Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ironies and Realities of Assange

Julian Assange; speech on August 19, 2012
Julian Assange is full of ironies.

Based on August 19, 2012 public speech (below), ironically Assange supports greater freedom of speech than the United States. Assange believes that freedom of speech includes disclosing stolen classified documents on individuals, organizations, corporations, and governments. The U.S. government draws the line at Assange's speech by stating that freedom of speech which threatens American interests and lives is not permitted, and will be prosecuted/punished/silenced.

Assange's release of stolen American classified documents has created an opportunity and motivation for the U.S. government to strengthen its leaky bureaucracy, and therefore, Assange has done a service to the U.S. government. Yet, ironically, the U.S. government views Assange as a villain who has aided the "enemy".

Assange's release of American classified documents has exposed wrongdoing by the U.S. government, and therefore he has created momentum to correct the wrongdoing such as evidence of lax U.S. military conduct as it relates to civilian deaths and causalities. Yet, ironically, the U.S. government views Assange as a villain who has aided the "enemy".

Assange mentions the Russian band, Pussy Riot in which three members were jailed for two years for doing a political performance against Russian President Putin or 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred', and yet the Russian government has been pressuring the U.K. government to honor Ecuador's decision to grant Assange political asylum.

Despite Assange's broad interpretation of freedom of expression, there are legislated limits to freedom of expression in many countries for promoting hatred, violence, and racism.

Realities:

The lengthy detention of Bradley Manning without trial by the U.S. government, for example, shows the limits of justice and freedom in the United States.

The three year prison sentence for Nabeel Rajab for sending a tweet confirms the authoritarian nature of the Bahraini kingdom (which is supported by the U.S. government). Bahraini Kingdom and Authoritarianism

The division over how to deal with Assange, with the Swedish and United Kingdom governments siding with the United States government, and Latin American governments siding with Assange, demonstrates the lack of clarity over the Assange issue.

The U.S. government's intolerance for anyone who goes against its interests supports the case for Assange's political asylum. By the same token, the disclosure of stolen classified documents demands some response, and therefore does not support Assange's political asylum. Hence, the Assange standoff will come down to political will and power.


Assange's Speech from the Ecuadorian Embassy in the London, United Kingdom on Wednesday, August 19, 2012:

I am here today because I cannot be there with you today. But thank you for coming. Thank you for your resolve and your generosity of spirit.

On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy and the police descended on this building, you came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the world’s eyes with you.

Inside this embassy, after dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up into the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses. And that is because of you.

If the U.K. did not throw away the Vienna conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching. And the world was watching because you were watching.

So, the next time somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend those rights that we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark before the embassy of Ecuador.

Remind them how, in the morning, the sun came up on a different world and a courageous Latin America nation took a stand for justice.

And so, to those brave people: I thank President Correa for the courage he has shown in considering and in granting me political asylum.

And I also thank the government, and in particular Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who upheld the Ecuadorian constitution and its notion of universal rights in their consideration of my asylum. And to the Ecuadorian people for supporting and defending this constitution.

And I also have a debt of gratitude to the staff of this embassy, whose families live in London and who have shown me hospitality and kindness despite the threats we all received.

This Friday, there will be an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of Latin America in Washington, D.C., to address this very situation.

And so, I am grateful to those people and governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and to all other Latin American countries who have come out to defend the right to asylum.

And to the people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Australia who have supported me in strength, even when their governments have not. And to those wiser heads in government who are still fighting for justice. Your day will come.

To the staff, supporters, and sources of WikiLeaks, whose courage and commitment and loyalty has seen no equal.

To my family and to my children, who have been denied their father. Forgive me, we will be reunited soon.

As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.

Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?

I say it must turn back. I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunts against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation.

The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.

There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organization, be it WikiLeaks or be it The New York Times.

The U.S. administration’s war on whistleblowers must end.

Thomas Drake, William Binney, and John Kiriakou and the other heroic whistleblowers must — they must — be pardoned or compensated for the hardships they have endured as servants of the public record.

And to the Army private who remains in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, who was found by the United Nations to have endured months of torturous detention in Quantico, Virginia, and who has yet — after two years in prison — to see a trial: he must be released.

Bradley Manning must be released.

And if Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and an example to us all and one of the world’s foremost political prisoners. Bradley Manning must be released.

On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial. The legal maximum is 120 days.

On Thursday, my friend Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Human Rights Center, was sentenced to three years in prison for a tweet. On Friday, a Russian band were sentenced to two years in jail for a political performance.

There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response.

Thank you.

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