The White House administration is asking allied Western governments to consider criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder, Australian-born Julian Assange . Assange is currently in hiding, due to the furor over WikiLeaks' release last month of the Afghan War Diary , thousands of secret documents involving the war in Afghanistan from 2004 through 2009. WikiLeaks has an additional 15,000 documents which it has not released yet, and has said it is reviewing them before releasing them.
The Department of Justice is currently investigating the case and considering criminal charges against those involved. It is negotiating through diplomatic channels the possibility of other countries also pressing charges, and hoping to hamper Assange's travel through fear of legal sanctions. On August 5, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell demanded that WikiLeaks return the documents .
The American government's response to the WikiLeaks documents has consistently not been positive, despite the fact that many have praised WikiLeaks and its mission, pointing to many cases of corruption uncovered by the website. Matthew Rothschild, writing for the Progressive, said that WikiLeaks should be applauded for the action . Among the documents are multiple reports on corruption in Afghanistan hampering the war effort.
Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 in an effort to expose unconstitutional behavior in the Vietnam War, has also praised Assange's actions and said in response to charges that the action endangered American national security, "...any serious risk to that national security is extremely low. There may be 260,000 diplomatic cables. It’s very hard to think of any of that which could be plausibly described as a national security risk. Will it embarrass diplomatic relationships? Sure, very likely—all to the good of our democratic functioning."
American government officials have stated their belief that American troops have been endangered by the WikiLeaks documents, and that other troops and as well as civilian informants named in the documents are similarly endangered by the release. Last week several human-rights organizations, asked WikiLeaks to redact already released documents in order to ensure the safety of informants identified in the documents. Among the groups making the request were Amnesty International, the Open Society Institute, and the Kabul office of the International Crisis Group. Assange's response was to ask the groups for staffing assistance in the task.
WikiLeaks, founded in 2006, is an international organization whose servers are based in Sweden. The organization's purpose is to protect whistleblowers, journalists, and activists who have sensitive information to release by providing them a safe way to do so. It is run by an advisory board of nine members, one of which is Assange.
We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly - in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances - the internet, and cryptography - the risks of conveying important information can be lowered.
Assange has asserted that because the WikiLeaks servers are Swedish-based, they are protected. Sweden's office of the Chancellor of Justice has said that the Swedish location does not automatically protect WikiLeaks because the website lacks a license to publish in Sweden.
Among the awards Assange has received for his work with WikiLeaks is the Economist's Index on Censorship Award in 2008 and the Amnesty International Media Award (New Media) in 2009.
Army Specialist Bradley Manning , who is believed to be connected to the release of the documents, is currently in custody in a Virginia military base, and facing charges of two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.[youtube]Oh26qc3DCeo[/youtube]