Monday, January 17, 2011

Clinton Embodies Contradictions Of Administration Opposition To WikiLeaks

Anger against ousted Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was in part fueled by WikiLeaks, which leaked diplomatic cables exposing his regime's corruption. The cables were displayed on a "TuniLeaks" site created by Tunisian activists associated with the independent blog (the core, in Arabic). The Tunisian government unsuccessfully tried to block access.

From that perspective, consider Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement that WikiLeaks constitutes "...not just an attack on America–it's an attack on the international community." Yet in a recent address to Arab leaders, Clinton rightly criticized their closed political systems and corruption. Of course, it was WikiLeaks that enabled Tunisians to obtain information–normally blocked–about such corruption. The Obama administration is caught in a contradiction between its advocacy of openness and reform overseas and its desire to prosecute Julian Assange:

Foreign Policy magazine tagged the end of Mr. Ben Ali’s rule “the first WikiLeaks revolution,” and while that may be an overstatement, the cables’ role in what President Obama lauded Friday as “this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights” underscores the awkward dilemma the WikiLeaks cables have posed for the administration.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been pressing an “Internet Freedom” initiative, emphasizing the power of the Web to expose injustice and promote democracy. But at the same time, the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, including using subpoenas to try to obtain the private Internet activity, credit card numbers and bank account details of Mr. Assange and his associates.

Joining the administration in opposition to WikiLeaks are such paragons of freedom as Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, president of Libya, and the Iranian government.

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