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Assange personifies contradictions of US politics, challenges media (News Analysis)

IANS  |  New York 

Once hailed by the left as the champion of transparency and reviled by the right as a leaker of state secrets, is now trapped between them having played a role in the rise of a right-wing and in the spread of hidden information embarrassing to the progressives.

As the founder of WikiLeaks, Assange, was among the first to demonstrate the tremendous power of the Internet and to pierce the secrecy of governments and impact and society.

The media fed off data dump that he facilitated, even as it stayed a hands breadth away from legal complicity in obtaining the classified information for which others - and now Assange - paid the price.

Assange straddled the worlds of cyber activism and journalism as is viewed as a of which he had been the publisher.

Now the media is torn by his arrest, whether to defend him or to walk away, also has to calculate the impact on the profession.

tweeted: "The arrest of is meant to send a message to all Americans and journalists: be quiet, behave, toe the line. Or you will pay the price."

A in warned: "Going forward, will need to be vigilant. Assange's case is specific, but the way the Justice Department responds to his arrest could have serious implications for all of us."

The also highlighted the threat to One of its project directors, Ben Wizner, said: "Any prosecution by the US of Assange for WikiLeaks' publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organisations."

So far, the has not charged him with espionage or aiding the enemy, which could directly involve the journalistic aspects of the leaks. He was charged in a federal court near with only "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion" for allegedly helping the former Army intelligence crack passwords to ultra-secret computer networks that she used to get the information for him.

and Assange became central to the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US elections and collusion with that have dominated American since then.

Robert Mueller, who investigated the allegations, found that had meddled in the polls through the leak of embarrassing material about the and Hillary Clinton, but he has absolved Trump of involvement.

This makes Assange less of a sympathetic character to the progressives and Democrats - and the media - because of Clinton's defeat.

Assange had first earned the wrath of the conservatives and the type of people forming Trump's base because of the government secrets he got from Manning, before she underwent sex-change and was then known as Bradley, in 2010. Of the more than 750,000 documents and other material she gave Assange in 2010, the most damaging to the US were videos of military action in involving civilians.

The Australian computer geek-turned-activist, Assange, shared them with producing hundreds of investigative stories around the world, not only on military affairs, but also diplomatic operations and internal political and economic affairs of many countries including These made enemies for him around the world.

But the trove of emails and documents purloined from officials showing a bias in the party's leadership against Bernie Sanders, the leftist challenging Clinton, marked a turn of events. The disclosures led to the resignation of and other officials.

The upheaval that followed and the disenchantment of Sanders supporters is blamed for Clinton's defeat by

The Moscow's had was seen behind the leaks making central to her defeat in the eyes of her was appointed to investigate if Trump had colluded with Russians.

Although Assange denied he got them from the Russians, Mueller charged Russian hackers known as Guccifer 2.0 with the hack.

exemplifies the dichotomy about Assange. On Thursday, he said about his arrest: "I don't have anything to say. There's a legal proceeding now."

But as the in 2017, he called WikiLeaks "a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia". He added that had determined that the Russian military intelligence agency had used WikiLeaks to release information it had gotten through hacks against the

The WikiLeaks disclosures about India, mostly from US diplomatic cables going back several years, included material about contacts between politicians, public figures, and contacts with diplomats as well American diplomats' views of Indian developments right down to the microlevel of happenings in states.

Assange's accomplice in the court filings in the US, Manning was court martialed on 22 charges including aiding the enemy and was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in a military prison. However, former President commuted to seven years before he left office and freed how.

But she is back in prison after a last month ordered her held indefinitely for refusing to testify before a court panel, known as a grand jury, investigating Assange and WikiLeaks.

Now in British custody, Assange like other fugitives such as and Vijay Mallya, will try to fight the extradition to the US or using the British judicial system.

Trump, meanwhile, has refused to be drawn into a discussion of his arrest or role. "I don't really have an opinion. The will be involved in that and he will make a decision," he said.

(can be reached at and followed on Twitter @arulouis)



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 12 2019. 10:56 IST