The online non-profit organization WikiLeaks has been the source of much controversy over the past several years. Founded by Julian Assange in 2006, the website is a collection of information of a classified nature that is “leaked” by anonymous individuals.
Two years ago, Bradley Manning was arrested in Baghdad due to his alleged involvement with WikiLeaks including leaking classified documents as well as footage of a 2007 U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. On Nov. 29 he testified for the first time since his arrest.
Manning’s detention has lasted for 921 days without trial. According to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez, Manning’s treatment was “at a minimum cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in violation of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture.”
Assange posted an entry on The Blog, which is part of the Huffington Post website, on the same day due to it being the two-year anniversary of Cablegate, described by Assange as “an archive of 251, 287 U.S. State Department diplomatic cables – messages sent between the State Department and its embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world.”
The article highlights some of the most prominent Cablegate leaks and their impact on the U.S. governments, and governments around the world.
It is clear that Assange has invoked the anger of many government officials and has been called a terrorist by politicians and pundits alike. Assange stated in the article, “I have been granted political asylum and now live in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, surrounded by armed police…”
In addition to Assange having to take political asylum, WikiLeaks has been under constant attack, with donations being blocked by Visa. In an interview with Juan González and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Assagne stated, “Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over that period. So, that is over $50 million.”
According to his article, WikiLeaks has released documents “showing that Senator Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King directly influenced decisions by PayPal, Visa and Mastercard to block donations to WikiLeaks…”
The problem politicians and government officials have with WikiLeaks is not, despite what they may claim, that it is a threat to national security. The problem for them is that Cablegate has exposed the corruption and manipulation on the part of the government that so much of the population is blind to.
One released cable Assange brings attention to is from 2007. It summarizes “a meeting with a director of Al Jazeera” and “shows that U.S. officials expected a special report with graphic images of injured Iraquis to be changed and its images removed.” It is exactly this type of censorship and influence on the part of the U.S. government that so many people are unaware of. The influence of the U.S. Government is far greater than most officials would want the public to be aware of. Cablegate has been what opens people’s eyes to the behavior that takes place. This exposure is what angers and probably frightens government officials.
Cables have also been released showing that Hillary Clinton sent out an “intelligence gaterhing directive” in 2009 asking for information on UN officials, such as their credit card numbers.
Manning’s treatment and detention are also bringing up questions about why this kind of treatment is authorized in the first place and exactly who is authorizing it. It is this type of questioning that WikiLeaks has brought into public discussion.
The blocking of funding to WikiLeaks demonstrates the limits that are placed on the freedom of the press. It is essentially an attempt to censor what the public knows about the inner-workings of the government and that is simply not acceptable. Julian Assange is not a terrorist and WikiLeaks is not a threat. This organization needs to be protected as a voice for those brave enough to expose the corruption they are aware of.
Assange ended his article with the statement, “We will continue our fight against the financial blockade, and we will continue to publish.” Hopefully, this determination will be enough to keep WikiLeaks around to open the eyes of people everywhere.