The recent arrest of Julian Assange in London and the denial of bail raises some interesting questions. Is his arrest related to the release of the 250,000 secret cables of the US Department of State and the allegation of rape a mere pretext to extridite him to Sweden from where he can be sent to US to face possible trial under US laws. First, the Espionage Act of 1917 can be involked only against US citizens and those arreseted on US soil like the case of the 2 German spies who landed in Newfoundland duuring World War II and entered US from Canada. In the case of Julian Assange this provision cannot apply as he did not carry out the espioinage and at best Bradley Manning can be tried and even in his case I not sure qwhether his superiors will invoke the 1917 act. Second, the direct linkage between a foreign government and the release of the secret cables is extremely hard to establish and therefore I believe that Julian will not be tried by the terms of the Espionage Act.
The arrest of Julian Assange has raised concerns about the whole issue of the Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Expression, both covered under the First Ammendment. The American newspapers like New York Times have carried the verbatim transcripts of the cables and therefore any procecution of Julian Assange will certainly impinge upon the well established right of a Free Press to publish mateial in "public interest" the argument used by the paper during the Pentagon Papers trial in the 1970's. I think the end result of the Assange episode will be that the electronic media will also get the protection that the Press enjoys though there are certain grey areas in the law. Amazon, the famous book sellers, refused to allow WikiLeaks to use their servers for hosting the site probably under pressure from a senator. The grounds given by the Comapny are simply untenable and if WikiLeaks challenges the termination of "cloud computing " facility to WikiLeaks, Amazon will be hard pressed to defend itself. There is absolutely no danger of anyone hurting hiself/herself because of the documents posted and therefore Amazon is only clutching a nonexisting justification.
I would like to raise a more important question pertaining to the motive behind the expose by WikiLeaks. It is quite obvious that apart from causing some embarassment the revelations made do not in any way present material in the public domain that undermines US national security interests. Even with regard to Afghanistan, there is little new in the WikiLeaks. I have in my blogs covered the Araq and Afghan wars quite extensively and without the benifir of the 250,000 new documents, the picture sill remains substanially the same. If Julian Assage wanted to make US leave Afghanistan, the leaks hardly help because President Obama has already set a deadline for US withdrawal. As for Iraq, WikiLeaks has of course exposed some of the American atrocities there, but we all knew about them. So what was the motive for the large scale dumping of documents.
I think Julian Assange, a hacker and computer buff from an early age has an aversion for big powers politics. His worldview is shaped by the ideology of the computer age--freedom without government interference. It is this fundamental belief that impellled him to go ahead with his program. One can call him an anarchist of the Cyber Age but he is certainly not a terrorist that some US politicians are making him out to be. As for me I approve of the Freedom that he espouces, though I wish he were more circumspect.