>Anonymity: Essential for Democracy

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The New York Times today reported that Julian Assange is eligible for extradition to Sweden. Sweden is interested in talking to Mr. Assange about his actions that led to at least two women filing charges against him for sexual misconduct.

Supporters of Julian Assange and his organization, Wikileaks, are concerned that his extradition could be a prelude to his eventual extradition to the United States. The United States is interested in pursuing Mr. Assange for his role in releasing allegedly sensitive information.

I say “allegedly sensitive” as ‘sensitive’ is in the eye, or mind, of the beholder.

The people of Tunisia are probably glad to have to learned how corrupt their government leaders had become over time.

The Bank of America, though never named by Wikileaks, initiated a nervous frenzy of cleaning up documentation, emails, and interviewing employees in the wake of news that Wikileaks was preparing to reveal substantial documentation of wrong-doing or unethical behavior of a major bank. Guilty conscious?

The First Amendment guarantees speech. Period. No matter how insensitive, rude, stupid, or simply wrong that speech is, the speech is protected. Lying, however, is not protected.

An_Advertisement_of_The_FederalistEven the authors of the United States Constitution recognized the importance of operating in secret. John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison were rebels. They really were. They advocated separation from the Crown (Great Britain) and they initiated the documents that set forth in writing how the new government should operate. I’m sure they were hunted by the Crown, and perhaps Loyalists in the new colonies, and their lives were in jeopardy.

They adopted an alias to protect their true identity. “Publius” was their common alias which those three men used to publish their “Federalist Papers.” For 22 years, no one knew who the authors were. From the time the essays were initially published in 1787, until their identities were revealed in 1810, less than a handful of people knew the true identity of the men who worked to create our Constitution.

Madison, Hamilton, and Jay knew that anonymity was critical to their efforts, to protect their work, their lives, and the lives of their families and friends. Anonymity, from their viewpoint, allowed them to work and think and exchange ideas free from threats of retribution. Freedom of Speech was a fundamental human right necessary for the dissemination of ideas, to support and strengthen Democracy. Democracy can only flourish when people feel safe and secure from the rule of tyrants.

Today, we see these men as heroes. But, that is from our perspective, 200 years later. In their day, they were seen as traitors to the Crown of England, from the perspective of England.

I’m not holding up J. Assange as a hero. Wikileaks represents the 21st century version of open discourse and the free flow of information that stands against the Rule of Tyrants. The ability to speak openly, fairly and without the threat of retribution is an essential element of Democracy. Wikileaks thwarts the tyranny of small-minded people, thwarts governments that lie, cheat, and steal from the citizens that government should protect, and provides a necessary check-and-balance against agencies that work against people.

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