Please excuse my lack of posts this past week. I have been involved in a genealogical dig which has yielded fascinating information which I will share with you in the coming days, at the risk of self-indulgence. In the meantime, please enjoy a little more on a leak or two.
It’s been more than two weeks since the Wikileaks affair began but we are yet to see anything that confirms the suspicion that the US State Department says one thing and does another.
Assange is no fan of US foreign policy but has done Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a huge favour. The conspiracy kooks were doubtless convinced that 250 000 classified cables would show America’s evil secret agenda. But strip away the fruity language and the embarrassing character profiles and what remains is more women’s magazine than spy thriller. Damn, all that digging of bunkers and stockpiling of tinned foods has come to nought. The US Government is not planning a hostage exchange with space aliens. There is no secret world government. Nestle did not create the AIDS virus and Elvis is really under that slab at Graceland.
It’s reassuring that the secret face of Team America is just as silly as the public one. Assange has lifted the rock, but few spiders and slaters have scurried into the light.
It’s not over yet. Only a fraction of the cables allegedly dumped into Wikileaks’s post box by US serviceman Bradley Manning has seen the light of day. However, one suspects the best of the fireworks are over. If not, Assange risks losing the audience. In cinema, no matter how wonderful the climax of the plot, if the paying customers wait too long they get restless and irritated. If Assange has any better pyrotechnics he should light the wick soon.
Everything so far has been classified material, nothing has been top secret. Perhaps this is deliberate. It’s difficult for US prosecutors charge him for releasing classified material. Leaks of top secret documents present no such obstacle. That’s spying, pure and simple. Assange would be in jail long enough to ensure he wouldn’t need hair bleach to achieve the thin white duke look.
This leads one to idle speculation. Despite Assange’s credo of full disclosure, he still calls himself editor in chief of Wikileaks. By definition, editors edit, they make decisions about what should run and what shouldn’t. The old editorial dictum, “when in doubt, leave it out” is persuasive when editors consider jail terms. And editors take few risks without consulting lawyers.
One wonders how Brad Manning feels about this. Is he satisfied with Assange’s editorial decisions? Has the editor lived up his end of the bargain? Journalists dealing with confidential sources walk a fine line. You want a salacious, revealing story without blowing up the newspaper – or worse, ending up sharing a cell with the source. Quite often the source feels let down. He acts from a desire to tear at the fabric of society while the journalist wants at best to brush lightly against it. He wants to change the world and get to the pub by six. To the whistleblower, the story is the most important moment in history, while for the reporter it’s this year’s Walkley Award entry.
The US will prosecute Julian Assange under the Espionage Act, if they can. Not because they have a case, but because they have to. To let him get away with this impudence would embolden others. Already a copy cat site, OpenLeaks, is planning to join the fun.
It’s unlikely that the US will be able to extradite him, but never discount the power of revenge. If he steps outside the Suffolk mansion where he’s staying, expect some gypsies to roll him up in a carpet and administer a fierce arse-kicking.
But Bradley Manning is screwed either way. Having committed a range of offences by leaking, Manning will be in jail until the next Ice Age. It doesn’t matter whether the cables are classified or top secret. And worst of all for Manning as he contemplates solitary confinement for life, only a handful will remember him in a few years time. Meanwhile, Assange will have his own tonight show, cleverly sponsored by a plumbing supplies firm. Manning has paid a high price to make Julian Assange famous. For instance, film maker Michael Moore rattled on for several hundred words in support of Assange without even mentioning Manning’s name.
But what if someone decides to do some leaking of their own? For Assange, that could be too much information.
Since writing this, I see the counter leaks have already begun. (See below link). Assange protests too much, I fear. He set the rules and it’s going to be a rough game.