The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange has been in the news recently because the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid just signed an order to extradite him to the United States, where he stands accused of 18 crimes under the Espionage Act.
The United States claims that WikiLeaks has published State Secrets, secrets that have harmed the United State’s Government to the extent that they’ve compromised National Security.
The problem is that this isn’t really the case – lots of the information published by WikiLeaks has been harmful to the U.S. and many other governments because it reveals the truth about how they operate behind closed doors and the information they cover up to protect themselves.
One such example is the video released via WikiLeaks in 2007 of a US aircrew laughing over the dozen innocent people they’d just slaughtered in Iraq which exposed the US government’s lie that all of these people had been insurgents.
There is also a further problem in that Julian Assange’s Whistle blowing is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
All of this seems to be blatent case of two governments (the US and the UK) collaborating to stifle Freedom of Speech – it is an attempt by them to use blunt force (the threat of imprisonment) to clamp down on any Journalist who dares to expose State lies.
Furthermore, given that Assange hasn’t actually done anything illegal, extraditing him is a state crime on the part of the UK government (false imprisonment – Assange is currently in jail), and the US putting him on trial is also a state crime.
NB if Assange is extradited and found guilty, this could open up the door the the US being able to prosecute any of the newspapers or journalists which published WikiLeaks material.
It’s a worrying time for freedom of speech and just goes to show the power of the state in modern times: even if
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is most obviously relevant to Crime and Deviance: it’s a great example of how ‘crime’ is socially constructed’ – what Julian Assange did isn’t even a crime (because of the U.S. Constitution) and yet because it harms governments, the US and the UK are ‘making’ it one.
If you compare it to the case of the war criminal Tony Blair who lead us into an illegal war against Iraq by deliberately misleading the House of Commons, he isn’t being extradited and prosecuted.
Together these show how the ‘law’ is manipulate to protect the wealthy.
Sources/ Find out More
This article by the Real News Network, which features John Pilger, is well worth a read – the article goes into details of how Assange can’t even access the documents he needs to defend himself, in breach of his human rights.