EDITORIAL THURSDAY 09.12.10.
When the Wikileaks scandal began to unfold, Prime Minister Julia Gillard referred to Julian Assange as a criminal and described the Wikileaks website as illegal. Later, she said that the “foundation stone” of the affair was the illegal leaking of the original documents. Now she says that the publication of the documents is “grossly irresponsible”. At first, Attorney General Robert McClelland said that Australia was assisting the American Government with their investigation of the leaks. Now, the Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd, himself something fo a victim of unflattering revelations, has finally laid the blame where it belongs: the United States government itself.
Mr Rudd said in an interview with Reuters, "Mr. Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network. The Americans are responsible for that." In a few short days, our government has gone from labeling Mr. Assange as a criminal to the vastly different position of pinning the blame on the Americans for not keeping the documents sufficiently secure in the first place. In the face of questions over just what it means to be an Australian citizen, Mr. Rudd has found it necessary to reassure Australians that Mr. Assange is receiving the appropriate level of consular assistance from his own government.
And while we have a strong and close friendship with the United States, today’s revelations of just how close the relationship is between some of our politicians and the American consular staff raise the question of just who do our elected representatives represent? Senator Mark Arbib, one-time faceless man and current Federal Minister, is described today by the Sydney Morning Herald as a “Yank in our ranks” thanks to the revelation that he has been a long term secret conduit of inside information described by the Americans as a “protected source”, meaning that his identity was to be kept confidential.
What does this mean? Is he representing the people who have elected him? Or is he effectively an agent of the Americans, who may be very close friends, but let us not forget are in fact a foreign power? If Mr. Arbib has been having discussions with American representatives and reporting back all the details to our own authorities, that’s one thing; but if the traffic of information has been a one way street, that is getting dangerously close to espionage. It really is enough to make you ask just who is running our country: our government or the Americans?
And speaking of the Americans, there can be little doubt that some of them would love to get their hands onto Julian Assange to make some sort of scapegoat out of him for having embarrassed them so greatly. The smirk on Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ face when given the news of the arrest of Mr. Assange was enough to send chills down the spine. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again: for a nation which is founded upon the principles of individual freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and freedom of belief, the United States seems to so easily forget just what it is supposed to stand for.
Hopefully, Australia won’t make the same mistake just because some of our politicians have been embarrassed.