Senior American officials believed Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin may well have known about the operation to murder dissident former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.We are still in the realm of American State Department cables, acquired by Mr Assange with very little difficulty or danger.
Washington's senior diplomat in Europe challenged suggestions that the killing could have been the work of "rogue elements" in the Russian security forces, according to the latest documents posted on the WikiLeaks website.
Assistant secretary of state Daniel Fried said that Mr Putin's attention to detail meant that it would have been difficult for such an operation to be carried out without his knowledge.
As an article on the Henry Jackson Society site that also appeared in the Daily Telegraph, says:
If Assange is genuinely committed to shining light into the darkness, and exposing real corruption and human rights abuse, we must ask ourselves, where are the ‘Chinese Embassy Cables’? What has become of the ‘Iran Files’? Whither the ‘Chechnya War Logs’?The point is that Assange has made grandiloquent claims for his activity, quoted in the same article:
It is very important to make the distinction between the latest leaks about Russian corruption under Putin, which are allegations taken from Western sources, and the kind of revelations that would be truly devastating to the Kremlin's credibility: damaging revelations, in other words, from Russian state sources. This we have yet to see, and are unlikely to anytime soon.
Speaking at a dinner of the Oslo Freedom Forum in April this year, Assange eloquently countered claims that he is anti-Western. On the contrary, he said, he is very much pro-Western. The object of his chagrin is not the West but its leaders, who have distorted and corrupted Western values for their own nefarious ends, and he – like all good revolutionaries – is out to claim those values back.One's immediate reaction is that this man either knows nothing about Stalin's Soviet Union or is a liar of monumental proportions.
“The United States”, he said, “once had a proud tradition of freedom of the press... [but] when we see the path that [it is now] going down, we have to question whether it is really holding those values anymore”. The United Kingdom is no better, he says. 300 gag orders in force at any one time make a mockery of the notion of a British free press.
So far from the Enlightenment path has the West apparently strayed in its obsession with secrecy and perversion of justice that Assange now likens it to the Soviet Union in the era of Stalin and Solzhenitsyn. He speaks of an ‘Orwellian’ atmosphere of information control, and a muted media made incapable of speaking out.
Confronted by this nightmare, Assange’s duty is clear: “We have become the publisher of last resort... And in that endeavour [we have] been successful in putting over a million restricted documents into the historical record that weren’t there before. That’s more pages of information than is in Wikipedia.”
It is, nevertheless, true: if he really cares about freedom, transparency and human rights then he should start looking at some other countries that are somewhat more deficient in those than the West with all its undoubted problems.
It may well be that Assange – who claims that the ‘exponential’ increase in leaks to his site has forced him to refuse further submissions – has received nothing from any of these potential sources.And all this time Julian Assange is staying in hiding because the Swedish police want to interview him in connection with a rape accusation.
If that is the case, this in itself says something quite significant. Private Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of the latest leaks, can be confident that the worst punishment he will receive for his crime is a jail term if found guilty. Dissidents in the kinds of countries where Assange should be focusing his efforts could never be so certain. A bullet in the head for themselves and their families – no trial – would be the almost inevitable consequence. Small wonder there aren’t many leaks coming out of the Russian embassy or the Chinese mission.
The second answer to this question could just as easily be, however, that Assange is not really all that interested in exposing corruption and human rights abuse at all, rather his objective is to embarrass and weaken the US and its Western allies because he hates them for what they are and what they stand for. How many of the ‘US Embassy Cables’ reveal actual crimes? Sure, Prince Andrew’s comments about the Serious Fraud Office are unpleasant; certainly the revelation that the US Embassy in Paris sent a memo describing Nicholas Sarkozy as ‘thin-skinned and authoritarian’ is a bit embarrassing, but the majority of these leaks can be filed under the category ‘political titillation’ not ‘serious breaches of the law’.
Some of these leaks, however, are much more serious. Many contain highly sensitive information, the exposure of which will unquestionably do more harm than good to the kind of causes Assange claims he espouses. The fact that China may have been secretly communicating its intention to withdraw its support for North Korea, one of the most repressive and murderous regimes on earth, is enormously significant; the fact that Wikileaks has just made that information public will probably set this process back by several years. The revelation, if it can be described as such, that Iran’s Arab neighbours are so concerned about its nuclear ambitions that they are ready to support US-led military action against Tehran will only give an already paranoid President Ahmadinejad further cause to intensify the oppression of ethnic groups within Iran that he suspects of subversive activity.
Finally of course, all those would-be whistleblowers in countries where real corruption and human rights abuse take place will be vastly less inclined to share that information now than they otherwise would have been. If Julian Assange really wanted to encourage whistleblowing about issues that genuinely impact on human lives, instead of just weakening and embarrassing the United States, he would not be so reckless. Of course, the truth of the matter is that this doesn’t really seem to be his objective at all.