He’s like Bono, Jesus, and that creepy guy in the computer room at the public library all rolled into one. The word today is that the DOJ is trying to indict him on a conspiracy charge rather than under the Espionage Act, which would be a lot safer from a First Amendment perspective insofar as it would target the initial act of stealing classified documents rather than the later publication. Wikileaks defenders will presumably howl about that, just as they howl about any attempt to prosecute Assange. One thing I don’t understand, though: Most of his supporters, I take it, would agree that there are some types of classified government information that shouldn’t be public knowledge. What falls into that category will vary according to one’s individual judgment — maybe it’s as exacting as the nuclear launch codes, maybe it’s as inexacting as “anything that harms the public interest” — but in theory there’s some class of documents that should be off-limits. At the same time, my sense is that Assange’s strongest supporters will defend anything he publishes on First Amendment grounds, reasoning that if harm comes from the revelation, it’s the government’s fault entirely for not protecting that information better. So on the one hand they want the feds to take all precautions in securing that info — no leaks! — and on the other hand they want Assange and company to have an incentive via legal immunity to uncover that info — i.e., yay, leaks! If we’re all about greater transparency, why not tighten the standards for what’s classifiable, thereby making more information public, while ramping up the penalties for leaking to protect that smaller class of secret info? This no-leaks/yay-leaks game is silly.
If you haven’t yet read Tommy Christopher’s post yet at Mediaite on Olby, Michael Moore, and the Assange rape allegation, I recommend doing so. As I’ve said before, the charges do seem shady given the timing, but Christopher notes that they’re less bizarre than many media accounts would have you believe. Allegedly, it’s not a simple matter of “having sex without a condom”; it’s more a matter of “having sex after your partner asks you to stop.”
Update: Like I say — the biggest rock star in the world.