This article originally appeared on Huffington Post on December 10, 2010
Here's the most striking WikiLeaks revelation: the same Obama administration that is currently devoting endless resources to vilifying WikiLeaks for promoting government transparency has none to spare when it comes to prosecuting actual perpetrators of torture.
Last month the administration disclosed that it would not file charges against anyone involved with the destruction of 92 CIA videotapes that showed the torture of prisoners who were detained as suspected terrorists. That's because Obama decided long ago to turn the page on the abuses and illegalities of the Bush administration (while continuing those practices that suit him, from indefinite detention to abusing the state secrets privilege). WikiLeaks, by contrast, is exposing the administration's strenuous efforts to prevent even other countries from prosecuting serious wrongdoings and human rights abuses by government officials.
One recently released diplomatic cable reveals the administration's anxiety after a Spanish NGO filed a complaint in Spain's National Court against then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five other former officials, including Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith and the Justice Department's John Yoo, for violating international law by creating a legal framework that permitted the torture of suspected terrorists. The U.S. was particularly concerned that the case would be heard by a tough Investigating Judge, Baltasar Garzon, internationally known for his dogged pursuit of universal jurisdiction cases. Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza reassures them: while "in all likelihood he would have no option but to open a case" he does not "envision indictments or arrest warrants in the near future" and will "argue against the case being assigned to Garzon." Danger -- of justice being done -- averted.
No wonder U.S. government officials and legislators are painting WikiLeaks as Public Enemy #1. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder--who dropped the charges against the CIA regarding the destroyed torture tapes--insists that "the American people themselves have been put at risk" and is looking into the possibility of criminal prosecution. Not to be outdone, Sarah Palin says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be hunted down like Al-Qaida. Senator Lieberman is suggesting that the five news outlets that published the State Department cables WikiLeaks released could be investigated for breaking espionage laws. And Rep. Peter King, the incoming Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has called WikiLeaks a terrorist organization.
That's why there's widespread concern about the numerous legal irregularities surrounding Assange's detention regarding sexual assault allegations in Sweden earlier this week. Clearly the allegations against him should be thoroughly investigated -- and the attacks on his accusers are inappropriate and misdirected. But numerous red flags, including the very decision to jail a suspect who would normally be interrogated, then deny him bail despite his having voluntarily surrendered and presented surety of his return to court, signal that the U.S. government is likely manipulating the Swedish allegations for purposes of extraditing Assange to the U.S. The secret informal talks already taking place between Sweden and the U.S. for this purpose confirm the suspicion that this may be the real end game. Should Assange be extradited to the U.S., he will likely be tried for the activities that really bother our administration and Congress: making public classified documents that expose government cover ups, wrong-doing, and human rights abuses.