Prya Oliveira, Staff Writer
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested on April 11 by the Metropolitan Police in London. Assange was indicted last March for his conspiracy to help Chelsea Manning crack a password on a Department of Defense high-security computer. Manning, a former U.S. Solider, was convicted for violating the Espionage Act and giving classified information to WikiLeaks. The indictment for Assange was unsealed last Thursday, but officials are deciding whether or not to indict him under the Espionage Act, which could alarm free speech advocates. This brings up the huge question of what type of publicity and press should be protected, and to what extent.
For fans of conspiracy theories, WikiLeaks is nothing new. The site was launched in 2006 and publishes classified information, news leaks, and secret media that is provided by anonymous persons. In 2007 they released footage from the Baghdad airstrike showing murders of many Iraqi civilians as well as journalists. It wasn’t until 2010 that Wikileaks became internationally recognized after leaking information given by Manning. She provided over 750,000 confidential and unclassified military documents, which led to her arrest in 2010. Another shocking release from WikiLeaks was in 2011 of over 700 secret files that were connected to the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, revealing proof of how the prisoners were treated. There was also the 2016 presidential election, when democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked and leaked. The spread of stolen documents and emails led to a connection with Russia, which Assange denied. Sarah Palin’s emails were also published by WikiLeaks in 2008.
It is no question why WikiLeaks is constantly under criticism for invading people’s privacy and interfering with national security. Not only are classified documents published, but so are social security numbers and private medical information. WikiLeaks has faced many lawsuits, some of which they have been able to overcome. It can be difficult to prosecute WikiLeaks because of the First Amendment’s Freedom of Press, but many Supreme Court cases have shown that the Constitution also protects the re-publication of information that was illegally given, as long as the publishers didn’t violate laws when obtaining it.
Understanding what exactly WikiLeaks is will give you a better understanding of who Julian Assange is and why his arrest is monumental. Aside from his controversy with WikiLeaks, he was given an international arrest warrant from Sweden for sexual assault and rape allegations. He denied these allegations and was granted asylum in Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden. He was sent to seven years in exile at the Embassy of Ecuador in London. There, he acted out by doing things like putting his feces all over the walls and being extremely disrespectful to the staff. Last March, his internet communications were suspended because he violated an agreement in his bail to not release messages on WikiLeaks that had a connection with other nations’ affairs. Although he became an official citizen of Ecuador in 2017, Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno withdrew Assange’s asylum because of his horrible and childish behavior. Jeff Sessions even spoke out against Assange, saying that having him arrested is a huge priority for the Department of Justice. It is no surprise that Assange tried to bring up a lawsuit against the government of Ecuador, despite the fact that they harbored him in their embassy for years, claiming that they violated his fundamental rights.
The Department of Justice confirmed that Assange was conspiring to steal military secrets with Manning. After his arrest, Assange appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where he was charged with failing to surrender in 2012. His lawyer defended him by claiming that he did not show up because he was scared that he would not get a fair trial. The judge stated that Assange is a “narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest.” It is hard to determine what to do next because of the protections surrounding the press and the possible retaliation of those who strongly support the freedom of speech. WikiLeaks is an amazing source for those who like to keep up with conspiracies and classified information, but has clearly backfired on its founder.