of the biggest national and worldwide threats to security. After becoming one of the most wanted men in the world, Julian Assange sought diplomatic asylum in the embassy of Ecuador in London, where he spent seven years in self-imposed imprisonment since late June of 2012. He spent seven years in the embassy still leaking documents, turning the embassy into a Wikileaks headquarters, until they removed him. The Ecuadorian government revoked his citizenship due to his erratic behavior, dwindling mental state, and releasing documents that defamed Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno.
According to a report by Vox, Ardin is one of the alleged victims of Assange, who accused him of stroking her leg, removing her clothes, and breaking her necklace while inside her apartment. She then told police that she willingly allowed Assange to undress her, "It was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far," said Ardin. Ardin then proclaimed that he must have "done something" to the condom for it to rip apart during intercourse.
According to The Guardian, Assange told police that he had intercourse with Ardin but didn't tamper with the condom. In the following days, Ardin still allowed Assange to stay with her at her apartment, but sex was off the table because he "exceeded the limits of what she felt she could accept," said Ardin. There was another alleged victim as well, a woman known as Miss W met at a seminar organized by the first alleged victim Ardin. Miss W and Assange then allegedly met up at her apartment, where they began to have sex. In the days that followed, Ardin told a friend that she was still allowing Assange to stay with her, but they were not having sex because he had "exceeded the limits of what she felt she could accept," the friend told police.
According to the Hindustan Times, Miss W met Assange at a seminar. They later met up and went to her apartment, where they started to have sex. But Assange did not want to use a condom, Miss W said, so they stopped and eventually fell asleep. Later that night, she said, they woke up and had consensual sex, during which he begrudgingly used a condom. But in the morning, Miss W said, she woke up to find Assange penetrating her without a condom. Assange has denied any wrongdoing against Miss W.
So what did crime did the American government think Assange committed? According to a United States Office of Public Affairs (OPA) release, The Wikileaks founder faces 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse, with a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. But the only form of action Assange took was clicking a button to publish this information. According to a report by Wired, Assange was to help Chelsea Manning crack a password to gain access to these classified materials but failed to do so.
"On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense Computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications," the indictment states, referring to the Pentagon's SIPRNet network of computers that store classified information.
So what does this mean for journalism as a whole? The future is uncertain, but what is certain is if Assange is considered guilty under the espionage act for simply publishing, journalism, and holding the government accountable will look much different in our future. We are supposed to be a beacon of truth in a dark world, but with biased news and disinformation on the rise, journalism as a whole looks grim.
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