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Julian Assange: Leaker, louche, terrorist, whistleblower?

By Don Allan - posted Thursday, 23 December 2010

Julian Assange might be one or all of the above. I don’t know. Although clearly a leaker whether or not he’s louche is yet to be determined by the Swedish courts. It has to be said also that his status as terrorist is questionable. However, clearly he’s not a whistleblower, one of that courageous group of people who exposed corruption at senior levels usually in government and private sector organisations at the risk of losing their jobs and making life difficult for their families. Assange does not fit that profile.

And of the fact that there are concerns about the sexual assault accusations Assange faces in Sweden there is no doubt. On the face of it, he wouldn’t face the same charges in Australia. But as Swedish law and Australian law are different, Assange no doubt, now realises the truth of the old maxim: “when in Rome do what the Romans do”. Don’t and you’ll pay a penalty.

However, it is the leaking by WikiLeaks of content in “sensitive” cables between US and Australian diplomats and Government ministers that has made Assange a target. But the fact that he became a target was more because the information in the cables embarrassed prominent politicians than damaged Australia’s reputation. In effect, the leaks called into question the quality and integrity of some diplomats and politicians.


According to the OED, Diplomacy is: “1 a. the management of international relations; b. expertise in this; or c. adroitness in personal relations”. Adroitness is a key word because it bears on diplomacy to the extent that WikiLeaks shows that most, but fortunately not all, diplomats and politicians, are simply professional liars and skilled dissemblers.

Because of their status it is difficult to take action against diplomats. However, politicians are a different matter. Action can be taken against them through the ballot box by making sure they are never re-elected. This action can also bring a number of benefits: it can lead to making a difference in the quality of people appointed to diplomatic and senior positions in government while indirectly making business leaders take note.

Turning to the question of Assange being a terrorist, PM Julia Gillard and Attorney General Robert McClelland, both lawyers, seem to think he is as both tried him before their personal kangaroo court and found him guilty. And though Gillard now seems less sure of her verdict she has made it clear, nonetheless, that she has not changed her mind. Adroitly, and as befits a former PM, Kevin Rudd in his role as Australia’s Foreign Minister and Chief Diplomat, is having two bob each way.

Of course, In Australia, the cast of the Assange melodrama would not be complete without the usual gallimaufry of Australia’s ego driven, high profile celebrity lawyers, media commentators and human rights activists et al, who can be relied on to surface when human rights allegedly are being infringed. Effectively, the Assange melodrama has provided them with the kind of bandwagon they like to jump on as it helps add to their celebrity profile.

The other cast members in the Assange melodrama are the extras, the writers of letters to the editor and listeners to those radio “schlock” (not “shock”) jocks whose programmes seem to attract the politically biased and misinformed. Patriots all, they seem to think Australians who commit offences in other countries should not be judged by the laws of the country where the offences allegedly were committed, but by Australian law, an attitude best summed up by the phrase: “my country, right or wrong”.

And though this kind of thinking is not confined to Australia, in Australia it has resulted in creating an outpouring of jingoism (poorly disguised as anti US sentiment) on behalf of Assange who has gone from being an internet burglar, known as a hacker, who made his living stealing and selling secrets, to being the great Australian hero fighting for freedom of information, human rights, tolerance and democracy.


Would that this were true The fact is, had it not been for the emotionally mixed up young American soldier, Lance Corporal Bradley Manning, currently enjoying the hospitality of the United States military prison system, the Assange melodrama would not have been written because Assange would not have had access to the soi-disant, sensitive diplomatic cables.

Let me add also that you might find it worthwhile to check Assange’s background on the net before rushing to accept stories about this hero of democracy. If you do, and if you had already made up your mind about him, you might be inclined to change it.

At the same time it might also help you form an opinion about whether or not Assange is leaker, louche, terrorist or whistleblower. Indeed you might form the view that he is not so much a hero but a hacker who could end up causing you damage.

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About the Author

Don Allan, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at:

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