Thoughts on Julian Assange’s polarizing image

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Julian Assange has managed to become enemies with all different manners of people in power through his involvement with Wikileaks. Republicans widely condemned him following the leaks of what they saw as sensitive information regarding the Iraq War, including a video of U.S. soldiers firing on Iraqi civilians from a helicopter.

However, despite that and the Chelsea Manning leaks, Republicans, for the most part, liked Assange in 2016 when Wikileaks released the emails of Hillary Clinton, her campaign manager and the Democratic National Committee. Just this month he was arrested by London police after roughly seven years holed up in asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange is a controversial figure, and for every person who says he is a danger to public safety, you will find someone else who praises him as a freedom fighter who exposes government corruption.

After his arrest, almost any debate about Assange will involve something along the lines of “love him or hate him, his actions are good.” The truth is, there is both a good and a bad side to Julian Assange, and while many of his efforts have been noble, he is not perfect. Julian Assange contributes a lot to freedom of information, and this is an important function in a world where, according to Assange, “the Internet, our greatest tool for emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen.”

The leaks pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan called out violations of the Constitution by the U.S. government. These kinds of leaks are vital to public awareness about totalitarianism, whether they are legal or not. The same goes for the DNC leaks of 2016, which confirmed what many had already known about corruption in the Democratic primaries. These two incidents earned Wikileaks the distrust of both the Democrats and the Republicans, and thus serve as proof that Assange, rather than being a threat to certain interests, is a threat to all who abuse their power.

The U.S. government has not been the only target of leaks. Currently on Wikileaks, there are document leaks pertaining to the governments of Germany, Syria and Russia, among others.

However, Assange is not totally innocent. In 2016, Wikileaks published information about gay men in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is known for violating the human rights of gays, and this information could easily wind up in the wrong hands. In addition, Ecuadorian embassy officials have complained about Assange’s actions while he was staying there. There is speculation that his actions are motivated not out of a genuine interest in freedom, but rather out of narcissism and a desire to be seen as a hero.

Now that Assange is in the hands of British authorities, his biggest threat is the possibility of extradition to the United States, where he is wanted for possible collaboration with Chelsea Manning. This should not happen as his rights could very well be violated by rogue agents of the U.S. government.

The U.S., and especially its intelligence community, is not likely to treat people like Assange with much dignity. Hopefully, Wikileaks can continue to exist and expose tyranny in all forms.

Jonathan Buckley is a freshman majoring in political science.