Whistleblower: Julian Assange And Wikileaks

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Julian Assange is an Australian editor, publisher, computer programmer, and activist. He was born on July 3, 1971 in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. His family moved a lot during his childhood, so he would sometimes attend schools or would be homeschooled; he ended up going to about 37 different schools in total. During his adolescence, his interest in computers peaked, and he soon became a hacker under the name “Mendex”. He infiltrated several secure systems, including those at NASA and the Pentagon; he was charged with more than 30 counts of hacking in Australia, but he got off the hook with only a fine for damages. Assange later attended the University of Melbourne physics major; he withdrew though before getting the degree and worked as a computer security consultant instead. Assange founded WikiLeaks, a media organization, in 2006 intending to collect and share confidential information on an international scale just because he wished to provide a secure way for whistleblowers to leak information through. In 2010, he earned the Time magazine ‘Person of the Year’ title. In 2011, he was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation’s gold medal.

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Julian Assange posted documents whose authenticity was never verified, like messages between governments, top secret emails, and assignation plots. Later, in 2010, WikiLeaks posted almost half a million documents obtained from U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning, mainly relating to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the fact that most of these information were already known by the public, President Barack Obama’s government considered them a threat to US national security. Ignoring all that, WikiLeaks published about 250,000 more confidential U.S. diplomatic cables. These included documents mostly from 2007 to 2010, but it had some going back to 1966. They exposed the behind-the-scenes U.S. attempts to politically and economically segregate Iran, primarily in response to fears of Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. They also showed a video of a US military Apache helicopter firing on and killing two journalists and several Iraqi civilians on a Baghdad street in 2007.

Julian was a brave guy. He wanted to expose all the actions of the US military as well as protect the people who gave him the leaked information, the whistleblowers. He believed that people must not remain silent if they witness a wrongdoing and should act towards eradicating it. One of his most famous quotes is “Every time we witness an injustice and we do not act; we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love”. He is considered an external whistleblower since his audience are the public on an international scale. His website would expose things about countries to other countries, those include higher authorities as well as the public. Assange seems to be uninterested in changing his behavior, he is following his beliefs and opinions wholeheartedly. He is described by those who have worked with him as intense, driven and highly intelligent, with an exceptional ability to crack computer codes. Overall, he is a genius whose courageous and stubborn.

Julian has spent most of the past decade either in custody or holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy as he has tried to avoid extradition – first to Sweden and then to the United States. Transparency and anti-war campaigners have hailed Assange for revealing the deaths of civilians, torture and clandestine military operations with the release of 500,000 US documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars. But the United States and its allies have accused him of risking lives by sharing information on sources, intelligence techniques and key infrastructure sites. He is currently being held at the high-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London, where he is resisting transfer to the US to face charges relating to his WikiLeaks work. His team has previously warned about his health and an independent UN rights expert said in November that his continued detention was putting his life at risk. One of Assange’s lawyer announced recently that the WikiLeaks founder is terribly sick to appear by video link for a court hearing related to a case that could see him repatriated to the US over computer hacking and spying charges. It said he had ‘dramatically lost weight’ and that prison authorities moved him to a ‘health ward’ in part because he was having trouble holding ‘normal conversations.’ Moreover, Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, released a statement saying Assange was showing ‘symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.’

In 2010, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites ‘that could totally change the news’, thus making him receive Sam Adams Award and Readers’ Choice for Times Person of the Year in 2010. The UK Information commissioner has stated that ‘WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen’. In its first days, an internet plea calling for the termination of extrajudicial terrorisation of WikiLeaks engrossed over six hundred thousand signatures. Supporters of WikiLeaks have praised it for exposing state and corporate secrets, increasing transparency, supporting freedom of the press, and improving democratic discourse while challenging powerful institutes. WikiLeaks definitely encouraged people to speak up. More people would want to be a part of an organization that “eradicates corruption and unfairness”. After searching for long, I have not been able to find concrete evidences that the parties targeted by WikiLeaks actually changed or improved themselves. This makes me assume that they just hid themselves better. Also, they are trying to punish Assange and get him convicted for his crimes.

I personally believe that despite the morals that drove Julian Assange to do what he did; he still ended up messing some things up. Assange is quite brave and outspoken. He wanted to make the world a better place. I do agree with his ideas and beliefs but not with his attitude and approach, however. I think he could have used his geniusness better. Exposing secrets and private affairs to the public is not always the best thing to do if you want to fix the world, in a matter of fact, it can make matters greatly worse. This information may cause more even more chaos and cruelty. However, I do not agree with the way he was treated. He was thrown in prison neglectingly despite his deteriorating mental and physical health. No matter what he did, a person should not be treated like that. In 2011, he was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation’s gold medal, an honour that had previously been bestowed on Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, for his “exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights.” He is not a “bad person” but everyone makes mistakes. The targeted parties of WikiLeaks though use him and blame him so the focus would be on what he did and not focus on the actual content of what he did. Instead of fixing and improving themselves, they claim that the corruption is not in them but in the person that used illegal methods to expose them; which is quite pathetic honestly. To his followers, Julian Assange is a heroic fighter for truth. To his criticisers, he is a publicity seeker who has endangered lives by putting a mass of delicate information into the public. Whom he truly is deep down is something we can never figure out.

References

  • https://www.britannica.com/biography/Julian-Assange
  • https://www.biography.com/activist/julian-assange
  • https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/1119/1093917-julian-assange-bio/
  • https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/05/30/julian-assange-grave-concerns-wikileaks-founders-health-us-extradition/1283638001/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reception_of_WikiLeaks
16 August 2021

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