The United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) handling of the Wikileaks investigation is drawing criticism not only from Anonymous, a vigilante activist group that has been fighting against censorship involving the leak of US diplomatic cables, but also from an 85 member European Parliament group known as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
The European politicians organized a protest on Wednesday against the DOJ’s attempt to obtain private information from Twitter about close Wikileaks supporters including Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Jacob Appelbaum, and Iceland Parliament member Birgitta Jónsdóttir. They planned to call upon the EU to request clarifications from the US government about the Twitter subpoenas.
“[Our group defends] the right to offend which is an essential part of freedom of expression, and we will stand with those who come under pressure to freely express their views,” said German European Parliament Member Alexander Lambsdorff at an event back in July which hosted both Assange and Jónsdóttir.
Meanwhile, Anonymous released a new video on their blog Wednesday which announces global protests to take place on Saturday January 15th “in defense of Wikileaks and freedom of expression”. That video contained the following message:
“Beneath this mask there is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof. We believe that free speech is non-negotiable. The quality of an idea matters more than its authorship and the radical notion that information should be free. We are done waiting for someone to save us from tyranny and censorship. The internet needs champions and we will rise. We didn’t start this to destroy a cult. We took on a cult to defend free speech. Tens of thousands strong, we lie in wait as the real battle approaches. We are Anonymous, and so are you. Stand up and fight. Every city, everywhere, January 15th. Expect us.”
All of this comes as worry grows that Wikileaks’ founding member Julian Assange may face the death penalty in the US if Swedish officials are successful in extraditing Assange to their country where he faces allegations of raping two woman. Assange’s defense attorney, Mark Stephens, outlined his concerns in a 35-page legal document released on Tuesday.
“It is submitted that there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR,” Stephens states in the document. ”Indeed, if Mr. Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty. It is well-known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr. Assange should be executed.”
Lately, I have been talking with others in my local community about Wikileaks events and how the case should be handled, and the responses have been quite mixed. Some believe that the information contained in the leaked diplomatic cables should be openly published and that the government should learn a lesson about transparency from the situation. Others believe that the cables represent stolen property and should never have see the light of day. The situation is dividing not only Americans, but citizens around the world on views of government control and freedom of expression.
My personal feelings are mixed on the matter. While I believe that the actual theft of the cables is wrong, I don’t necessarily agree with the US government’s response on the matter. Since the cables were already out, I believe that government officials should have taken the opportunity to assist Wikileaks in redacting personal information contained in the cables before they were published, rather than taking the hard stance which caused cables to be published with information intact that has put some of the people involved in grave danger. Should Assange be severely punished? Is the US treatment of PVC Bradley Manning wrong? These are questions that I’m having difficulty answering.
What are your views on the Wikileaks situation? Let your opinion be heard in the comments.