Federal ALP threatens Assange and media outlets over U.S. cable document release
The Australian government has again threatened Julian Assange with arrest, this time over the release of the entire 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables online, in a searchable database. On Friday 2nd September, Federal Attorney General Robert McCelland released a statement expressing concern over the leaks which supposely include the name of at least one serving ASIO officer. He points out that "Section 92 of the ASIO Act makes it a crime to publish, or cause to be published, the identity of an ASIO Officer.". This leaves open the possibility that Julian Assange could face charges arising from the leak. McCelland also implicitly threatens Australian press outlets by urging them to "exercise caution" in discussing the leak. The Fairfax press broke the story of the ASIO agents identity on September 2nd.
Both the leaks and the implicit threats made against Assange and the press by the Federal Government have received some but not extensive coverage in the Australian press. McCellands statement was picked up by The Guardian
, who Wikileaks blames for the previous unregulated release of the documents online when one of their journalists printed a password in a book. The Guardian has been running a smear campaign against Julian Assange after they fell out with the whistleblowing organisation after previously being a trusted mainstream outlet for the organisation. Wikileaks has released a statement explaining their accusations of negligence against The Guardian. Wikileaks has also released a copy of the confidentiality agreement the Guardian.
This is the second time the Federal Government has legally threatened Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Last year when the documents were first released an investigation was launced by the AFP to see if Wikileaks had broken any Australian laws. They found they had not but it seems that this time the Australian Government may be more determined to prosecute a breach on behalf of their embarasssed U.S. allies. The cables are continuing to embarass the U.S. Wikileaks strategy of relying on crowd surfing via Twitter to flag important information has for example revealed this week evidence of U.S. war crimes in the Iraq involving the execution of Iraqi women and children.
The diplomatic cables also continue to embarass the Australian Governent, with a cable in the last week revealing what the Australian Government thinks of its regional neighbours such as PNG and Fiji. Previous cables have revealed amongst other things that the senior members of the ALP Government such as Mark Arbib regularly report to the U.S. embassy in Australia.
A number of cables are emerging giving an interesting insight into the level of surveilance of demonstrations targetting the U.S. and its allies at U.S. embassies. This cable details a January 22nd 2009 protest about Israel by the "WA Friends of Palestine" at the Perth Embassy. It notes both the "peaceful but angry" nature of the crowd and the "exceptional" level of support provided by the police. Another cable lists all the demonstrations that occurred at the Canberra U.S. embassy in 2008 and 2009. Analysis of these cables by Kevin Gosztola can read here. Note: Please feel free to put up on Indymedia any other Australian cables of interest
In addition to these new threats made against Assange, the Julian Assange court hearing results on the latest extradition hearing in the UK will being coming down very soon. Wikileaks continues to deserve the solidarity and support of all people committed to freedom and peace.