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Julian Assange Freed - What's your view?

  • According to various news outlets, Julian Assange has been freed, and is currently in layover at Bangkok awaiting transition to the final destination of Australia (his country of birth).

    Who is Julian Assange?

    Julian Assange is an Australian editor, publisher, and activist best known as the founder of WikiLeaks, a platform that publishes classified and sensitive information provided by anonymous sources. Assange’s work with WikiLeaks has made him a polarizing figure; he is hailed by supporters as a champion of transparency and press freedom, while critics accuse him of jeopardizing national security and diplomatic relations. In 2012, facing extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he remained until his arrest in April 2019. Until recently, he was fighting extradition to the United States, where he faced charges under the Espionage Act.

    Who are Wiki Leaks?

    Established in 2006, WikiLeaks gained global attention in 2010 when it released a massive trove of U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables provided by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including the Collateral Murder video, which showed a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad. These disclosures sparked significant controversy, revealing previously undisclosed information about military operations, government surveillance, and diplomatic affairs. Assange’s actions have led to a polarized global debate over issues of transparency, national security, and press freedom.

    Should Assange be freed?

    The question of whether Julian Assange should be freed is highly contentious and involves several complex factors, including legal, ethical, and political considerations.

    Arguments for his release:

    1. Freedom of the Press: Supporters argue that Assange’s actions with WikiLeaks are a form of journalistic activity aimed at promoting transparency and holding governments accountable. They believe prosecuting him sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom and the rights of journalists worldwide.

    2. Human Rights Concerns: Advocates for Assange highlight concerns over his mental and physical health, exacerbated by prolonged confinement. They argue that continued detention is inhumane and call for his release on humanitarian grounds.

    3. Whistleblower Protection: Some view Assange as a whistleblower who exposed important information in the public interest. They argue that instead of punishment, he deserves protection for unveiling government and corporate misconduct.

    Arguments against his release:

    1. Legal Accountability: Critics argue that Assange should face the legal consequences of his actions, particularly the charges of espionage and computer intrusion in the United States. They contend that his releases endangered lives and compromised national security.

    2. Rule of Law: Opponents emphasize the importance of upholding the rule of law. They argue that regardless of the nature of the leaks, Assange must be held accountable for any illegal activities, including hacking and handling classified information without authorization.

    3. Impact on National Security: Governments and security experts argue that the indiscriminate release of classified documents can have severe repercussions, including compromising intelligence operations and putting lives at risk. They believe that his prosecution is necessary to deter future leaks that could threaten national security.

    My view is that Julian Assange should not have been freed and made to face the consequences of his actions. You can easily argue that what he did was in the public interest, but when doing so directly impacts the security of a nation, and the safety of individuals, then this should be regarded as a criminal offence - in fact, it qualifies for treason - again, you could argue that as an Australian national, he did not sell out his own country. However, while the specific charge of treason usually applies to nationals, countries have legal mechanisms to address and prosecute harmful actions by non-nationals that threaten their security and interests.

    The United States sought the extradition of Julian Assange primarily due to his role in obtaining and publishing classified information through WikiLeaks. The specific reasons included:

    • Espionage and Theft of Classified Information: Assange was charged under the Espionage Act for conspiring to obtain and release classified documents. The charges relate to the publication of sensitive military and diplomatic files that were provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst.

    • Compromising National Security: The U.S. government argued that the publication of these documents endangered lives, compromised national security, and threatened the safety of U.S. personnel and allies. The documents released included detailed records of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic cables.

    • Computer Intrusion: Assange faced charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, stemming from allegations that he assisted Manning in cracking a password to gain unauthorized access to U.S. government computers.

    • Precedent for Handling Leaks: The extradition and prosecution of Assange were seen as a means to set a legal precedent and deter future unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The U.S. government aimed to demonstrate the serious consequences of leaking sensitive materials - effectively an attempt to “lead by example”.

    The U.S. extradition request was part of broader efforts to address the implications of WikiLeaks’ activities on national security and the protection of classified information. The case sparked significant debate over issues of press freedom, the public’s right to know, and the boundaries of investigative journalism.

    What do you think? I’m really interested in views and opinions here. I, of course, have my own view that he should not have been freed, but made to face the consequences.

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