The arrest of Julian Assange and the official pressure brought to bear on companies that host WikiLeaks or provide services to them is nothing short of appalling. It’s important to remember that Assange did not steal secrets; he published them. Accusing him of espionage is outrageous; he is not profiting from publication, nor did he trade the secrets to our enemies. He simply forced America (and some other countries as well) to confront their own bad behavior.
Although any alleged crime by Assange—and especially sexual violence against women—should be fully investigated and prosecuted, it’s a rare thing indeed to see an Interpol warrant issued for it. Similarly, the last time our government tried to exercise this sort of “prior restraint” on publication, it was to stop The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers—also “secret” documents that revealed American misconduct in the prosecution of an unpopular war.
As Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, tweeted last week, “Every attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.” The response ought to be to keep reading and demand accountability from our government—and to not be distracted by side issues.
One thing is clear about all: The attention now being paid to Assange provides our government exactly what it wants: a big distraction—one that will keep Americans from asking questions about our nation’s bad conduct and the secrets of power. Instead of killing the messenger, our leaders should be following up with congressional oversight investigations into many of the most outrageous truths (like the presence of a CIA secret army) the WikiLeaks have revealed.