by Paul Ducklin
Julian Assange, founder of whistleblowing organisation WikiLeaks (or co-founder, depending on whom you ask) , and arguably Ecuador’s most famous Londoner (or infamous, depending on whom you ask), is in custody following his arrest yesterday.
Assange rose to fame by leaking secret government documents that the WikiLeaks organisation acquired from a wide range of sources.
The best-known WikiLeaks exposé is probably Cablegate, a massive dump of US State Department diplomatic cables exfiltrated by junior US soldier Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning, who was arrested in 2010 for making off with some 30 years’ worth of confidential US data.
Manning apparently burned the data to a rewritable CD, pretending she was listening to Lady Gaga tunes from the CD while writing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables onto it.
Amazingly, one person – and a soldier with the rank of Private, at that – was able to copy everything without triggering any sort of “data access overload” warning at any point.
For her part in that leak, Manning received a whopping 35-year prison sentence, ultimately serving seven years before being released by then-President Barack Obama at the end of his term in office.
Assange, however, remained free, after a fashion, until yesterday afternoon, when he was arrested by police in London.
In principle, and in law, say Assange’s supporters, journalists are allowed to publish data that’s in the public interest, even if it was illegally acquired, and are allowed – nay, required, or else who would ever blow the whistle again? – to protect their sources, even if they know those sources are crooks.
Journalists aren’t supposed to break the law themselves to get hold of leaks, for the simple reason that breaking the law is illegal, and they aren’t supposed to collude with crooks to organise for leaks to …
Author: Paul Ducklin