Julian Assange has (sort of) won the latest stage in his battle for absolute freedom, but for the whole Wiki-litany of leaks, this is only the end of the beginning.
I never really did get the whole argument that Julian’s sojourn in the Ecuadorian embassy had amounted to ‘arbitrary detention’. After all, he had voluntarily avoided lawful arrest by choosing to squeeze his way in there, dressed in black motorcycle-courier garb. Luckily for the lacquered leaker, he did not immerse himself too deeply in the courier role, or he might have just popped a ‘we called but you were not in’ card and fallen back into the outstretched, long arms of the law.
Even if the allegations against him had been spurious, any arrest might still have been lawful. The fight was surely to prove that it was all a sham, and that type of gig is purely the purview of the formal legal system to be played out in open court. Had he been allowed to walk, every UK crook on bail would have been storming embassies to board themselves into consular crappers the length and breadth of the nation.
I am not going to tie my yellow ribbon to one side or the other on the Wikileaks controversies, and that is not just because any adverse position might prompt a tinkering with this blog and a doxing to all the bonkers, psycho-slacktivists who might squeeze out four-by-twos onto my meagre artificial lawn as just deserts for any perceived slight by my previous, intemperate musings.
It does strike me, though, that there is an absolutism about the rationale for mass leaking that does not quite sit straight with the real world. Absolute openness, along with absolute truth, just does not sit right in a world awash with some pretty grim actors. Somewhere along the line, the forces of good have to fight fire with fire in order to triumph over the real rogues, and this involves getting down and dirty with the lowlife. This in turn throws up an apparent paradox: while fighting for truth and integrity, the righteous have to mix it with the nasties for the greater good.
The apparent banana skin for all arguments is that good and evil are subjective and relative concepts. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter and all that stuff. I guess that the WikiLeaks operations and the ensuing legal wrangles have reflected an eternal search for the right balance on that score, but I cannot see this ultimately tilting in the direction of the leakers. Whatever the outcome of the legal cases, the US will not let it drop. If it does not climax with formal extradition, Mr Assange will likely go out for a burger one day and wake up dressed in an orange jump suit and gas-masked to boot. You never know, the progress of the case might even in time be settled via some back-channel bargaining for a future UK-US trade deal.
That’s business, not personal. But to the Americans, the WikiLeaks business is personal. There is a shedload of supplementary courses to dish up onto the Wiki-plate and there is no loss of appetite for the next service.
Mr Assange is an undoubtedly clever bloke, and in democracies we all have the right to ruffle a few feathers. But if activists go nuclear and rock the establishment, the powers-that-be press their own red buttons. Big boys’ games, big boys’ rules.
And that is why this is going to go only one way.