But you will remember Julian Assange, and that’s the unfortunate hypocrisy in Wikileaks‘ organization. Manning is the 24-year-old American soldier charged with aiding the enemy (which carries a possible death penalty), wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, theft of public property or records, transmitting defense information, and fraud and related activity in connection with computers.
All of these charges for allegedly providing Wikileaks with:
- Video related to the notorious 2009 Granai air strike in Afghanistan
- More than 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables
- More than 400,000 U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War
- Some 90,000 reports from the Afghanistan War
Whatever your opinion of Manning’s actions, or of Wikileaks in general, I think we can agree that Manning is bearing a far heavier burden than Julian Assange, who recently released a biography, and is set to host a political talk show in the next year. Manning is set to receive a life sentence (leniency is an afterthought; a court-martial traditionally boasts a military judge and jury).
Wikileaks was set up as one of the most effectively democratic means of online activism. They’ve since shifted from a horizontal structure to a vertical hierarchy, with Assange sitting at the top. Minions like Manning will take on personal risk in delivering sensitive material to Assange. He will decide how and when it’s released, and will receive the majority of the credit for his service to democracy.
On the website there’s an option to “donate to the WikiLeaks and Julian Assange Defence Fund” which I take, and of course I can’t verify this, to be a fund directed solely at paying off Assange’s legal fees. The other issue is that Assange’s charges are predominantly linked with sex crimes (which, yes, could be a criminal conspiracy, but could just as easily be true, and the proliferation of his public image may just be his attempt at perpetuating the conspiracy theory).
I don’t like to direct personal attacks; especially toward someone who is a valuable piece of an organization that I support (if sometimes reluctantly). What I’m trying to clarify is that Assange’s role is essentially a communicator, and any significant leaks should be attributed to the person who took the personal risk (ie. Bradley Manning) and not the guy who passed on the information to everyone else.