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WikiLeaks: The Last Amendment

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It all began in Townsville, Australia where Julian Assange was born. WikiLeaks itself first appeared on the internet in 2006. The site states that it was founded 'by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the  US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa'. Its spokesman and founder Julian Assange, an Australian journalist and former hacker, began working with others to create a resource that would make it possible for anonymous contributors to upload confidential information revealing 'corruption of governance'. The work became his life.

He approaches his work with the passion and stoicism of a true believer—pursuing it with all his heart, and ready to face whatever consequences it brings to him.   Unconcerned about the noise, he was ever clear about his goals. 'We are creating a space behind us that permits a form of journalism which lives up to the name that journalism has always tried to establish for itself.

  We are creating that space because we are taking on the criticism that comes from robust exposure of powerful groups.' Even when he was informed the former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg was planning to launch Openleaks, a rival site to his own WikiLeaks, and was also already working on a tell-all book about his experiences working at WikiLeaks, titled Inside WikiLeaks:   My Time at the World's Most Dangerous Website, Assange, who was under arrest in London for sex crime charges against him in Sweden, was reportedly unconcerned. 'The supply of leaks is very large,' he told Forbes magazine. 'It is helpful for us to have more people in this industry. It's protective to us.' It is difficult to find such other professionals so totally committed, passionate and unconcerned about the consequences of what they're doing. 'We do not have national security concerns. We have concerns about human beings,' says Assange. 'You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can't lead to a good conclusion.'

  For a world unable to accept the possibility of undertaking dangerous selfless service, Assange has little patience. When his altruism was mistaken for some sanctimonious show of piety, he was unperturbed, his response was just as devastating: 'Oh sure,' he says. 'Because it would be better to be a ruthless media mogul just in it for the money. That would then be acceptable. We can't actually have people doing something for moral reasons. It's only acceptable if we do it just for the money.' On being told that the leaks might have endangered lives, Assange told an interviewer: 'Well, anything might happen but nothing has happened. And we are not about to leave the field of doing good simply because harm might happen … In our four-year publishing history no one has ever come to physical harm that we are aware of or that anyone has alleged. On the other hand, we have changed governments and constitutions and had tremendous positive outcomes.'

  His exploits is a feat that will in future come to be recognised as perhaps the greatest single journalistic endeavour by a brave, pioneering professional. Times magazine said, the leaks '[c]ould become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act,' just as its readers named Julian Assange Time magazine's Person of the Year. So far the site has received more than a hundred legal threats, even though no one has felt confident enough to file a suit. With the group and himself under attack by the government of the United States, some European   governments, African leaders, other officials, multinational corporations and other journalists, with some calling for his execution or assassination,   Assange remains undaunted by all the persecution. Acknowledging the importance of what Assange had done, Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers said, 'The mainstream media mantra 'Pentagon Papers good; WikiLeaks bad' is totally misguided. That's just a cover for people who don't want to admit that they oppose any and all exposure of even the most misguided, secretive foreign policy…I just voted for Assange as TIME's 2010 Person of the Year.'

On his part, he remains focused and defiant. And according to an interviewer, 'Assange typically tells would-be litigants to go to hell. In 2008, WikiLeaks posted secret

  Scientology manuals, and lawyers representing the church demanded that they be removed. Assange's response was to publish more of the Scientologists' internal material, and to announce, 'WikiLeaks will not comply with legally abusive requests from Scientology any more than WikiLeaks has complied with similar demands from Swiss banks, Russian offshore stem-cell centers, former African kleptocrats, or the Pentagon.'' But the reaction to the cables among American professionals was initially hesitant: they didn't want to portray the leader of the free world and the one with the ultimate law in the freedom of expression was about to censor free speech, and opposing for some what they have been campaigning for themselves. But after the initial hesitation, US media began dumping WikiLeaks and actively censoring the new cable disclosures. And Inc. kicked WikiLeaks website off its computer network following the exertion of political pressure after congressional staff inquire about its relationship with online clearinghouse. But Assange had foreseen and planned against this day.

  A human Frankenstein who is extremely intelligent and has been accused of having launched a media insurgency, Assange is certainly a hero who has taken all precautions, making sure that once material is uploaded on WikiLeaks, it will be impossible to remove. He says he maintains its content on more than twenty servers around the world and on hundreds of different domain names, calling it 'an un-censorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis.' Any government or company that wishes to remove content from WikiLeaks will have to practically dismantle the Internet itself. WikiLeaks is the first sustained, uncompromising confrontation between the International Establishment and the open culture of the internet; and, not taking it lightly, the American Establishment has resorted to blackmail. But blackmail is unable by itself to change the status quo; it may temporarily hurt Assange, but it will not change the fact that, around the world, the cable leak has damaged US credibility—what, if any, is left of it. They charged that his information was unchecked; but they in fact helped established its authenticity by being so rattled and paranoid. If they are inaccurate, let them deny them.

  But he received support from expected quarters. Nineteen professors of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the world's centre of journalistic training and excellence, wrote to President Barack Obama and US Attorney-General Eric Holder warning against the 'dangerous precedent' that a prosecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks would set. It would be detrimental to press freedom and to the reputation of the United States.

  As a historical matter, government overreaction to publication of leaked material in the press has always been more damaging to American democracy than the leaks themselves,' they wrote. And whatever one thinks about Assanges's methods or motives, his organization is 'engaging in journalistic activity' by publishing the State Department cables, and therefore entitled to First Amendment protection. But right now, Uncle Sam was not thinking of First Amendment; it was the last thing on his mind: the disclosures have damaged his credibility.  

  The cables reveal how this grief and murderous rage is being spread across the Muslim world, while we lie about it. Here's just one example. US troops blew up an Afghan village called Azizabad, and killed 95 people, 50 of them children. None were al Qaeda, or even Taliban. They knew what they'd done - yet in public they kept insisting they'd killed 'militants', and even accused the local Afghan villagers of 'fabricat[ing] such evidence as grave sites.' This is a concealed crime that the Americans share with some of their allies, including Australia; but the offer from some is less disagreeable. Clearly, the Aussies are back in international reckoning. A hundred   years after Frederick Matthias Alexander had given the world the Alexander Technique, another Australian has now given the world the ultimate Journalistic Technique; and, even as the world witnessed a great deal of 'non-doing,' the balance [no pun intended] of the new international information order will never be the same. Thank you, Julian.  

  By Adamu   Adamu