Rallies are planned for 6 p.m. today local time in Spain, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Columbia and promoted the Spanish web Free Wikileaks that says it seeks “the liberation of Julian Assange in United Kingdom territory.” At least 1,200 showed up for rallies Friday in Sydney alone.
Salon’s Dan Gillmor says he is “deeply ambivalent” about what Wikileaks’ leaks but he knows that a major First Amendment challenge is posed inside the United States and American commitment to free speech looks highly suspect.
This week the Ivory Coast started shutting down French media claiming television news and newspapers were destabilizing the country. The same argument has been made in Eritrea, Iran, China, and Cuba. None of these nations are exactly the pillars of free speech.
The Economist argues for a simple legal prosecution rather having the U.S. government hides behind destabilizing government arguments, anti-terrorist rhetoric, and sexual assault charges. (The Swedish women who say Assange raped them have become convenient scapegoats Wikileaks supports and convenient pawns of those wishing to punish Assange.)
Truth, however defined but once documented, can be a slippery thing to contain. The dam is impossible to build. John Milton knew that when he wrote Areopagitica. His cause was highly suspect at the time: he wanted to divorce his 16-year-old trophy wife who thought he was a boar. Milton wanted the right to complain loudly about laws he found oppressive. No matter how hard truth is suppressed, he said, somehow, someway it is just going to get out anyway.
The U.S. military can ban removable media like that used by Private First Class Bradley Manning when he downloaded the ill-fated Wikileaked cables. But such actions likely will be about as effective as the highly questionable practice of making travelers take off their shoes during airport screens: sure copycat shoe and underwear bombers are possible but new, more inventive, less detectable and unpredictable threats pose greater danger. Yet, still we take off our shoes.
Sure Wikileaks’ bank accounts are frozen. Sure its servers are thrown off-line. But its Facebook presence is still significant and as servers across the world get taken down Wikileak shows up in other places. More than 700 mirror sites have been created worldwide. The internet faithful have their own rallying cry and new outlets; they may not even need the mainstream media once it tires of Julian Assange.
Monday, former Wikileaks operatives are expected to launch a new web site claiming to offer the same secrets’ exposure with less of a political agenda. The dam busts again.