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June 30, 2012

Who Would you Save, Assange or Pinochete?

By D. H. Kerby

A comparison between Pinochete, whom Britain let go, and Assange, whom they won't. Also privacy, encryption, and journalism.


        Julian Assange may be the last journalist. And I write that as a journalist. We talk about protecting our sources, but the proliferation of surveillance often means that the government can discover who's talking to us. Or meant that, until The Tor Project and public key encryption. The problem is that the government feels horribly threatened by the prospect that the citizenry can talk amongst itself privately. Jason Applebaum is the public face of The Tor Project, a San-Francisco based organization dedicated to preserving privacy and anonymity on the internet. Mr. Applebaum doesn't seem to be able to pass through an international airport these days without being questioned at length by the FBI.
        Applebaum was interviewed recently by Assange on his show on Russia Today television. Research in Motion, the maker of the Blackberry, has been in a conflict with the government of India because its software is not compatible with Indian surveillance technology. We have reached a point, despite Congressional hearings held by former Senator Russ Feingold, at which legislators believe they should deny the public technology and cryptography that enables it to have  communications  secure enough for lawyers to protect their client's secrets, doctors' to protect their patients' medical privacy, and journalists to protect their off-the-record sources.
        In 1998 Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochete was arrested in Britain for "crimes of genocide and terrorism that include murder" but George H. W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, and the Home Secretary overruled the British courts and let him go because of poor health. The British Supreme Court has ruled in late May of that a Swedish arrest warrant for Julian Assange was valid despite being issued by a prosecutor rather than a judge, but are heads of state in El Norte and the Home Secretary likely to overrule that? Pinochette presided over the torture of thousands of Chileans after being installed in a CIA-backed coup in 1973, whereas Assange has informed the world of the particulars of war crimes and human rights outrages so that the perpetrators may be held accountable. Now seeking asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, having endured the caulumny of the right-wing punditocracy in the United States including multiple calls for his assassination, his might be the unhappy ending which all-too-frequently befalls the little boy who declares the emperor's nakedness. A man who presided over the tortur
        But there is hope in the form the of left-wing populist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. Correa can grant Assange asylum, and pressure can be applied to the government of Great Britain to grant him safe passage to Heathrow Airport, on to a flight to Quito, and out of British airspace.
        Is Assange merely trying to avoid accountability for rape in Sweden? No, supporters insist, it is the United States and not Sweden from which he is asking Ecuador to protect him. By all reasonable accounts, the rape case against Assange is thin. What's more interesting is that journalist after journalist seems willing to repeat assurances that there is no indication that the United States is planning to extradite him. Everyone knows grand jury proceedings are secret, but, according to Assange, "There are subpoenas everywhere." As I. F. Stone frequently said, "All governments lie." What a journalist should never do, of course, is knowingly repeat those lies as truth.

Authors Bio:
D. H. Kerby is a writer in Philadelphia.