WikiLeaks Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Does this mean Norway is now our mortal enemy?
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev made headlines a couple months ago by suggesting that Julian Assange should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It seemed beautifully contrarian at the time—a diplomatic comment seemingly custom-tailored to push the buttons of American officials who were calling for his head on a stick.
Though it seemed like an outside chance, those among us who value free speech and the sanctity of individuals over the sanctity of governments thought the Russian premier was talking some sense.
So did Norwegian lawmaker Snorre Valen, apparently. The deadline for Nobel Peace Prize nominations was yesterday, and Valen got his in just under the deadline, Reuters reports. “By disclosing information about corruption, human rights abuses and war crimes, WikiLeaks is a natural contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.”
It’s important to note that WikiLeaks as an organization is nominated, not Julian Assange himself. From Newser: “‘Liu Xiabao was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his struggle for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech,’ Valen wrote on his blog. ‘Likewise: WikiLeaks have contributed to the struggle for those very values globally, by exposing (among many other things) corruption, war crimes, and torture.’”
Valen’s comparison to Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiabao is an apt one, and one that puts the US in a precarious position: The US has lauded Xiabao as a champion of free speech and condemned China’s persecution of him as an enemy of the state. Meanwhile, Joe Biden called WikiLeaks a “high tech terrorist” organization, and Atty General Eric Holder said the US is pursuing “an active, ongoing criminal investigation” into WikiLeaks, and political figures from Sarah Palin to Mike Huckabee have called for Assange to be executed.
The U.S. must choose—it can’t have it both ways. It can’t selectively champion free speech when it works in its political favor and condemn it when it works against.
To this end, it is important that the nomination be for WikiLeaks itself, rather than Assange or alleged document leaker Bradley Manning. Despite the Justice Department’s best effort to build a case against Manning or Assange as violating the Espionage Act (which is especially preposterous for Assange given that he’s not even a U.S. citizen) there is no way that WikiLeaks itself can be charged with anything more than publishing information.
As has been pointed out, if WikiLeaks is to be persecuted the New York Times and Washington Post must be persecuted along with them, undoing the landmark United States vs. NY Times Supreme Court decision that sided with the Times when it published The Pentagon Papers in the early ’70s. Indeed, this is exactly what some conservative politicians are advocating for.
The U.S. has been able to navigate this double standard with a subtle double-speak and the hypocrisy of its stance has largely flown under the radar in the absence of news that would highlight it. But if WikiLeaks ends up winning the Nobel Peace Prize, it’ll be too newsworthy an event to ignore.
If Medvedev’s Nobel Peace Prize suggestion proves portentious, the U.S. will have to choose sides in the free speech debate—and the world will be watching.