Digging for dirt on Assange

Shame on Gawker for going all News of the World and publishing a personal email exchange between Julian Assange and a girl in whom he was interested many years ago:

Julian Assange, the founder of the world’s most notorious secret-sharing operation, has some embarrassing documents in his own past. We’ve obtained a series of emails detailing his stalkery courtship of a teenager in his pre-Wikileaks days.

Moronic apologists for the establishment are trying to portray this as entirely legitimate given that he’s publishing their secrets – as if there were no difference between publishing COMMUNICATIONS OF STATE and digging through the private correspondence of ordinary citizens.

(Funnily enough, Adrian Chen, the author of this vicious little expose, didn’t share any of his embarrassing romantic cock-ups with the world. Although he did provide an embarrassing photo.)

XKCD also missed the point, earlier in the week:

But Wikileaks is not about pursuing the anonymous, ordinary citizens – it’s about exposing the machinations (not the private lives) of the powerful on our behalf. It’s not the same thing at all.

So who watches the watchers? Turns out it’s the watched. With all the resources of the state at their disposal, and all the malice of an insulted tyrant. The aim? To make future watchers too scared to even consider watching them. To destroy those who would dare to hold them to account, so that in future that won’t happen.

Let’s not reward them for the repulsive gambit.

UPDATE: Or, if I might put it like this – the maxim is quis custodiet ipsos custodes, or “who guards the guards” – not (although it is often mistranslated this way) “who watches the watchers”. The distinction: the watchers are not the ones with the guns! They’re not in power over us! They do not rule us, tax us, or punish us.

The state and its agents, on the other hand…

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24 responses to “Digging for dirt on Assange

  1. In an episode unrelated to WikiLeaks, Gawker has been hacked once this month already.
    What are the chances that they’ll still be standing at the end of the weekend?

    Cheers

  2. Or possibly related after the fact . . . This group “anonymous” appears to be in some way associated with “Gnosis” – the group which perpetrated the Gawker hack – although they state themselves that this is not the case , and there was clearly a vast difference in skill required to carry out the respective attacks.

    I think “anonymous coward” at slashdot said it best:

    WTF was this awful website anyway?

    We can learn from the Wikipedia that it was:
    Gawker is a blog based in New York City that bills itself as “the source for daily Manhattan media news and gossip” and focuses on celebrities and the media industry.

    So, good, I was RIGHT in not giving two shits about this hack or the dozens of shitheads who bothered to create logins on a fucking useless blog site of nonsense and shitheadery(a word I had to make up to convey my lack of concern for those asshat users and their moronic blog hosts).

    Let the douchery commence!

  3. Splatterbottom

    Marek: “What are the chances that they’ll still be standing at the end of the weekend?”

    Of course if Gawker comes down, it will be most excellent if the perps are prosecuted and jailed.

    Also, the leaking of Swedish prosecution documents is just the thing Wikileaks would do. In fact any reputable news organisation in possession of those documents would publish them. They are particularly relevant in the light of Assange’s conspiracy claims. Seems a funny old conspiracy – Swedish leftists doing the CIA’s bidding. What are the odds of that?

  4. Seems a funny old conspiracy – Wikileaks documents are released and then suddenly Assange is charged with rape in Sweden, on evidence so flimsy that the Swedes won’t share it with the CPS in Britain when demanding they oppose his bail.

    And it is flimsy – at its highest, it’s he said, she said. I don’t see how you could ever get “beyond reasonable doubt”. So it’s not a serious prosecution – it’s clearly about tainting Assange in the eyes of his supporters.

    As for Gawker – it’s quite different publishing material about the State, and publishing private, personal material about private citizens. Can you seriously not tell the difference?

  5. jordanrastrick

    This just in – an Australian barrister, not privy to any facts of the Julian Assange case beyond the demonstrably unreliable media reporting, is nonetheless able to confidently ascertain the correct outcome of due legal process.

    “The thing about rape is, it’s always he said she said”, said the barrister, “and therefore, a priori, can never be proven beyond reasonable doubt. In fact, now that I think about it, they may as well abolish laws that make rape a crime – I mean only a minuscule percentage get caught on camera or whatever, m’I right?”

    In other news, Sweden has announced that it’s ultra progressive political and social climate was actually always just a cunning disguise, and that secretly the government has been run by the U.S. Republican party for years.

    “Yeah, essentially our nation only exists as a front for clandestine CIA operations. We’ve been waiting a long time for a chance to display our loyalty to our beloved America – all those years we spent disagreeing with U.S. foreign policy, constitutionally enshrining the independence of our prosecutors, creating unparalleled legal protections for whistleblowers… well I can’t say it wasn’t tough living with a lie of such magnitude, but thankfully now that’s all over”, said a government spokesperson.

    “I just hope that sacrificing our cover has been worthwhile. I mean to be honest, I personally suggested that, rather than bring in a single member of the large Wikileaks team for questioning over a crime that is notoriously hard to successfully prosecute in a jury trial, there might perhaps be more effective ways to silence that evil organisation. Like perhaps, pressuring the one financial company that is still prepared to process donations for them, which is Swedish? Or you know, we could actually just shut down their servers. Since those are in Sweden.”

    “But I’m sure Ms Palin knows what she’s doing. She said if we were too competent in persecuting Wikileaks, intelligent people might actually start to believe a conspiracy was the most plausible explanation for all this. And we don’t want mainstream opinion publically suspecting that America in general, and Republicans in particular, are out to get Wikileaks. Um, even though they’re all publically calling for him to be prosecuted for terrorism, and thrown in gaol for life or even executed? And that’s massively politically popular for them domestically. Yeah… to be honest, I’m a bit confused concerning all the details. I think Caribou are involved somehow.”

  6. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy: “And it is flimsy – at its highest, it’s he said, she said. I don’t see how you could ever get “beyond reasonable doubt”. “

    Really? There are two “shes”, and any other corroborative evidence which nay be adduced certainly leaves open the possibility of a conviction.

    Surely, as you have advocated so passionately before, the matter should be left to the court who, unlike you, will be in possession of all relevant facts.

  7. Obviously there CAN be corroborating evidence in rape cases. But in this one, how? They both agree he had consenting sex with her duringthe period – so no physical evidence will distinguish between their versions. And, no, there is no second witness to either incident: the women cannot back up each others’ stories because neither was present during the incident involving the other.

    Jordan – try your comment again without the defamatory smears at my professional ability and the assertion of a view I did not express.

  8. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy, maybe some forensic evidence or prior consistent actions or statements, similar fact evidence or if under cross examination the witnesses are credible and the defendant is not. Only someone with a barrow to push would try to second-guess the court.

    Certainly Assange’s conspiracy theories don’t help matters. In all the circumstances they seem unhinged. He certainly hasn’t presented any basis for those. Maybe he is planning an insanity defence.

  9. jordanrastrick

    I don’t have any issues with your professional ability, Jeremy, which I’d suspect is of the highest standard; what bothers me is how little that legal expertise seems to matter when it comes to prejudging on your blog the outcome of a possible trial that you happen to have a politically motivated opinion about.

  10. Quite obviously there is a clear and meaningful distinction between publishing state ‘secrets’ and publishing the private communications of indiviudal citizens.

    But ideological die-hards like SB will not recognise it in the current instance as it does not serve their partisan agenda to do so.

  11. Jeremy, maybe some forensic evidence or prior consistent actions or statements, similar fact evidence or if under cross examination the witnesses are credible and the defendant is not. Only someone with a barrow to push would try to second-guess the court.”

    From the material presented so far, and in that link, the Swedes do not appear to have any such evidence. On the contrary, Assange’s statements to police appear to be highly consistent with his version now; if anything, it’s the women who’s behaviour is inconsistent with their stories.

    It’s ridiculous that the Swedes didn’t have to put a coherent and plausible case when opposing his bail.

    As for the mockery of “conspiracy” theories: yeah, it’s just a coincidence that he’s been the subject of these charges right after the Wikileaks revelations.

  12. Splatterbottom

    Mondo, there clearly is a distinction to be drawn. The point I was making is that the leaked government document on Assange’s charges is in the category of documents Wikileaks itself might leak. It certainly published government documents with gossipy comments about people.

    Assange is the one making wild conspiracy allegations here, and any document bearing on that is fair game.

    You seem to have crossed the line from support for Assange’s right to publish documents leaked by others, which we both agree with, to attacking anyone critical of Assange on other grounds, or anyone not joining you in making light of the rape charges against him.

    You need to be more balanced, old cock. Assange has a right to publish, but there is no need to rabidly attack anyone who criticises him on other grounds. If it turns out that he is an narcissistic predatory psychopath we should be able to discuss it. He has made himself the very public face of Wikileaks. You seem to have taken it upon yourself to attack everyone who doesn’t bestow on Assange the same fawning adulation that stirs your little lefty heart.

  13. The charges against Assange are a side-show. Obviously, if he is guilty, then he should be suitably punished for his crimes. No criminal, particularly a rapist, deserves leniency for their actions simply because they happen to be doing an enormous public service in another part of their life.

    However if Assange is extradited to the US to face any of the treason nonsense that is threatened, or worse, then I can only hope that the self-styled defenders of freedom on this site are as quick to speak out in his defence as they have been to condemn him over these conveniently timed accusations.

    Somehow, though, I suspect that they will not.

  14. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy: “As for the mockery of “conspiracy” theories: yeah, it’s just a coincidence that he’s been the subject of these charges right after the Wikileaks revelations.”

    It seems odd that you are prepared to jump into a conspiracy theory on the basis of precisely no evidence at all. In fact it appears a bit strange that leftist supporters of Assange would conspire against him, doesn’t it?

    In fact the only reason one would leap to a conspiracy theory without any evidence is some benighted belief in the unmitigated virtue of Assange.

  15. Splatterbottom

    Mondo, the only way I can see the Yanks getting at Assange is if he conspired with Manning in the original theft of the documents.

    I suspect the US constitutional protection of free speech provides the strongest protection of any legal system for what Assange has done. If the Yanks attack him, then they are going to have to attack the NYT and other news outlets as they are in the same boat as Wikileaks.

  16. jordanrastrick

    The charges date from months ago. While the prosecutor’s wavering back and forth about whether to pursue the case has a mildly suspicious air given the coincidence in the timing, there are plenty of plausible legitimate explanations (new evidence came to light, the alleged victims own legal representatives in the process demanded action, etc.) Furthermore, there has to be at least some small chance that the “conspiracy” causation runs in the other direction – i.e. that Assange got wind that he would soon be wanted in Sweden, and timed the release of the leaks to make himself a cause celebre.

    There’s all kinds of evidence that might conceivably corroborate the women’s stories. Text messages, emails, phone conversations. Testimony from multiple witnesses that Assange has a habit of ignoring finer aspects of consent during intercourse. Trials are supposed to be pretty good for weighing up this sort of thing.

    if anything, it’s the women who’s behaviour is inconsistent with their stories.

    If you’re referring to the tweets etc, you have no way to be sure whether they were referring to Assange or not. If you’re suggesting its unusual for rape victims to socialise after the fact with their rapists, that’s both demonstrably false, and hardly the kind of opinion I’d expect to see published on a supposedly progressive website… or at least, until my expectations were rather violently dashed by the wider “progressive” reaction to this case.

    I’m sure Assange’s legal team will thoroughly acquaint the jury with such details when cross examining the alleged victims should the case go to trial. They seem competent enough. Indeed, on the PR front alone they’ve already seemingly managed to convince most of the world of a fair amount of utter BS, such as the notion that consensual sex without a condom is a crime in Sweden.

    I’ve seen no coherent justification of the aspects of the conspiracy theory I was mocking most heavily – if the Swedish government really is acting under covert U.S. instruction, why haven’t they come up with an excuse to shut down Wikileaks directly?

    Oh, and it was Britain, not Sweden, that opposed bail.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/15/julian-assange-bail-decision-uk

  17. Mondo, the only way I can see the Yanks getting at Assange is if he conspired with Manning in the original theft of the documents.

    Or, alternately, if they can torture Manning sufficiently to induce him to make such an accusation:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/12/16/wikileaks/index.html

  18. jordanrastrick

    However if Assange is extradited to the US to face any of the treason nonsense that is threatened, or worse, then I can only hope that the self-styled defenders of freedom on this site are as quick to speak out in his defence as they have been to condemn him over these conveniently timed accusations.

    SB and myself have been the most vocal advocates of taking the rape charges seriously, as far as I’m aware; I assume you’re referring primarily to us.

    I haven’t “condemned” or even criticised Assange for anything relating to the case, and I’m pretty sure SB hasn’t either. I firmly believe Assange is entitled to the presumption of innocence, as anyone else accused of a crime is, and I’ve never said anything that suggests otherwise. I don’t however think this presumption of innocence entails assuming his accusers are liars involved in a rather elaborate conspiracy, although I’ve explicitly said I do consider this a possibility.

    I have accused him, on the other hand, of being somewhat irresponsible in his selection of some of the leaked documents for publication; but I’m on record as saying I doubt he’s broken any laws, and that I consider for example Gillard’s false and prejudicial remarks on the case “low point [her] career thus far”.

    If he is actually extradited to the U.S. by Sweden to stand trial for espionage, unless it is shown he was actively involved in procuring the documents and not just publishing them, I’ll raise my estimated likelihood of conspiracy from maybe 5% to 90% or so. If the charge is actually treason, I’ll endorse your view that the U.S. legal process is as corrupt and unsafe for foreign nationals as China’s.

    Somehow, though, I suspect that they will not.

    I think you’re just determined to piegonhole anyone who doesn’t agree with you on any given issue, Mondo, into the same narrow ideological framework possesed by the likes of Andrew Bolt’s fanclub. That way our views can be dismissed without actually engaging with them!

  19. jordanrastrick

    That’s a very good article.

    Assange has cracked computer systems to access private data in the past, so I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he provided Manning with direct technical assistance. Whether and at what point such assistance crosses the line from legtimate journalism to genuine participation in breaking the law is a very interesting and critical question.

    It’d be nice if we could be more confident American law enforcement won’t resort to torturing Manning.

  20. Splatterbottom

    Assange is not a US citizen, so I don’t see how treason is even relevant, as I thought you had to be a citizen to commit treason.

  21. Of course it’s not relevant – that’s why I described it as nonsense above. Although it’s worth noting that this hasn’t stopped many in the US from threatening to charge him with it, including most commentators on your favored Fox News and several Congressmen and Senators (from both parties).

  22. Splatterbottom

    Mondo, I understand that Glenn Beck is very supportive of the idea that the charges are flimsy and that there is conspiracy against Assange.

  23. That genuinely surprises me, although I’d note that Beck’s views are not entirely consistent with support for what Wikileaks is doing.

    I’ll put my hand up and admit that, at first, I allowed myself to be distracted by the circus around Assange instead of focusing on the far more important issue of what he was doing with Wikileaks. I still believe that there’s a good chance the US government is meddling with the handling of the rape allegations (in one way or another) but the charges obviously do deserve to be investigated and resolved as a separate issue.

    At the end of the day though, the response to Wikileaks by the US and many of its leading political identities was, and continues to be, dangerously authoritarian in nature (such as repeated and open calls for Assange’s assassination).

    I sincerely hope that Wikileaks is able to weather this storm and continue to perform the extraordinarily valuable and important task that it has begun.

  24. jordanrastrick

    At the end of the day though, the response to Wikileaks by the US and many of its leading political identities was, and continues to be, dangerously authoritarian in nature (such as repeated and open calls for Assange’s assassination).

    I sincerely hope that Wikileaks is able to weather this storm and continue to perform the extraordinarily valuable and important task that it has begun.

    Amen to that.

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