Trial of convenience

c: | f: /

It’s 2010 and the world looks set to be party to a Nazi-style People’s Court show trial of Julian Assange from WikiLeaks. Have things really changed in seventy years?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been detained on alleged sex offences. The story goes that the Swedish authorities have been after him since August 2010. Except if you dig further — beneath the sensationalism and lies in the mainstream press — you uncover some interesting nuggets around the case.

Firstly, consider the usual order of events when someone is suspected of a crime. The authorities spend resource tracking them down to bring them to justice, right? Julian has not been hiding or otherwise unavailable. In fact, him and his lawyers have been saying to the Swedish authorities for the past four months: “here we are, what do you want to talk about?” and they’ve been stonewalled or delayed. Presumably because there is no case against him and the authorities have been told to bide their time until a case can be made.

Secondly, the people running the site are frequently harassed and surveilled. The US government have referred to them as terrorists to try and provoke a fear reaction. The WikiLeaks site itself is regularly subject to Denial of Service attacks by the government and calls for Internet Service Providers to take it offline (it’s down now). If China launches a DoS against Google it’s a major international incident; if the US government does it against WikiLeaks it’s justifiable.

The duality of morals is delicious. Why do the authorities and governments care? Quoting themselves during their efforts to quell claims of an emerging Police State: surely if they have nothing to hide they’ve nothing to worry about? And if you believe the media soundbites, everyone is for open and honest government; just not that open or honest! Reminds me of the pilot Yes Minister episode.

They claim keeping stuff secret is to protect national security and the lives of informants. I could understand that, if it were true. Consider this: A US Top Secret document is stamped by the president so that only 20 people can read it. But those 20 people have a lot of other stuff to do so they are entitled to delegate it… to over 1300 other people. Further, in 1997 at least, it was estimated that the number of people that could read such sensitive so-called Top Secret material was on the order of two million government officials and a million industrial contractors.

With over three million potential sources of confidential information, keeping the lid on it is difficult at best. And everyone has their price. Thirteen years on, despite all the technical advances, I doubt the situation has improved much. People are always the weak link. Certainly the number of times sensitive material is left on public transport, ditched or not properly protected is laughable.

To that end, WikiLeaks officials probably don’t have to try very hard to gain access to this information: the subsequent publication of it is thus pretty moot. So is WikiLeaks just a test case that is supposed to make us think twice about documents, in much the same way as closing .torrent sites was supposed to stop file sharing? Is it simply the patsy?

Which brings us full circle to Assange’s detention: the fall guy. But in a delightful twist, WikiLeaks claim to have disseminated gigabytes of unreleased documents under password control — a password that will be publicised should any harm come to the site or its founders. So what exactly will the authorities do next? Clearly they’re scared of what might happen and the sex angle is a ploy to discredit Julian and, by association, WikiLeaks. Frankly I’m surprised they only went as far as fabricating that — most of the time they jump straight to paedophilia because they know The Daily Mail will do the rest of the sensationalistic dirty work for them. Unless that’s the end game.

The trouble is that “suicides” (*cough cough* David Kelly), “assassinations” (*cough cough* JFK) and “accidents” (*cough cough* Lady Diana) have been done and pretty much exposed for the frauds they are. The negative PR angle of the slavish, unthinking mainstream press is pretty much all they have left to play with. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

Spout 'em if you got 'em

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