I am conflicted over Wikileaks. I can see the virtues of secrecy but also of transparency and would like to hear a more balanced argument about where that line can and should lie than we are presently having as people are forced to their corners. I loathe the messianic Julian Assange. I have also had run-ins with Glen Greenwald (over my dislike of Assange) who I found to be arrogant and aggressive.
But what I am clear on is that Wikileaks, Manning and Snowden are not engaging in terrorism. Whatever other laws they may and may not have broken (a debate that will undoubtedly continue for some time) I think we can all agree on that. There is no plan from these quarters to commit violence or induce fear. Neither is Glen Greenwald’s Partner David Miranda – who was detained under Anti-Terrorism laws for 9 hours and questioned about his and Greenwald’s role in the Snowden revelations.
The anti-terrorism laws were controversial when they were passed and remain so to this day. The idea of detaining anyone, for any period of time, without access to legal representation goes against the principles our justice system is based on. But there are many who believe that in the fight against terrorism that these powers remain necessary when faced with the threat to the UK of those who wish to harm us.
Whether you agree with the Anti-Terrorism laws or not, whether you believe in the rightness of the Wikileaks cause or not, we should all be outraged by this flagrant abuse of this law. In fact, those who support the law should be most outraged at this abuse – as it will undermine its legitimacy if it continues to be widened to include anyone our security services have a beef with, not merely those who directly threaten our safety.
The fight against terrorism is real. It continues and it is the kind of fight where we rarely hear of the successes. But this was not that. This was a massive overstretch of the powers granted to fight terrorism to intimidate someone who it is almost impossible to believe was being detained under suspicion of terrorist activity – as campaigners warned would happen when the law gave police such broad powers. This action strengthens those campaigners case.
Whether or not you agree with this particular law, we should all agree that abusing this or any law to try to intimidate a free press is a scandal that should not be allowed to pass unremarked.