Is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a hero or a villain? | The Tylt

Is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a hero or a villain?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London after living in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years. Assange sought asylum in 2012 after being accused of sexual misconduct in Sweden. Authorities in the United States have been attempting to extradite Assange for years in connection with hacks carried out by Chelsea Manning and accusations that he worked with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election. Supporters say Assange is a hero who has fought to reveal dangerous state secrets. Others say he is a megalomaniac who put lives at risk. What do you think?

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Is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a hero or a villain?
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Is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a hero or a villain?
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Assange's myriad supporters say his indictment and possible extradition to the United States represents a "grave threat" to freedom of the press. Assange has long claimed the mantle of journalist, claiming he is protected by freedom of the press. Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept claims the activities Assange is being charged with—encouraging Chelsea Manning to hack into government agencies, providing her with a username that was not her own—are activities any good journalist would engage in. 

Whatever else is true about the indictment, substantial parts of the document explicitly characterize as criminal exactly the actions that journalists routinely engage in with their sources, and thus constitutes a dangerous attempt to criminalize investigative journalism.
The indictment, for instance, places great emphasis on Assange’s alleged encouragement that Manning – after she already turned over hundreds of thousands of classified documents – try to get more documents for WikiLeaks to publish. The indictment claims that “discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’”
But encouraging sources to obtain more information is something journalists do routinely. Indeed, it would be a breach of one’s journalistic duties not to ask vital sources with access to classified information if they could provide even more information so as to allow more complete reporting. If a source comes to a journalist with information, it is entirely common and expected that the journalist would reply: can you also get me X, Y and Z to complete the story or to make it better? As Edward Snowden said this morning, “Bob Woodward stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.”
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Writer Michael Weiss is uncompromising in his read of Assange for the Atlantic. Weiss, who refers to Assange both as a "powdered-sugar Saddam" and a "sex pest," believes Assange has used the mantle of a noble whistleblower to hide his own more nefarious, self-interested motives. While Assange frequently claims to be a journalist, he rarely follows journalistic standards and has shown a disconcerting lack of concern for the safety of others.

Releasing U.S. diplomatic communiques which named foreigners living in conflict zones or authoritarian states and liaising with American officials was always going to require thorough vetting and redaction, lest those foreigners be put in harm’s way. Assange did not care—he wanted their names published, according to Luke Harding and David Leigh in WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. As they recount the story, when Guardian journalists working with WikiLeaks to disseminate its tranche of U.S. secrets tried to explain to Assange why it was morally reprehensible to publish the names of Afghans working with American troops, Assange replied: “Well, they’re informants. So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.” (Assange denied the account; the names, in the end, were not published.)
...Fish and guests might begin to stink after three days, but Assange has reeked from long before he stepped foot in his hideaway cubby across from Harrod’s. He has put innocent people’s lives in danger; he has defamed and tormented a poor family whose son was murdered; he has seemingly colluded with foreign regimes not simply to out American crimes but to help them carry off their own; and he otherwise made that honorable word “transparency” in as much of a need of delousing as he is.
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The Guardian, which has worked closely with Assange and published many of the documents WikiLeaks has procured, published an opinion piece penned by its editorial board, arguing Assange should not be extradited to the U.S. While the editors acknowledge Assange is not a blameless person, they believe sending him to America to answer for his actions with regard to publishing state secrets is a blow to the freedom of the press. 

From first to last, the Assange case is a morally tangled web. He believes in publishing things that should not always be published – this has long been a difficult divide between the Guardian and him. But he has also shone a light on things that should never have been hidden. When he first entered the Ecuadorian embassy he was trying to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and molestation. That was wrong. But those cases have now been closed. He still faces the English courts for skipping bail. If he leaves the embassy, and is arrested, he should answer for that, perhaps in ways that might result in deportation to his own country, Australia. Nothing about this is easy, least of all Mr Assange himself. But when the call comes from Washington, it requires a firm and principled no. It would neither be safe nor right for the UK to extradite Mr Assange to Mr Trump’s America.
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While it is undeniable that WikiLeaks played a critical role in exposing violence and horrible misconduct of the American military in Afghanistan, Assange is not solely responsible for the organization's actions. As Paul Blest argues for the Outline, Assange's behavior has long been abhorrent and his recent pivot towards hard-right bigotry and fear-mongering should preclude him from any praise WikiLeaks itself has garnered. 

Assange has long been a dirtbag. Since 2012, Assange has infamously taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced charges for sexual assault. The case was dropped earlier this year because, the prosecutor said, Assange’s refuge in the embassy “exhausted” “all possibilities to conduct the investigation.” The allegations, which prosecutors said they would resume investigating if Assange ever leaves the embassy, included an accusation that Assange had sex with a woman while she was sleeping. One of the women wrote in 2013 that she had faced harassment and even threats after coming forward.
...[L]ately, Assange has begun to indulge some of the most insidious far-right crankery. Assange and Wikileaks have more than encouraged the theory that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich was Wikileaks’ source for the DNC hack, and even once implied that Rich’s parents were bought off. In August of last year, they offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to his killer; Rich’s own family, however, has dismissed all of this as a conspiracy theory.
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a hero or a villain?
A festive crown for the winner
#AssangeIsAHero
#AssangeIsBadNews