No harm done but Assange faces real risk in the US

By Scott Ludlam – March 13th, 2012

Last year, I travelled to London and Sweden at my own expense to improve my understanding of the situation faced by Wikileaks founder, Australian Julian Assange.

I attended Mr Assange’s High Court hearing in London and met Swedish justice and police officials to learn more about Mr Assange’s rights should he land in a Stockholm remand cell.

Mr Assange was subjected to an Interpol Red Notice without charge or a decision to prosecute. About the same time, a less urgent Orange Notice was issued for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

If that strikes you as odd, consider the fury Wikileaks has aroused in some of the most powerful people by doing what every good news publisher does – reporting the truth no matter how embarrassing.

My main concern is the possibility that Mr Assange, once in Sweden, will be extradited to the US under a “temporary surrender” mechanism for his work with Wikileaks. I hold grave fears for what sort of treatment Mr Assange will be in for if he is transferred to custody in the US.

The private intelligence firm Stratfor appears to know more than our Government about the existence of a sealed US Grand Jury indictment for Mr Assange.

Months of questions to Kevin Rudd when he was foreign minister and the Attorney General’s office have yielded nothing about its existence.

Did the US hide this information from the Australian Government? Either Washington lied to Canberra or Canberra lied to us.

Citizens in open democratic societies understand the need for confidentiality in international diplomacy. This does not mean we need nor deserve to be deceived on matters of life and death.

Wikileaks has shown me things about my country that sit uncomfortably. The release of this information was in the public interest – not because states don’t deserve a modicum of discretion in their operations, but because occasional acts of unexpected transparency remind governments and corporations that they will be held responsible for their actions.

For those officials and organisations who have consistently told the truth, the release of the cables hold little consequence. For those who have lied about war, governance and commerce, they are an indictment. And a very great many people have lied, in our names and on our payroll.

A year after the cable releases, military and political figures in the US have acknowledged that while embarrassing, the releases caused no serious harm. No one was endangered, no one was killed. What the releases did was give us a better understanding of how power works. And that is the primary role of the free press.

Scott Ludlam is a WA Greens Senator

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