Don't Shoot Messenger for Revealing Uncomfortable Truths

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In 1958 a
young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The
News, wrote: "In the race between secrecy and truth, it
seems inevitable that truth will always win."

His observation
perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch’s expos that Australian
troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders
on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but
Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination
of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Nearly a century
later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to
be made public.

I grew up in
a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly.
They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted
if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland
government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens
when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.

These things
have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values.
The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies
in new ways to report the truth.

WikiLeaks coined
a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other
media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is
true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then
to click online to see the original document it is based on. That
way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist
report it accurately?

Democratic
societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media.
The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some
hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about
corporate corruption.

People have
said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations
need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing
more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars,
then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes
on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the
truth and the people will decide whether to support it.

If you have
read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables
or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider
how important it is for all media to be able to report these things
freely.

WikiLeaks is
not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets,
including Britain’s The Guardian, The New York Times,
El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published
the same redacted cables.

Yet it is WikiLeaks,
as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most
vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes.
I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian,
not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the
US for me to be "taken out" by US special forces. Sarah
Palin says I should be "hunted down like Osama bin Laden",
a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared
a "transnational threat" and disposed of accordingly.
An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister’s office has called on
national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger
has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped
and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.

And Australians
should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to these
sentiments by Julia Gillard and her government. The powers of the
Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the
US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport, or to spy on
or harass WikiLeaks supporters. The Australian Attorney-General
is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed
at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US.

Prime Minister
Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a
word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because
The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel
are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.

We are the
underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger
because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information
about its own diplomatic and political dealings.

Has there been
any response from the Australian government to the numerous public
threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel? One
might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending
her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly
unsubstantiated claims of illegality. The Prime Minister and especially
the Attorney-General are meant to carry out their duties with dignity
and above the fray. Rest assured, these two mean to save their own
skins. They will not.

Every time
WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies,
Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State
Department: "You’ll risk lives! National security! You’ll endanger
troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what
WikiLeaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?

It is neither.
WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we
have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far
as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian
government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months
alone.

US Secretary
of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress
that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised
by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was
no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed
in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn’t find a single
person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence
said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by
anything we have published.

But our publications
have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal
some startling facts:

  • The US
    asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information
    from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints,
    iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos,
    in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian
    UN diplomats may be targeted, too.
  • King Abdullah
    of Saudi Arabia asked the US to attack Iran.
  • Officials
    in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran’s nuclear program stopped by any
    means available.
  • Britain’s
    Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect "US interests".
  • Sweden
    is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept
    from parliament.
  • The US
    is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees
    from Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian
    President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour
    Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.

In its landmark
ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said "only
a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in
government". The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces
the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

This originally
appeared in The Australian.

Julian
Assange is the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.

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