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Calvin Freiburger

Are the Assange Rape Charges a Pretext to Bust Him for WikiLeaks? Maybe – And That’s Okay

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Posted on December 13 2010 2:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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This weekend at NewsRealBlog, we had quite the brawl over the sexual-assault charges against WikiLeaks’ anarchic head honcho, Julian Assange. Today, let’s look at the arrest at a different angle: regardless of whether or not he assaulted anyone, is it right to use these charges as an excuse to punish his cyber terrorism?

Child abuse and sex crime victims’ advocate Wendy Murphy isn’t so sure. At the Daily Beast, she says the charges, if true, would be worth pursuing, but the prosecutors’ motives don’t pass the smell test:

[I]f Assange were any other guy, he would not be sitting in a British jail and there would have been no international manhunt, no matter how may times his condom broke during sex.

Because the public understands this, they also understand that the timing of Assange’s arrest on sex charges is suspicious. The charges are either a substitute for a lack of evidence in conjuction with a WikiLeaks indictment, or they’re “holding charges” meant to keep the guy penned up while the world figures out where, if anywhere, Assange might actually be prosecutable for the release of government files.

Either way, when prosecutors use the public’s money to pursue a criminal case as a pretext for some other agenda, people become cynical and mistrustful of the rule of law. During impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for his lie about Monica Lewinsky, the public was plenty offended by Clinton’s behavior, but the impeachment proceedings were so over the top, many came to believe the process was nothing but a contrived show trial, generated by people who couldn’t have cared less about presidential lying but who hoped to seize the moment for political gain.

[…]

If officials want a piece of Assange, they should change him with espionage. It might be a tough case in light of First Amendment concerns, but so what? Nobody buys the sex charges anyway and espionage, on these facts, is a more serious offense. Better to try, and to lose, than pursue distracting charges in an unrelated case.

I don’t see why lack of evidence would be an insurmountable challenge on the leaks front—we know the most “harmless” of the leaks have undermined America’s ability to conduct diplomacy. We know WikiLeaks has leaked information enabling the murder of Afghani civilians. We know the group’s edited release of classified video has defamed the reputation of American soldiers. We know they’ve released classified lists of potential terror targets. We even have the motive: bringing down the United States government. All of this should be more than sufficient to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act. That the Obama Administration appears unwilling to do so has more to do with political impotence and lack of will than it does legal inability.

That said, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Swedish charges really are some sort of placeholder to keep Assange locked up until an espionage case can be assembled. Is that an abuse of the criminal justice system? Hardly. Granted, the accusers’ story seems pretty flimsy, and it’s unclear whether the charges would stick in the United States, but it’s certainly possible that Assange committed rape, and ultimately, he was in Sweden, which means he plays by Sweden’s rules. After all, leftists wouldn’t want us imposing American legal standards on another nation, would they? (I would say Julian Assange bought a ticket of his own, but…)

It seems to me we should only lose sleep over whether or not one charge is merely a pretext for the other if at least one of the charges is manifestly untrue or unjust. Neither is the case here. Granted, convicting him of one crime to punish him for another is another matter entirely, one which would cross the line into injustice. (Better to leave such mockeries of justice to Assange’s high-profile apologists.) But as what Murphy calls mere “‘holding charges’ meant to keep the guy penned up while the world figures out where, if anywhere, Assange might actually be prosecutable for the release of government files,” they’d be serving not to flout justice, but to finally know we had this globe-hopping anarchist where we can find him, so he could be brought to justice for his crimes against peace, justice, and national security.

Tough break, Julian.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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