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OPINION- Over the past year, the news-releasing organization WikiLeaks has gone from little notoriety to near infamy.
Julian Assange, the spokesperson and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks has come under severe scrutiny for his controversial decisions. This scrutiny, as well as rise in public recognition, is related to the release of classified documents including “The Afghan War Diary” and “The Iraq War Logs.” The former, released on July 25, 2010 details accounts of civilian deaths and an increase in Taliban attacks. The Iraq War Logs, released on Oct. 22, 2010 similarly reveal accounts of previously unknown civilian deaths, abuse, corruption and cover-ups.
What is arguably more interesting than the information revealed is the world’s reaction to the release. The true colors of governments across the world are beginning to show. Concrete concepts like freedom of speech and freedom of the press are starting to fall apart in the wake of this scandal.
The Library of Congress blocking the WikiLeaks website has proven that censorship is alive and well in America. This is disturbing because it is a decision that resembles the actions of authoritarian governments like North Korea and China. These countries explicitly control what their citizens have access to via the Internet. This type of overt censorship only serves as an admission of guilt and simply further instills a distrust of government in the American people.
Besides simply blocking the website, the US Government wants to prosecute Assange for his actions and has urged other world leaders such as Germany, Britain and Australia to also consider criminal charges against him. Unfortunately for the critics of WikiLeaks, charging Assange will prove difficult because he merely published the documents that were allegedly provided to him by Army Private Bradley Manning.
Manning is currently in military prison and has been charged with illegally downloading the leaked files. Assange on the other hand, is protected by the first amendment and a case against him will be hard to build. The American government operates on a flimsy premise. When the laws that government officials support and enforce do not coincide with their personal and political interests, they attempt to bend them.
WikiLeaks and Julian Assange need to act as an example to our government. They need to serve as the clear message that American citizens will not stand for censorship or exceptions to the rule, especially when they only serve to cover the tracks of those in power.
Despite all the backlash, WikiLeaks is not without its supporters. Among them is American filmmaker Michael Moore who has publicly praised the controversial organization.
Moore offered his help through a public statement.
“I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars,” Moore said.
Moore even went one step further by offering $20,000 bail money for Assange who was recently released on bond for alleged sexual assault charges in Sweden. It is undetermined if the arrest is politically motivated, but it is suspected to be by many, including Assange. It is clear that WikiLeaks has entered dangerous waters. Despite criticism from governments worldwide and the threat of legal repercussions, the organization has not been deterred. Assange strongly believes in his cause while others stand firmly against him.
While all of these events have escalated over the last several months, new instances of opposition to WikiLeaks have surfaced in the new year. The US government issuing a subpoena to Twitter Inc. for information regarding WikiLeaks’ account and the accounts of many of their supporters is a prime example of continued resistance and questionable actions.
The target is no longer solely on those in direct connection with the organization, and the American People need to be weary. This subpoena implies that simply showing support for what you believe in could potentially create real problems, legal, political or otherwise. It is a slippery slope, and when citizens start to fear self-expression, the concept of freedom is in jeopardy.
The critics of WikiLeaks believe the release of this information might undermine the security of military operations and the troops in general, but Assange believes transparency will reduce corruption. If the government and military operate on the premise that there are no consequences, deplorable acts like the ones outlined in the recently leaked documents will continue to occur and will only increase.
When the citizens of a democratic nation no longer have the right to know what their government is doing and to police those actions to a reasonable degree, then it is no longer a democracy. The preservation of WikiLeaks or an organization with the same goals is important because they hold powerful people accountable for their actions. With the threat of the world knowing what happens behind closed doors, those who act questionably and without morals might think twice.
The fate of Assange and WikiLeaks is undetermined at this point. It could be a long time before any tangible consequences are seen, but the world does not wait. It is undeniably important that the general public make a collective demand. Individuals need to act together and fight not just for the freedom of WikiLeaks, but for anyone willing to sacrifice their freedom for the greater good. People should come together and support access to important information and those who provide it. WikiLeaks has sparked a revolution of sorts and it is up to us to keep it alive.
Contact your local congressman and express your thoughts on the WikiLeaks situation.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Devon Boen at Devon.email@example.com