Eliminate the posturing and the empty threats, the phony outrage and the genuine stupidity surrounding the Wikileaks, and two points of genuine interest remain.
The first point is that no one I’ve heard or read has yet been able to identify an instance of major disaster as a consequence of document leaks. This, despite the hundreds upon thousands of pressfolk, politicians, and pundits who’ve been wading through them, looking for just such material. An embarrassment here, a lifted eyebrow there, a giggle somewhere else. And more often than any of those, a yawn. So far, that’s it.
The second point is… the situation of Julian Assange. Several headline-worthy persons are calling for him to be brought to account: to be investigated, to be shut down, to be indicted, to be taken out. You can judge the calls for action by judging the persons calling for it: Joe Lieberman, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, et al.
So far, the only legal action against him is in Sweden, where he is accused of sexual misconduct. I have only read the accusations in outline. If true, they suggest he is either a deviant fiend, a crass sexual opportunist, or a remarkably artless lover, depending on point of view. If true.
Still, Assange is getting international supersoftglove treatment. He is in, or near to, police custody all the time. Because of the charges in Sweden, or to afford him, willy-nilly, round-the-clock police protection?
And if protection, protection from who or what… and why? Here’s one set of possibilities. Many powerful individuals were openly pissed off when the documents started falling into public view. There was talk that Assange’s days were numbered: it was only a matter of days before the Russians or the Americans or the Israelis or the Iranians terminated him with prejudice.
Then all of a sudden, even Vladimir Putin is suggesting the whole thing isn’t so bad, maybe we need to hold off on action. Yes, let’s not do anything rash, like killing a man who has embarrassed us with what he’s already published, but who might really hang our asses from a tree with stuff that would come out if anything bad happened to him.
There’s more, surely, to come. And no one can be sure how much, or on whose head it will land. Not even, I suspect, Julian Assange.