The 9 Weirdest Things About the WikiLeaks Story
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The release of the US embassy cables has thus far been one of the most... interesting moments in recent US (and World) history, impacting global politics in a way that is unprecedented. Nestled amid the outrage and debate are some truly weird aspects that make the brouhaha seem like a lost installment in the Jason Bourne chronicles (or Catch Me If You Can). More important than the drama and gossip, WikiLeaks is a tentpost in the information age, a milestone potentially heralding a new era of internet transparency. As world governments balk at the exposure of their secrets -- and scramble to suppress the information -- Assange and his crew are expressing their right to free speech and facilitating the public's fundamental right to know exactly what their leaders are up to, particularly when it entails wars, torture, and secret military action. Here are the 8 craziest facets of the international uproar surrounding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
1. Hackers on the Offensive
A group of hackers have pledged to wage war against companies that have "censored" WikiLeaks. Yesterday morning Operation Payback targeted PayPal in a DDoS attack (the company no longer lets people donate to WikiLeaks through its service). Later in the day they launched a successful attack on PostFinance, the bank that froze the assets of the Julian Assange Defense Fund. As of last night, the PostFinance site was still down.
2. Julian Assange Has Not Broken Any Laws ... Yet Our Government and Others Treat Him Like He Has
A Canadian advisor called for Assange's assassination, Joe Lieberman pressured Amazon to hypocritically tear down the cables, and officials and media repeat accusations that he is a terrorist despite the fact that the Wikileaks' actions have resulted in no physical harm to anyone -- unlike, say, certain governments. But amid all this, it is important to note that neither Julian Assange nor WikiLeaks have broken any laws, whether American or Australian, in releasing the leaked documents. And yet some lawmakers are so hysterical, such as GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch O'Connell, they are suggesting the US invent new laws, solely for the purpose of bringing Assange to trial. Meanwhile, the government continues to intimidate companies who host the cables, with no actual legal ground whatsoever. As Glenn Greenwald points out:
People often have a hard time believing that the terms "authoritarian" and "tyranny" apply to their own government, but that's because those who meekly stay in line and remain unthreatening are never targeted by such forces. The face of authoritarianism and tyranny reveals itself with how it responds to those who meaningfully dissent from and effectively challenge its authority: do they act within the law or solely through the use of unconstrained force?
The Swiss government has also frozen his legal defense fund, so even if someone does invent a way to nab him legally, his right to a fair trial is compromised.
3. Julian Assange Preps “Poison Pill” in Case He’s Killed or Arrested
As established, Wikileaks leader Assange is not wrong in assuming at some point he may be arrested (Interpol’s on the hunt) or killed (world leaders want his head). Or that WikiLeaks will be shut down. And so, like anyone who knows he's a walking target, he has put out a little bit of insurance on himself and WikiLeaks. Today he announced that, should anyone attempt to harm (or incarcerate) a hair on his head, he’ll pull the trigger on a “poison pill” that would allegedly expose even more explosive information, including some documents about BP, Bank of America and Guantanamo Bay. According to the Daily Mail, an encrypted file sent out to various fellow hackers contains the information, and can be disseminated all across the internet if he decides to give them the key -- an uncrackable password consisting of 256 digits. Mark Stephens, Assange’s lawyer in Britain, has said the information is tantamount to a “thermonuclear device,” consisting of “doomsday files.” Another lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, claims she’s been receiving intimidating letters from Washington.