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Julian Assange Arrested in London

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has been arrested in London on a Swedish sex crime charge.

The action comes a week and a half after the release of State Department cables to news organizations and via the Internet, which will continue according to the Wikileaks Twitter feed. “Today’s actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won’t affect our operations,” the tweet said.

Assange is being held on a “sex by surprise” charge. He has not been arrested for rape; the sex in question was consensual. Apparently, the issue is whether or not a condom was used and whether the woman requested one. The charge, only part of the Swedish criminal code and not the UK, carries a fine of 5,000 kronor, or $715. To sum up, Interpol issued an international warrant, and Britain honored it for Sweden, over a case that has a fine of $715 and no jail time. Assange has pleaded innocence to the charge. The full police report is available here.

Assange published an editorial in The Australian today, defending his organization and its release of the State Department cables.

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.

If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.

Assange adds that multiple media outlets have published Wikileaks documents, and yet only his organization has been subject to attacks by world governments, aimed at shutting it down. He accused governments of “trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed.”

In just today’s Wikileaks release, as if to prove Assange’s point, US officials downplay talks with the Taliban, after publicly hyping the possibility of reconciliation as the only way to end the war. The cables also show that Hamid Karzai is disinterested, along with the US, for giving the Taliban any role in the Afghan government, meaning that whatever talks have taken place are essentially meaningless. This just means that the war is fated to go on literally forever, with each side unable to achieve surrender but seeking one anyway.

That seems like an important bit of information.

An ad hoc group called Justice for Assange debuted today.

UPDATE: Visa has now suspended payments to Assange. This is a lightning-quick, coordinated effort to freeze out someone publishing the same items that the New York Times, Le Monde, the Guardian, Der Spiegel and El Pais has been publishing all week. It’s chilling. Also, the British court denied bail for Assange, and he said he would resist extradition to Sweden.

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David Dayen

David Dayen