Wikileaks renegade Julian Assange seems to be genetically incapable of staying out of trouble. Holed up now for some five months in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to evade police questioning on sexual assault charges, the self-styled paladin of transparency and free expression appeared on CNN for an interview with host Erin Burnett and wound up insulting his Ecuadorean hosts.
Fumbling about to answer an obvious question on how he reconciled his seeking the political protection of a country whose president, Rafael Correa, has one of the worst track records against a free press in the hemisphere, Assange asserted he did not want to talk about "little things in small countries," and, when Burnett persisted, dismissed the situation of press freedom in Ecuador, because it is "not a significant world player."
Yet even as Assange strained mightily to change the subject from his hypocritical embrace of the Correa government, the latter is showing no signs of letting up on its suppression of critical media, and has even brought its campaign to the United States. Last month, Ecuadorean ambassador to the United States Nathalie Cely and another close Correa crony traveled to Miami to pressure a local Spanish language station not to air a documentary critical of Correa’s presidency. (The good news is that the State Department’s patience with Correa appears to be wearing thin, with Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson recently criticizing his abuse of the Ecuadorean legal system to punish and intimidate the press.)
As far as Julian Assange is concerned, as much as he desperately tries to convince anyone who will listen that his cause is openness and transparency and, now apparently, speaking out against purveyors of strategic surveillance technologies, his alignment with someone like Rafael Correa, who as recently as last month said that control of information should be "a function of the state, like the judiciary," leaves his credibility in shambles. Of course, openness and transparency and the abuses of surveillance technologies should be concerns of anyone living in the 21st century, but if you believe the threats emanate from the United States and Europe and not today’s technologically savvy authoritarians, then you are less a prophet than a crank whose audience will remain forever confined to the fever swamps of the rabid, anti-American Left.
Assange’s quixotic crusade has led him to a cramped room in Rafael Correa’s embassy in London — with no exit in sight. With his opinions on just how much Assange thinks of their country, the Ecuadoreans got to see a side of him they probably were not expecting. Still, the two sides appear to be locked together out of ideological convenience. Here’s to a long and unhappy marriage.
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| The List |
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| Passport |