Assange is not a rapist but neither is he a hero

A devastating critique of Julian Assange from Nick Cohen of the Guardian:

As soon as WikiLeaks received the State Department cables, Assange announced that the opponents of dictatorial regimes and movements were fair game. That the targets of the Taliban, for instance, were fighting a clerical-fascist force, which threatened every good liberal value, did not concern him. They had spoken to US diplomats. They had collaborated with the great Satan. Their safety was not his concern.

David Leigh and Luke Harding’s history of WikiLeaks describes how journalists took Assange to Moro’s, a classy Spanish restaurant in central London. A reporter worried that Assange would risk killing Afghans who had co-operated with American forces if he put US secrets online without taking the basic precaution of removing their names. “Well, they’re informants,” Assange replied. “So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.” A silence fell on the table as the reporters realised that the man the gullible hailed as the pioneer of a new age of transparency was willing to hand death lists to psychopaths.

Ouch, and it gets worse.

James Ball joined and thought that in his own small way he was making the world a better place. He realised that was not what it seemed when an associate of Assange – a stocky man with a greying moustache, who called himself “Adam” – asked if he could pull out everything the State Department documents “had on the Jews”. Ball discovered that “Adam” was Israel Shamir, a dangerous crank who uses six different names as he agitates among the antisemitic groups of the far right and far left. As well as signing up to the conspiracy theories of fascism, Shamir was happy to collaborate with Belarus‘s decayed Brezhnevian dictatorship. Leftwing tyranny, rightwing tyranny, as long as it was anti-western and anti-Israel, Shamir did not care.

Nor did Assange. He made Shamir WikiLeaks’s representative in Russia and eastern Europe. Shamir praised the Belarusian dictatorship. He compared the pro-democracy protesters beaten and imprisoned by the KGB to football hooligans. On 19 December 2010, the Belarus-Telegraf, a state newspaper, said that WikiLeaks had allowed the dictatorship to identify the “organisers, instigators and rioters, including foreign ones” who had protested against rigged elections.

Wikileaks did some great stuff in their early days, when they were the enemies of dictators. With Assange involved it is hard to see how they can recover.

In Ethiopia, however, Assange has already claimed his first scalp. Argaw Ashine fled the country last week after WikiLeaks revealed that the reporter had spoken to an official from the American embassy in Addis Ababa about the regime’s plans to intimidate the independent press. WikiLeaks also revealed that a government official told Arshine about the planned assault on opposition journalists. Thus Assange and his colleagues not only endangered the journalist. They tipped off the cops that he had a source in the state apparatus.

What fine work.

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