Assange is no hero, and neither is Ecuador

Summary:Do not celebrate Assange. This is not a "witch hunt," as he called it. This is a case of the world's most respected nations hunting an alleged criminal currently hiding out in the embassy of one of the world's least respected nations.

The ugly story of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange took on another chapter, as the man accused of sex crimes in Sweden and espionage in the United States and the U.K. primped himself in front of the cameras once again.

On-site ZDNet team coverage by Charlie Osborne and Zack Whittaker Assange: U.S. 'witch hunt' against Wikileaks must endGallery: Wikileaks' Assange gives media statement in London

This time, Assange has teamed up with the deadbeat government of Ecuador. It's bizarre that these two -- each differently disgraced -- have dressed themselves in the ill-fitting robes of freedom fighters in their latest attempt to rehabilitate their tattered images.

You all know about Assange's various alleged acts of espionage against the United States and other western nations. You know about Wikileaks publication of confidential military dispatches from Afghanistan, and his alleged exploitation of poor, traitorous Bradley Manning. You know about the Swedish charges against him of rape (later withdrawn) and sexual molestation (for which he's still being sought). You even know about the time he reportedly tried to blackmail Amnesty International.

But what about Ecuador, that new paragon of freedom that granted asylum to Assange?

Well, according to the Financial Times, Ecuador is a country that -- with a pile of cash in the bank -- chose to default on its debts. If you look at the timing, you'll see that Ecuador contributed, in a particularly troublesome way, to the worldwide financial crisis we're all still dealing with.

In 2006 and 2007, Ecuador had what The Telegraph called a "small windfall" from exporting half a billion barrels of oil. Even so, the nation had $10 billion in sovereign debt. In 2008, Ecuador decided -- just plain decided -- it didn't want to pay $3.9 billion of it back to those who loaned it money.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa called his creditors "monsters" and disavowed the debt because it was incurred by previous administrations. The Telegraph called it a case of "won't pay" rather than "can't pay." While the price of petroleum fell on December 12, 2008 to $46.28 a barrel, Ecuador's prior income from oil alone was well in excess of $23 billion.

In other words, at a time when its oil riches would have allowed it to pay off its sovereign debt more than twice over, Ecuador defaulted -- helping to push the world financial crisis over the edge.

So when Correa teams up with Assange, this is not a noble fight against the U.S. waging war on whistle-blowers as blowhard Assange claims. Instead, it's the act of a desperate criminal and a criminal regime trying to put lipstick on a mud-covered pig.

For the record, this is not the first time Ecuador has defaulted on its loans. And if you want another reason Ecuador is teaming up with the anti-American Assange, get this: most of Ecuador's debts (at least back in 1999) were to the U.S.

It's very important to note that this is not about the freedom of information. We need transparency, we need oversight, and we need to speak truth to power. But Julian Assange is not the hero many deluded fans have constructed in their minds. Wikileaks, while once a great concept and a possible force for good, has been corrupted and destroyed by illegal acts.

The world needs a safe home for whistle-blowers, it needs a central repository for disclosure and discovery. It just doesn't need a narcissistic, alleged criminal as its leader.

Do not celebrate Assange. This is not a "witch hunt," as he called it. This is a case of the world's most respected nations hunting a criminal currently hiding out in the embassy of one of the world's least respected nations.

Topics: Security


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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