Information knows no national boundaries; it flows, like the truth, across borders, and into the minds of those prepared to receive it. That is why governments everywhere view truth as an enemy. It is why, today, Julian Assange, a spokesman for Wikileaks, is in hiding.
Interpol has issued a so-called "red notice," asking members of the world's largest association of law enforcement agencies, to arrest him. Swedish authorities want to question him about claims of date rape. These claims emerged only after Wikileaks began to publish classified information about what we are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Should these Swedish claims ever be prosecuted, one hopes for a searing cross examination of the complaining witnesses: It would not surprise me in the least to learn that the women have been influenced, even encouraged, to make claims by intelligence operatives seeking to neutralize Assange. Does anyone note the irony that the charges levied against him, sexual assault, would required him to register as a sex offender, thus giving the government the right to monitor his every move? The surveillance state lacks imagination and subtelty.
The Obama administration is now contemplating criminal charges against Assange. He has revealed confidential information. He has let we the people know that our diplomats are routinely pressed into serving as grunt-work spies, told to assemble and report personal information about foreign emissaries. He has let us know about Yemeni princes who permit us to drop bombs on their territory while they lie to their own people about who is doing what to whom. He has let us learn of secret efforts to restrain Pakistan from going nuclear. Mr. Assange has taken the promise of open government seriously.
For this he must be crucified. He must be nailed to a cross of lies. The hairy-knuckled goons of the world's governments want him silenced for dabbling in state secrets. Assange is a prophet I tell you. The wilderness from which he cries echoes with the sound of a rallying cry: "Prepare a way for the truth."
But the truth does not set you free. The truth can get you prosecuted on trumped up charges. The truth can make you a marked man. Indeed, the truth can get you killed. It would not surprise me to see a strange and accidental death befall Julian Assange. Governments are adept at the tools and tactics of terror.
Assange next plans to reveal the secrets of a major bank, believed to be the Bank of America. No wonder the international heat is on. Wall Street and Washington are dancing hand-in-hand in an effort to prop up an economy that permits unemployment benefits to expire for millions of Americans while at the same time bailing out bankers who made bad loans. Let's read the emails of executives who received bonuses after engaging in systemic acts of fraud and deceit. Did they giggle when the government decided to subsidize their conspiracy even as ordinary Americans lost their homes?
Ecuador has offered Mr. Assange asylum. "We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the Internet but in a variety of public forums," Kintto Lucas, the nation's deputy foreign minister said. Is Ecuador the new City on a Hill, shining now the beacon we used to boast of possessing? Will the United States put diplomatic pressure on the tiny nation for harboring a man whose crime is truth-telling?
The state's secret doctrine is a dangerous legal tool. Our government claims that it is necessary to keep secrets from us. Yet critics note that the every year ever more documents are declared to be classified. Millions of Americans work restrained by laws that expose them to criminal prosecution for what they do. Even the grand jury, once a means of protecting the people from government, has become a tool by which the government acts, sometimes for years, in secret. I recently had a tense confrontation with a prosecutor I respect. He accused me, gasp, of writing about what a grand jury was doing. When I responded that his battalion of federal agencies and secret power to subpoena documents was, in fact, no secret to the legions of people he had dragooned to testify about my client, he was unmoved. Secrecy divides and concerns; Sunshine disinfects. We rarely fear that which we can name.
Julian Assange is emerging as a hero. He will be prosecuted somewhere for something. The world's government will find a way to place a leash on him. Government wants we the people to pay the bills and then let it be to protect us as it sees fit. But Wikileaks raises the age old question: Who regulates the regulators? I am rooting for Juilan Assange. He is a prophet with portfolio, a man without a country. His crime is telling the truth. He is today a citizen of the world, a world without borders and boundaries, a world devoted to truth.