Julian Assange & presumed innocence

I’m very glad that Mr. Assange was granted bail. I’m not honestly sure what happened between Mr. Assange and his two accusers, but like many observers, I too find the timing of his arrest far too politically expedient for U.S. authorities.  The evidence against him seems a bit flimsy to justify the near rabid involvement of INTERPOL. See the analysis of The Week .

Although I readily agree that Mr. Assange is a bit of an agitator and a bigmouth of sorts, he still deserves his day in court, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and probably a place in the world of cyberjournalism.   I suspect that no one on the WikiLeaks staff held a gun to Bradley Manning’s head in order to get information, so I don’t think they should get all the heat for reporting it.

A fundamental question in this case is “what constitutes classified information?” Is it really any piece of information that the government arbitrarily decides to label classified, or are there specific requirements? Cursory online research suggests that it’s the former. (See also). Apparently, there are three levels of classification: confidential, secret, and top secret. Despite arguments to the contrary, it seems that cables which are viewable to millions of personnel fail most criteria for top secret, or even secret, so at best one might say that Mr. Manning and Mr. Assange were trafficking in confidential information.  Many have stated that the information released thus far is of minimal security risk. There is also the category of sensitive but unclassified , and some would argue that many of the items revealed in the cables were/are available via other less secure sources, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the trials of Manning and possibly Assange.

I look forward to hearing about legal challenges to presidential authority to decide what is or should be considered classified information; such challenges would most logically come from the media, but they might also arise from other legislators as they attempt to learn things which could help them decide on how they should vote.

Frankly, it would have been better for the U.S. to have taken a much quieter approach to the whole affair than to appear the bully and thereby turn Mr. Assange into the martyr for free speech he’s now become. See Slate’s analysis.


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