Situations like this are always difficult. The danger is that governments will act to create legislation to curtail freedom of the press and I'm sure that people in all democratic countries would deplore that. Here in Australia the PM and some other senior politicians at first made comments along the lines I refer to but once legal logic kicked in the extreme comments quickly dissipated.
Woodward & Bernstein and numerous other journalists in the UK and US and certainly recently here in Australia during the last election campaign (one received a coveted journalism award as a result of publishing embarrassing government cabinet secrets) are equally guilty of receiving government secrets and publishing them in newspapers. Do we really want to jail all persons who publish secret government communications passed to them by whistle-blowers?
It's been said that Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers was a far greater "crime" than Wikileaks cable releases. Some say that Wikileaks was proactive in in the leaking process, eg paying leakers to supply the information, but there is no evidence for that as far as I know at this time. My limited understanding of laws suggests that "leakers" of secret government files may be guilty of a number of jailable offences, but the receivers of the leaked information are not. Journalists have for a long time have been successfully defended in these situations.
Personally I treasure the freedoms that we as Americans, Europeans, Australians and others have and have fought many wars to preserve. Until Julian Assange and his Wikileaks are proven to have broken laws (and lawyers so far are saying Wikileaks has not broken Australian laws at least) my very personal opinion is "bring it on" - let justice prevail. I strongly suspect that unless governments act to retrospectively change laws to reduce the freedom of the press Assange and Wikileaks will ultimately win this legal battle and governments that attempt to bring actions against them will be diminished in the eye of the voters.
In other words, governments are between a rock and a hard place over this and I suspect they wish the problem would just go away. But we are told there are approximately 250,000 more cables to be released, many of which may be way more embarrassing to the US, UK and Australian governments present and past, so where will this end? In tears I expect, but by whom? Governments around the world present and past will be filling their pants with anxiety over this.
As a person that enjoys observing politics this is an intensely fascinating process. I expect that Assange will end up in US courts but will this end with the result that the US government seeks? Maybe - but maybe not!
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The handling of whistle blowing and of releasing sensitive secret information should be handled differently. Whistle blowing is exposing criminal activity. Secret and sensitive information is secret for a reason and the release of it is not journalism and not whistle blowing. It's purpose is to cause harm and the act should be criminal. In my black and white opinion Assange is a scumbag both personally and publicly and I have no use for people like that.
As it stands, Assange is held in the UK on police bail. There have been reports about the alleged sex crimes in Sweden he committed, and they certainly don't make for pleasant reading. Of course, there exists the (legitimate) counterclaim that the victims of these alleged offences are being coerced into testifying agaisnt Assange by the powers that be... if what Assange is alleged to have done is true, it is far from an open and shut case, and doubtful that it is even illegal - but he does sound like he's a total arsehole.
All that being said, I state again my hope that Assange is granted political assylum. As he in the UK, extradition laws only apply if Assange is deemed to have committed an offence under UK law (as I understand it). Since the Swedish haven't either charged him or provided any evidence, and the US have no real case against him under UK law, I think he stands a good chance of scraping through.
"Millions of US soldiers and officials have "secret" security clearance. The US general accounting office identified 3,067,000 people cleared to "secret" and above in a 1993 study. Since then, the size of the security establishment has grown appreciably. Another GAO report in May 2009 said: "Following the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001 the nation's defence and intelligence needs grew, prompting increased demand for personnel with security clearances." A state department spokesman today refused to say exactly how many people had access to Siprnet."
"SIPRNet has grown to 400,000 to 500,000 users spread among the Department of Defense, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Homeland Security and FBI, according the Pentagon's official estimate. Industry networks can plug into the SIPRNet with approval from the Defense Information Systems Agency, which also has taken steps to make SIPRNet more like the private Internet, with e-mail service and websites."
If you have millions of people with access to secret information, it is highly probable that all this information has long been available to every secret service in the world. WikiLeaks has just made this information available to the public. The information is pretty uninteresting, the most interesting bit is the reaction of governement officials and secret services, who have given proof of both their bad intentions and incompetence.
Once published the information can no more be removed. There are now over 2,100 mirror servers storing this information, many of them many of them run by associations and organizations defending freedom of press.
Cablegate is annoying, because it has an impact on public opinion in many countries of the world. There is little secret information, most of it is gossip.
But it will be an invaluable source for historians.