Wednesday 15 December 2010

It's not the Crime, it's the Cover-Up

Why I don't like Wikileaks.

The hypocrisy. Privacy is for them, not others.

And this is why I really, really, REALLY don't like the extra-judicial persecution of their founder (who I find an unpleasant man - but that's beside the point).

Naomi Wolf's article on Huffpo :
How do I know that Interpol, Britain and Sweden's treatment of Julian Assange is a form of theater? Because I know what happens in rape accusations against men that don't involve the embarrassing of powerful governments.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in solitary confinement in Wandsworth prison in advance of questioning on state charges of sexual molestation. Lots of people have opinions about the charges. But I increasingly believe that only those of us who have spent years working with rape and sexual assault survivors worldwide, and know the standard legal response to sex crime accusations, fully understand what a travesty this situation is against those who have to live through how sex crime charges are ordinarily handled -- and what a deep, even nauseating insult this situation is to survivors of rape and sexual assault worldwide.

Here is what I mean: men are pretty much never treated the way Assange is being treated in the face of sex crime charges.

I started working as a counselor in a UK center for victims of sexual assault in my mid-twenties. I also worked as a counselor in a battered women's shelter in the US, where sexual violence was often part of the pattern of abuse. I have since spent two decades traveling the world reporting on and interviewing survivors of sexual assault, and their advocates, in countries as diverse as Sierra Leone and Morocco, Norway and Holland, Israel and Jordan and the Occupied Territories, Bosnia and Croatia, Britain, Ireland and the united States.
In the Western countries such as Britain and Sweden, who are uniting to hold Assange without bail, if you actually interviewed women working in rape crisis centers, you will hear this: it is desperately hard to get a conviction for a sex crime, or even a serious hearing. Workers in rape crisis centers in the UK and Sweden will tell you that they have deep backlogs of women raped for years by fathers or stepfathers -- who can't get justice. Women raped by groups of young men who have been drinking, and thrown out of the backs of cars, or abandoned after a gang-rape in an alley -- who can't get justice. Women raped by acquaintances who can't get a serious hearing.
In other words: Never in twenty-three years of reporting on and supporting victims of sexual assault around the world have I ever heard of a case of a man sought by two nations, and held in solitary confinement without bail in advance of being questioned -- for any alleged rape, even the most brutal or easily proven. In terms of a case involving the kinds of ambiguities and complexities of the alleged victims' complaints -- sex that began consensually that allegedly became non-consensual when dispute arose around a condom -- please find me, anywhere in the world, another man in prison today without bail on charges of anything comparable.
One of the greatest threats to civil liberties is selective enforcement. A complex web of laws is woven, so that no-one can possibly escape breaking at least one. Everyone's a criminal.

Then you only actually enforce the laws against a select few. Those who you wish to target, using laws most people don't even know are on the books, because in all other cases, they are only applied with reason and common-sense.


Eric TF Bat said...

No, you're being silly about the hypocrisy. They're very firmly of the opinion that privacy is something that private individuals deserve. It doesn't, and shouldn't, extend to corporations and governments. Would you have demanded that Woodward and Bernstein submit to having tapes of their private conversations put on public record? I think not.

Zoe Brain said...

Funny, I thought that Wikileaks was an organisation, a corporation in fact, and not a private individual.

Re Woodward/Bernstein: If, say, the Bank of America has no right to protect records of privileged conversations, why should the New York Times be treated differently?

Anonymous said...

Wikileaks leaked a secret list of their own donors:

Anonymous said...

This seems like a weak criticism; perhaps there is something else you were trying to get at, but the idea of WikiLeaks being super-secretive doesn't hold much water these days. About WikiLeaks, I've seen many leaked emails, a leaked chat transcript, a newspaper article detailing the editing of the Collateral Murder video with names of all participants, an hour-long documentary with names and faces both inside and associated with the organization, etc.; this is all findable through Google. There's even a book coming out in January by former spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg about his experience in WikiLeaks (and presumably why he left). Of course they try (not always successfully) to keep their sources secret. But for a supposedly "secret" organization it's not too hard to find stuff out about them, especially compared to, say, the US government. They seem to be following the same standards for themselves as others, which is if someone's upset about the secret info they have access to, they're not going to get in the way of someone posting it.

And of course, "Anonymous" is not actually WikiLeaks, they are just a bunch of kids who thinking taking down various web sites for a couple hours at a time is going to make a difference -- which seems unlikely to me, but I guess it's better than drugs and gangs and stuff.


Zimbel said...

One of the greatest threats to civil liberties is selective enforcement. A complex web of laws is woven, so that no-one can possibly escape breaking at least one. Everyone's a criminal. that describes the U.S.A. perfectly. Some, however, are not just used for a select few, but to harass entire groups.

I don't follow your original comment, though. "Anonymous" has little, if anything to do with Wikileaks, and Wikileaks has made some effort to expunge identifying information from their leaks. Or are you referring to the internal process arguments put forth by Daniel Domscheit-Berg?

Zimbel said...

@Zoe Brain-

In the U.S.A., that would be due to the First Amendment. The New York Times has a Constitutional guarantee that the Bank of America doesn't have. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;

I don't know Australian law well enough to comment, but the Swedish constitution (two separate links - the Swedish constitution is in multiple parts) has something similar.

Zoe Brain said...

The Australian Constitution has nothing corresponding to the US Bill of Rights within it.

The only section remotely similar is section 116 : The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.. Section 117 broadly corresponds to the 14th amendment, the "Equal Protections" clause.

Section 50.xxvi allows racism. In the past, to oppress certain groups, and nowadays to engage in "affirmative action".

The rest of the rights we take for granted are based on English Common Law. That means a certain degree of flexibility - no need to be unconstitutional in order to be pragmatic.

Oh yes, and the rights apply to all legal residents, not just citizens as in the US.

wreckage said...

Your strongest point (although I agree with the other), about selective enforcement, is one I hadn't thought of.

There is the other side of the coin; a man accused of something grotesque enough that the jury felt that the mere accusation assured guilt.

Finally let me say that the family courts in Oz are a disgrace and seem designed to ensure the continuation of abuse and protect the privileges of criminals and abusers.

Mercedes said...

I might be inclined to agree except that I know the lengths that governments and corporations will go to in order to skirt accountability (having seen serious lower-level abuses in a shareholder-driven corporation), and the extent they will go to in order to silence those who would keep them accountable.

I'm not sure I like Assage, really, but if it's a matter of choosing between Big Brother and little brother, well...

That said, Naomi Wolf's analysis is spot on. The push to prosecute Julian Assange for rape has absolutely nothing to do with anything that might have actually happened between him and the two women in question and everything to do with the patriarchy he ran afoul of.

Zimbel said...

@Zoe Brain-
Most of the rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution aren't limited by citizenship in theory (although practice, is, as always, more squishy - particularly without a lawyer).

Absence of citizenship limits:
1) The right to vote.
2) The ability to hold elected (not appointed) office.
There used to be a prohibition on non-citizens suing states in Federal courts, but as that's been broadened to include citizens (in most cases), that's a fairly minor issue.

That's about it at the Federal Constitutional level.

Of course, none of this will help anyone prosecuted under non-U.S. law. And much of the working Constitution is really in case law; neither the right to privacy (first described in Griswold v. Connecticut) nor the prohibition against prior restraint (Near v. Minnesota) are explicitly in the U.S. Constitution, to give two of many examples.

As for the Australian Constitution, it's rather interesting. Fairly close to what I would have expected, considering when it was written - but I'm surprised that there aren't many enumerated rights.

Anonymous said...

Regarding "framing" Assuange: if they were intent on framing him for a crime... why not possession of child porn on a computer, rather than an offense where proof is rather difficult to establish?

It's absurd and stupid, but the mere presence of child pornography on a computer drive is all the evidence required for a very long, guaranteed arduous, prison term... and it doesn't matter how it got there.

(Likewise with "terrorist instruction manuals" -- see Dick Destiny's blog for his assessment of just how brain-dead some of the "You too can make your own deadly botulinum toxin using this EASY FORMULA!" manuals are, and the consequences if one is found on your computer).