With Julian Assange in custody and his extradition hearing set for Tuesday, the latest hand-wringing and discord over WikiLeaks has splintered: upcoming WikiLeaks cables on Guantanamo; U.S. attempts to charge Assange with a crime; and corporations (bad Amazon!) freezing out WikiLeaks’ access to funds and hosting, and getting attacked by irate hackers in retaliation. As we start to draw Venn diagrams of the WikiLeaks saga, it becomes clear that these smaller circles of sub-controversy are filled with as much contradiction and hypocrisy as there is aquavit during Sweden’s crayfish season.
Contradiction no. 1: The Gitmo Cables
From prison, Assange has told reporters that the next four tranches of diplomatic cables all have to do with Guantanamo, and his associates say he has “the personal files of every prisoner in GITMO,” presumably including their shockingly high recidivism rates. Releasing that data will make it even tougher for Obama to close the prison, but guess where Assange could end up if he ends up being declared an enemy combatant? Gitmo, baby.
Contradiction no. 2: Free Speech and the Case Against Assange
Speaking of Assange’s legal status, Congress and members of the Obama Administration are getting aggressive about bringing criminal charges against him for disseminating all that classified info. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.” The Senate is already preparing a bill to “lower the current legal threshold for when revealing state secrets is considered a crime.
There’s the rub. In their zeal to prosecute Assange as a lawless terrorist, the U.S. is willing to trample all over First Amendment rights; Senator Lieberman has even called for the New York Times to be investigated. And the press loses right to publish state secrets, then the need for organizations like WikiLeaks becomes even more critical to a functioning democracy. Plus, the more they prosecute Assange, the more heroic he looks.
Contradiction no. 3: Dot Coms vs. Dot Org
Last week, Amazon refused to continue hosting WikiLeaks on its servers, claiming that the whistleblower broke its terms of service–despite the fact that some news organizations that published stories about the leaked cables did so on the Kindle. Today, it emerged that one of Amazon’s e-books sellers, listed as Heinz Duthel was hawking excerpts from the cables for $11.60 ordered by embassy of origin. Another e-book sold by Duthel? Discovering Asian Women. We’re not 100 percent on this, but we believe this is the same Amazon that was selling The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct.
Twitter, on the other hand, is happy to bask in its reputation as the best way ever to connect individuals and disseminate information – unless it’s anonymous hackers terrorizing legitimate businesses. Then it’s whack-a-mole time.
Due to some unfortunate overlap with Alanis Morisette’s definition of the word “irony,” this post has been updated for clarification.
Guantanamo files may star in next WikiLeaks release [Reuters]
The U.S.’s Weak Legal Case Against WikiLeaks [Time]
Amazon Explains Why It’s Okay to Sell Books About the WikiLeaks Stuff It Won’t Host [MediaMemo/AllThingsD]