The Australian founder of the whistleblower website Wikileaks had his passport confiscated by police when he arrived in Melbourne last week.
Julian Assange, who does not have an official home base and travels every six weeks, told the Australian current affairs program Dateline that immigration officials had said his passport was going to be cancelled because it was looking worn.
However he then received a letter from the Australian Communication Minister Steven Conroy’s office stating that the recent disclosure on Wikileaks of a blacklist of websites the Australian government is preparing to ban had been referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
Last year Wikileaks published a confidential list of websites that the Australian government is preparing to ban under a proposed internet filter -- which in turn caused the whistleblower site to be placed on that list.
The Australian document was so damaging because the Australian government claimed that the to-be-banned websites were all associated with child pornography, but the list of the targeted sites including many which had nothing to do with pornography. That WikiLeaks was then added to the list underscores the intended abuse.
Forcing Assange to remain in Australia would likely be crippling to WikiLeaks. One of the ways which WikiLeaks protects the confidentiality of its leakers and evades detection is by having Assange constantly move around, managing WikiLeaks from his laptop, backpack, and numerous countries around the world. Preventing him from leaving Australia would ensure that authorities around the world know where he is and would impede his ability to maintain the secrecy on which WikiLeaks relies.
Secrecy is the crux of institutional power -- the principal weapon for maintaining it -- and there are very few entities left which can truly threaten that secrecy. As the worldwide controversy over the Iraqi Apache helicopter attack compellingly demonstrated, WikiLeaks is one of the very few entitles capable of doing so and fearlessly devoted to that mission. It's hardly surprising that those responsible would be harassed and intimidated by governmental agencies -- it'd be far more surprising if they weren't -- but it's a testament to how truly threatening they perceive outlets like WikiLeaks to be. I hope to speak with Assange later today and will provide more details as I know them.