The problem with writing a blog is that you write one thing one day and by the next it’s overtaken by events and you have to backtrack and take back almost everything you said the day before. Such is the case with Julian Assange, about whom I wrote that it would be enormous folly for the U.S. to prosecute him for espionage violations for his role in the Wikileaks episode.
While I stand by what I wrote regarding this, I have to add that Julian Assange is coming across more and more as a semi-delusional personality. As Roger Cohen writes in today’s NY Times, the guy knows next to nothing about the Middle East or Israeli politics. You can see that from the nonsense he spouted in a Time Magazine interview in which he said:
…We can see the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu coming out with a very interesting statement that leaders should speak in public like they do in private whenever they can. He believes that the result of this publication, which makes the sentiments of many privately held beliefs public, are promising a pretty good [indecipherable] will lead to some kind of increase in the peace process in the Middle East and particularly in relation to Iran. I just noticed today Iran has agreed to nuclear talks. Maybe that’s coincidence or maybe it’s coming out of this process, but it’s certainly not being canceled by this process.
There are so many things wrong with this it’s hard to know where to start. First, Bibi Netanyahu should talk about saying the same thing in private that he says in public. The problem with Israeli policy is that it says one thing in private and does the exact opposite (or pretty much whatever it wants) in public. Take Meir Dagan’s promise to Bush’s national security advisor that Israel didn’t intend to attack Syria, made only two months before Israel took out an alleged nuclear reactor there.
Second, and as Cohen noted, Bibi is talking about Israel’s desire for war against Iran. He wishes foreign leaders would back up their hostile words spoken privately to U.S. ears with public hostility toward Iran. This would bring the Middle East closer to war, not peace. So if you think a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran will lead to some kind of “increase” in the peace process then you’re with Julian on this one (and belong in the loony bin). But if you’re someone who has his head screwed on right, both Bibi and Julian are full of s(&t on this one.
Which all goes to show you that even people who are doing the right thing may be doing it for the wrong reasons. Or may have feet of clay. Whistleblowers like Assange often have very complicated, and sometimes personal, or not very noble reasons for their actions. At times, they don’t understand the magnitude of their actions and their long-term impact on themselves, their loved ones or their audience. I know this from my own interaction with such a source.
Amazon…said that it had canceled its relationship with WikiLeaks not because of “a government inquiry,” but because it decided that the organization was violating the terms of service for the program.
“When companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere,” the company said.
Talk about speaking truthfully in public settings, Amazon is lying and doing so unconvincingly. Of course they dumped Wikileaks because of a government inquiry and government pressure. Of course they didn’t want to be on the wrong side of a Washington power-broker who could cause them no end of headaches. What do you think that phone call from Joe Lieberman was? An invitation to the dance?
We got mad at Google and Yahoo for acquiescing to Chinese censorship. This isn’t that much different. Someone in the government who can make your company’s life a living hell tells you to get rid of Wikileaks and instead of considering your options or corporate reputation if you cave, you promptly follow orders and dump ’em.
Amazon’s finding that Wikileaks doesn’t “own” the data or that is isn’t rightfully theirs is just plain wild. On what basis are they saying the material isn’t rightfully theirs? Isn’t that for a court to decide? And what violation of law specifically has Wikileaks engaged in in receiving or storing the documents? That hasn’t been proven either. Yes, one could argue that Bradley Manning, the actual leaker violated military guidelines. But Wikileaks? That’s hard to tell without legal adjudication.
Besides, if Wikileaks violated Amazon’s terms of service by uploading this material to its server doesn’t every newspaper website which is featuring the same material risk violating the terms of service of their web hosts? Should the NY Times’ webhost take down its site for this reason? Where do you draw the line?
At any rate, the bottom line is that Amazon is a spineless wimp which ought to recall the corporate slogan of another online corporate behemoth, Google: Do no evil. Amazon, you’ve done bad today. Very bad. I hope you get so much nasty negative publicity from this that you live to regret your spinelessness. At the first sign of trouble, you head for the hills. Is this any way to stand up for free speech on the web? To support those who speak truth to power?
There’s a chance Julian Assange may be Time’s Person of the Year (note: I didn’t vote for him). I hope if he is he takes a nice big pot shot at Amazon for caving to U.S. government bullies.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.