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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Do you want to know a secret...

The Wikileaks story has been leading front pages all over the world in the past few weeks -  The Internet's ability to distribute information worldwide has been one of its key influences on modern life, as important as the printing press was to the evolution of books. This is a good thing -and yet there are governments the world over where the concept of knowledge equals power. In the UK and US we take the view that free speech should make our leaders transparent and allow for politcal lies to be discovered and answered to. However Wikileaks latest flood of classified documents have provoked governments to act in a fashion that is totally at odds with the democratic process.

Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange seems to be the victim of political interference. Many in America and the UK are calling for him to be executed and the fact that he currently resides in a British gaol smacks of politics. He was refused bail despite having no criminal record for a rape charge which is far from clear cut when bail on rape charges is largely a formality. And in the same week a Bristol man charged with arranging the murder of his new wife was released on bail - how can that be right?  Even Women Against Rape have said that Assange is being pursued with unaccustomed zeal which speaks volumes in my opinion. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the Wikileaks organisation this all looks like justice is a tool for those in power to use to serve their own ends. I can't speak for the US, a country I've always admired,  but the UK certainly feels less and less like a democracy with each passing day.

The American government have said that Wikileaks have placed people's lives at danger by publishing the sensitive documents but, as I write, only a small percentage of the 2 million documents have been released.And Wikileaks say they asked the US government to help redact sensitive names from the documents but that their request was refused.

The classic defence for leaks is that they expose wrongdoing and yet, unless something major is still to come, then the latest revelations reveal no crimes and will only serve to cause red faces among certain diplomats. So maybe there is no case for having leaked these files into the public domain and that is was merely a case of wanting to attack the US government -  however Assange should be treated like anyone else and the rape charges certainly seemed trumped up and as Wikileaks say Assange's treatment is a victory not a loss to their organisation for people are not stupid and if they feel the push against him is a witch-hunt then he is bound to gain much more support. .

What is worrying in all this is that when the Government are able to control the Internet it will be a very different tool, perhaps a useless tool.

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