Hal Ginsberg: The Case of Steven Salaita
Doc Cleveland: Who Lost Scotland?
I agree that hearing Julian Assange's lawyers outrage that leaked information pertaining to the rape charges against him should have never been made public is funny. I also agree with David Seaton that politics is politics and that anything that makes Assange look like a hypocrite is bad news for him. In the game he's playing image is important. You can't be for the release of all secrets except for your own. All absolutists find their petards hoisted sooner or later.
But that laugh aside, I think the leak hear actually makes Assange's point. The danger of secrets is that the person or institutions keeping the information to themselves get to control the narrative. It's not just what governments hide that matters, it's what they release. It'd be pretty easy, through selective disclosure, for the government or any other entity that collects data and records on people, to make virtually anyone look like a scumbag. In the case of Assange the leaked information makes him look like a rapist at worst or a creep at best. This assumes, of course, that the allegations were honestly made and not the result of some sort of cloak and dagger skulduggery. I have to make that assumptions because the conspiracy rabbit hole, absent evidence to support it, kind of ends the conversation. Every thing's pure fantasy once you go there.
So if the leaked stuff on Assange is the result of an honest complaint, which we must assume, then you definitely have a matter that could be decided in court as sexual assault or not, depending on other evidence and testimony. But it doesn't look good and it doesn't make Assange a sympathetic figure. He's either an attacker or a cad. Neither do well in court.
Let's face it, no government has a habit of leaking exculpatory or sympathetic information about the people it happens to be prosecuting. One of the black marks on Elliot Spitzer's record has to be that he was unable to actually prosecute Wall Streeters successfully. The people who lost were the ones who settled to avoid prosecution. But when Dick Grasso, former head of the New York Stock Exchange decided to fight he won and won decisively. It took years and throughout it all Spitzer (who I happen to like) had his office release damaging detail after damaging detail to the public. Grasso's image was no doubt damaged. But in context and in court it all added up to nothing.
So the selective release of information is just part of how prosecutors do business. And it's wrong. Tempting as it might be to say that what happened to Assange is an example of transparency biting an absolutist in the ass, it's really the opposite. This is about selective disclosure, which is another result of government secrecy. It's the government purposefully revealing some secrets in order to tell a story. In this case the story is that the thorn in the government's side activist is really a rapist, sadist, and sexual deviant.
Assange wants total transparency. A true Wikileaks treatment of his own case would not just reveal details that make him look bad, it would also reveal exculpatory information. So his lawyers are right to object. Selective disclosure can be worse than no disclosure.