But Assange had no doubt about the righteousness of his actions. He defended his actions by saying:
WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?
In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.
But as is the case of so many things in life, if you’re trying to convince others of the purity of your mission, your words can all to often come back to bite you in the ass.
Which is what happened to Assange, when information was leaked to the Guardian newspaper with detailed information on the sexual assault case against him in Sweden.
Assange’s lawyers were furious.
Bjorn Hurtig, the Wikileaks founder’s lawyer in Sweden was outraged over the revelations saying the documents could hinder Mr. Assange’s right to a fair trial. In a statement to the Australian press, he said, “I do not like the idea that Julian may be forced into a trial in the media. And I feel especially concerned that he will be presented with the evidence in his own language for the first time when reading the newspaper. I do not know who has given these documents to the media, but the purpose can only be one thing – trying to make Julian look bad.”
Other supporters were more open, blaming The Guardian for a ‘personal smear’ and questioned the timing of the release of the documents in Saturday’s Guardian.
Although I think lawyers are paid to not have a sense of irony.
According to governments, they have the need to keep most of their discussions and decisions under the cloak of secrecy. But according to Assange, he has the right, or even the obligation, to expose that information to the public at large.
The truth is, governments, whether they are local, provincial or federal find it more convenient to only release that information that puts them in a good light and are compelled to bury any material that would point out their bad decisions, their wastage of resources and their incompetence.
But there are also areas where governments need to keep secrets, sometimes in the short term and others for the long term.
And there are many cases where personal privacy trumps the need for the public to know. Even for Julian Assange.
The question is, who makes those decisions.