When CNN reporter Atika Shubert sat down to interview WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, she might have gotten more than she bargained for. The interview starts with Assange saying there are many more cases of war crimes in Iraq than in Afghanistan based upon the recently leaked top secret documents.
The interview goes well until Shubert asks Assange about his legal situation in Sweden about 14 minutes into the piece, according to CNN. When Assange says he doesn’t want to talk about it, Shubert presses him on the issue and he subsequently walks out of the interview after warning her he would leave if she continued. Under his breath he said, “you blew it.”
The questions Shubert asked stem from rape allegations in Sweden. One woman claims she was raped and another molested by Assange. The formal charges are currently sealed due to their sensitive nature, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Assange has been seeking to reside in Sweden. Charges were initially dropped until late August when Sweden’s Prosecutions Director reopened the case. Julian Assange says the charges are a smear tactic to discredit him and WikiLeaks.
The founder of WikiLeaks claims he is the victim of bad press, and the United States and Britain are trying to destroy his reputation. He took offense in the interview when Shubert suddenly changed topics and Assange instead wanted to talk about the deaths of 104,000 innocent civilians. Shubert was trying to assert her claim that WikiLeaks is being affected by Assange’s behavior.
Whether or not Assange is in legal trouble is irrelevant at this point. Hundreds of thousands of “top secret” documents have been leaked. These papers paint a picture of the Iraq War we have not seen up to now. The leaks allege civilian deaths and torture were more widespread than previously known.
Assange makes a valid point in the interview. The United States Military and the Bush administration, based upon the official documents he released, had been much less trustworthy than we thought. No one is disputing the fact these leaked documents are authentic. We should be focusing on civilian deaths during a time of war, and not allegations at this moment.
Secrecy All Around
The Swedish government won’t reveal the charges since they are sensitive. The papers released by Julian Assange are also sensitive. The charges made against Assange are real. The papers released by WikiLeaks are also real. However, the papers and allegations are two separate issues.
The question is can WikiLeaks survive without Assange at the helm? WikiLeaks is not a large company with a lot of employees. Assange, were he to go to prison for years on end, may not be able to have influence over leaks if he no longer has his connections to the Department of Defense.
Does he have a right to be angered by the personal attack leveled against him? Yes. Assange walked out only after he told his interviewer he didn’t want to talk about them. The truth involving Assange’s legal troubles will come out eventually, and the media can have their field day when that happens. Until then, I think we need to focus on the documents that were released.
The charges against Assange need to be weighed seriously because the allegations involve human suffering. The last time those charges were brought up was almost two months ago and have little to do with leaked papers of the Pentagon.
CNN, “WikiLeaks, what’s happened since Friday-This Just In”, CNN.com Blogs.
Kershner, Vlae, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange rape allegations: What’s behind them?”, San Francisco Chronicle.