Monday, December 12, 2011

Assange and Wikileaks are "Enemy Combatants"

(Enemy combatants? Sure, all over the place!)

Newton Leroy Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, is notable for making incendiary comments on a whole range of policy issues. His recent comments on Palestinians as an "invented people" were outrageous enough, (and I was planning on writing about this at some point, but David Cameron and the EU got in the way), but his reported remarks this morning that Wikileaks' Julian Assange is an "enemy combatant" is breathtaking.

This blog has been critical of Wikileaks in the past; Assange in my view has been utterly irresponsible in releasing unredacted US diplomatic traffic - this always felt more about him than about open government. However, Gingrich has taken this to a whole new level: consider the implications of his actual statement. If Gingrich is correct, then:

- Assange can be legitimately targeted by US forces.

- Freedom of speech is where?

Fortunately, it's safe to say that Gingrich is wrong. It's not at all clear what his legal basis for this is - GC III, AP I or AP II? Gingrich could potentially make the case that the Assange was making a material contribution to US enemy action by releasing the US State Department archive that was leaked to him, allegedly by US Army Pvt Bradley Manning. In doing so, you could argue that Assange was taking a direct participation in hostilities, and therefore was targetable.

But I don't see it. Indeed, the reverse should be the case - freedom of expression is protected in Article 19 of the UDHR, amongst other places. Looks like Newt shooting from the hip, as usual.

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