Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, seeking diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. Why does this man deserve it? Because he exposed truths in a mass of leaked diplomatic cables and documents that revealed the dirty secrets of war—ones the United States and other governments would very much prefer to keep hidden from view.
Like Daniel Ellsberg—who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, which revealed a top-secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam—Assange’s actions served a significant public service. History demonstrates that sometimes breaking a law in the name of exposing the truth can be crucial to keeping democracy alive, especially during wartime.
Interwoven here is Assange’s threatened extradition of the WikiLeaks leader to Sweden, where he faces accusations of rape and sexual misconduct. The WikiLeaks leader denies the charges and, indeed, it’s very difficult not to view them as politically motivated.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is set to make a decision soon on Assange’s asylum application, and, if his answer is yes, the reverberations between the United States and Latin America will be substantial. But Tom Hayden, who has followed the Assange case as a journalist for The Nation, thinks the Ecuadoran leader is more than likely to grant it anyway. The longtime anti-war activist describes Correa as progressive populist who “already has expelled a US military base from his country, survived an attempted coup and capture by right-wing military plotters and expelled an American ambassador in 2011 based on WikiLeaks revelations.”
We’d like to see the right thing happen here. We’re hoping Correa grants asylum to Assange and that President Barack Obama does not intervene.