Monday, 30 May 2011

WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding


DATE READ: April 2011 (audiobook)

NOTES: This book reads like fiction as it details the remarkable story of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. At the time of its publication it was still very much an unfinished story – Assange was awaiting extradition to Sweden, Bradley Manning was awaiting trial for espionage in US and repercussions of the leaks were still reverberating round the world. I did wonder if the Guardian reporters felt it important to lay out their side of the story so far….

They do this in unflinching detail. Their part in the story is told without hyperbole – their share with us their initial doubts and anxieties as well as their increasing frustrations in dealing with Assange. Julian Assange is revealed as an intriguing character. His computer skills are brilliant, he is a driven man in his campaign for freedom of information but is also egotistical and arrogant. Leigh and Harding reveal how he often changed his mind about future plans and acted contrary to agreements made about publication. To their credit they recount these events objectively and calmly (but I bet they raged in private!)

It will be interesting how the WikiLeaks story will be viewed by future historians. The published Afghan war logs revealed the existence of US death squads, the Iraq files told of the torture of prisoners and of civilian murders. The huge release of thousands of diplomatic cables at the end of last year caused a sensation – the current uprisings in North Africa can be directly linked to the reaction to these cables.

At the time of writing this review (May 2011) things have gone rather quiet on the Wikileaks front. But Hilary Clinton’s fury is unabated and she is demanding Assange’s extradition. Bradley Manning, the soldier who downloaded the files, is in solitary confinement in gaol awaiting trial for espionage and a threatened 55 year sentence. His fragile mental state will cut very little ice with his accusers.

A fascinating and well written book – but it will probably need to be updated in a few years hence.

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