Sunday, August 22, 2010

Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg - Is history repreating itself?

Julian Assange, founder and spokesperson of Wikileaks yesterday was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the Swedish authorities, accused of two cases of rape and molestation in Stockholm and Enkopin, a town one hours drive from the capital. The story hit the headlines after the Swedish tabloid, Expressen published an article which was quickly picked up by the rest of the world via Twitter.

Now it appears that the police in Sweden have withdrawn the charges without explaining either what led to the decision to issue the arrest warrant in the first place and why it was so quickly dropped. Already the internet is awash with conspiracy theories which point the finger of accusation at the American authorities who have been outraged by Wikileaks publication online of 77,000 sensitive military documents connected with the war in Afghanistan, many of them extremely damaging to US efforts to win over world opinion.

It is very hard not to see parallels between the Leaking of the Afghan War Diaries and the Pentagon Papers which revealed American policy in the Vietnam war and produced a furore when published in the New York Times in 1971. In both cases the documents showed just how wide the gulf was between official statements concerning the purpose and conduct of the wars and the bloody reality on the ground.

In both the Wikileaks and Pentagon Papers cases attempts to slience whistle blowers via the courts failed and as a result Ellsberg soon drew the ire of the Nixon administration who used a wide array of dirty tricks to discredit him, including breaking into the office of his psychiatrist in an attempt to find possible blackmail material (the same group of burglars would later go onto set in motion the Watergate crisis) and the hiring of 12 thugs to "totally incapacitate" him at a public rally.

Ellsberg reported in an interview with Huffington Post that Assange might also be the subject of threats by the American government and that just as they looked to smear him in the 70s such an attempt would most likley be made against Assange. With the rape and molestation charges, many believe that such a plan was put in motion and the fact that the charges have been dropped so quickly is likely to fuel such speculation.

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