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USA classes Assange with al-Qaeda and Taliban: Australian govt toes the USA line

‘Enemy’ tag poses fresh test of citizens’ rights, The Age editorial September 28, 2012 The law must be the same for Assange as for everyone else. THE designation of WikiLeaks and its co-founder, Julian Assange, as enemies of the US adds to the gravity of the consequences for releasing classified embassy cables two years ago.

The development, revealed in newly released US Air Force documents, puts Assange in the same category as al-Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban. Personnel who contact him risk being charged with crimes that may carry the death penalty.

Senior US politicians have called Assange a terrorist and demanded he be charged with espionage, hunted down or assassinated.

The Age has refuted Australian government claims of ignorance of US plans to pursue Assange. When coupled with public denunciations – Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared Assange to be a criminal – this government inspires little confidence that it would be any more diligent than the Howard government was in standing up for its citizens’ rights.

A member of the military charged with a military offence can expect to be tried in a military court. US Army private Bradley Manning faces a court martial charged with aiding the enemy by transmitting information that became available to the enemy via WikiLeaks.  However, as a result of being deemed ”enemy combatants” – an expedient but legally dubious categorisation – Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib endured long detentions without charge at Guantanamo Bay until a special military tribunal was set up to try detainees.

That points to the risks for anyone declared an ”enemy” of the US military. Assange, though, is not a combatant; as WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, he sees himself as a journalist. The Age published excerpts from the cables by arrangement with WikiLeaks, as did The New York Times in the US and The Guardian in the UK. This information exposed the truth
about the conduct of governments involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Publication was based on the conviction that citizens have a right to know about glaring differences between what governments say in public and what they say and do in private. We had no compunction about making public the secret business of governments and their militaries when the public had been deceived about grave decisions of state,
which went to the justifications for and progress of two wars. At the time, The Age cited an obvious historical precedent. Four decades ago, the Pentagon papers, also illegally copied and provided to The New York Times, showed the Johnson administration had deceived Congress and the public about the Vietnam War.

It is hard to mount a credible argument that exposing deceptive conduct and collusion by elected governments is against the public interest. If governments are embarrassed, lose credibility and are politically damaged, they deserve to be…….


September 28, 2012 - Posted by | civil liberties, USA

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