At least, that was the word earlier today, although the actual release of Julian Assange, the accused sex offender and would-be saboteur of U.S. security, has now been delayed pending a hearing.
LONDON — After a week in detention facing possible extradition, Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks antisecrecy group, was ordered released on $310,000 bail by a court on Tuesday as he challenges a Swedish prosecutor’s demand that he return to Stockholm for questioning about alleged sex offenses.
However, Mr. Assange remained in custody pending a hearing on an appeal by the prosecutor, which would take place within the next 48 hours.
In granting bail, Judge Howard Riddle ordered that Mr. Assange appear again in court on Jan. 11. He also said that between then and now he must reside at Ellingham Hall, a Georgian mansion in Bungay, in eastern England, owned by Vaughan Smith, the founder of a club for journalists. Mr. Assange must spend every night at the mansion and will be electronically tagged so the police can track his movements, the judge said…
So even when he DOES walk out, it’s sort of a tag-and-release situation. Which shows the Brits haven’t lost their minds. Good to know, since I’m about to go over there. If I DO run into the guy, though, I’ll let you know.
Oh, and about those sex charges — as muddled a mess as any he-said-she-said (and she said, too) you’re likely to run across. Whatever the facts, Mr. Assange seems to fall somewhat short of a paragon (even if you believe his defense):
Speaking about the case in recent weeks, Mr. Assange has said that he had consensual relations with two young Swedish women. He said he met them during a trip to Sweden in August that he made in a bid to establish a haven for himself and WikiLeaks under Sweden’s broad laws protecting press freedoms.
The charges relate to the question of whether these encounters ceased to be consensual when a condom was no longer being used. Sweden’s request for extradition is designed to enable prosecutors to question Mr. Assange about charges of “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.”…
In a packed courtroom hearing lasting nearly an hour a week ago, Gemma Lindfield, a lawyer acting for the Swedish government, outlined some of the detailed allegations against Mr. Assange made by the Swedish women, both WikiLeaks volunteers. They involved three incidents, including one in which Mr. Assange was alleged to have had unprotected sex with one of his accusers while she was asleep.
But that’s not why we’re talking about this guy, is it?
Oh, and about the NYT’s blithe assertion that WikiLeaks is an “antisecrecy group”… I read an interesting opinion piece the other day that argued it is pretty much the opposite of being a champion of transparency — and backed up the argument fairly well:
Whatever else WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accomplished, he’s ended the era of innocent optimism about the Web. As wiki innovator Larry Sanger put it in a message to WikiLeaks, “Speaking as Wikipedia’s co-founder, I consider you enemies of the U.S.—not just the government, but the people.”
The irony is that WikiLeaks’ use of technology to post confidential U.S. government documents will certainly result in a less free flow of information. The outrage is that this is Mr. Assange’s express intention….
Mr. Assange is misunderstood in the media and among digirati as an advocate of transparency. Instead, this battening down of the information hatches by the U.S. is precisely his goal. The reason he launched WikiLeaks is not that he’s a whistleblower—there’s no wrongdoing inherent in diplomatic cables—but because he hopes to hobble the U.S., which according to his underreported philosophy can best be done if officials lose access to a free flow of information.
In 2006, Mr. Assange wrote a pair of essays, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies” and “Conspiracy as Governance.” He sees the U.S. as an authoritarian conspiracy. “To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed,” he writes. “Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate,” he writes, and “pass it around the conspirators and then act on the result.”
His central plan is that leaks will restrict the flow of information among officials—”conspirators” in his view—making government less effective. Or, as Mr. Assange puts it, “We can marginalize a conspiracy’s ability to act by decreasing total conspiratorial power until it is no longer able to understand, and hence respond effectively to its environment. . . . An authoritarian conspiracy that cannot think efficiently cannot act to preserve itself.”
Assange and his crowd are not journalists. They’re not the vaunted Fourth Estate, playing a role in stimulating political debate over a national issue. They are foreign political activists who intend to harm the security of the United States. Their goal is to shut down information-sharing among our agencies, from Defense to State to Homeland Security to CIA and so forth, so that they will be less effective. To return us to a pre-9/11 state — you know, back when one agency knew the 9/11 attackers were in the country, and another agency knew why they were dangerous, but they weren’t talking to each other. (An argument can be made on security grounds for keeping information in such silos, but it’s an argument that you can go around and around on — and Assange is not a legitimate participant in that debate.) The goal of WikiLeaks is not transparency, but the opposite — they want to shut down information-sharing.