Julian Assange is no hero

The infamous hacker is revered by many — but there is more than one reason to doubt his motives.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame has been in the news recently because of successive information dumps of Hilary Clinton’s emails, hacked from the accounts of the Democratic National Committee head office, and her chief of staff, John Podesta.

Earlier this week, #freeJulian was trending on Twitter. He is currently residing in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is facing rape charges. He argues that if he is sent to Sweden, he could be extradited to the US next, where he wouldn’t face a fair trial. This is despite the fact that Sweden doesn’t allow extradition for political crimes.

Given how important Assange and Wikileaks have been in the upcoming election, it’s time to examine whether Assange is really as benign a source as he presents himself.

We tend to give whistleblowers the benefit of the doubt. After all, these are people who risk their reputations, their jobs and jail in order to ensure that citizens see important information, often held by organisations which are shrouded in secrecy.

Here in Ireland, we’ve seen a number of whistleblowers go up against the might of the police in order to inform us of irregularities in the investigation of certain cases, giving preferential treatment to individuals by not reporting driving infractions, and intimidation of people who have reported on police wrongdoing. These people are to be admired.

Edward Snowden recently asked that he be pardoned by the American Government, pointing out that the information he leaked about the systematic data collection by the NSA started an important debate in the country about how to balance the right to privacy against security.

But Julian Assange is a different case altogether.

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