The Al Capone way


Its like catching Al Capone on tax evasion. That was the only thing the authorities in the US could stick on the legendary mobster. Forget the protection rackets, bootlegging, the numbers games and what have you, take him out with anything you can, which in his case was cheating the IRS. That seems to be the approach they used with WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange. Not to trivialise the charge of sexual assault, which the whistleblowers go-to guy is currently facing, but the actual motivation behind the whole case is not lost out on anyone. The charges themselves are a bit shady too, implicating him (though he denies) in what are statutory crimes under Swedish law. There is widespread belief that the complainants are acting at the behest of western government authorities. They clearly tried to dig some dirt and this is the best that they could find.

Mr Assanges arrest certainly does not imply extradition to the US. He is an Australian citizen and US espionage laws do not apply to him. WikiLeaks servers are based in different countries throughout Europe and its recruits are also of different nationalities. The US and other countries will eventually attempt to do some international legislation regarding cases like these, even though they would not be able to retrospectively apply them to Mr. Assange. Even then, the international nature of the outfit will provide a challenge. Different countries have different viewpoints towards freedom of speech and thrashing out an understanding would be difficult.

Even though Julian Assange has become sort of a patron-saint for those who wish for more open and transparent governments, the leaking of diplomatic cables just might turn out to be counterproductive to the cause. Organisations that were previously relatively open are now going to go into paranoid secrecy, with circles of trust, as it were, shrinking rapidly.

Finally, by way of apology. This newspaper mocked the suggestion by our government to the US to gag the whistleblowers. Things are not the same in the developed world as they are here, this very space was used to elucidate. They have open democracies and dont have the spooks making files on every gadfly, ready to throw them at the latter whenever they need to. Well, we were wrong.