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A Swedish prosecutor's decision reopen the rape case against Julian Assange gives new life to the ongoing debates about WikiLeaks. Assange, the site's founder, has not only denied ever having had "nonconsensual sex" with the two women who have accused him, but has also insinuated that the American government could be behind the accusations, driving a Pentagon smear campaign designed to neutralize Assange and his troublesome organization.

Is this likely? And what, if anything, does this bizarre chapter in the WikiLeaks story say about its founder--or the Swedish legal system, for that matter?

  • What This Says About Assange He is a "megalomaniacal prick," declares Gawker's Adrian Chen. "His Twitter-based conspiracy theories were--and always have been--a disingenuous ploy to drum up sympathy and dollars for Wikileaks." Furthermore, says Chen, his "whining about the Swedish prosecutor making public his name" is hypocritical, and hardly fits the Wikileaks "ethos of radical transparency." He notes, as another indicator of Assange's character, that "when Amnesty International sent Wikileaks a letter asking them to take more care in future leaks to protect Afghan informants, Assange reportedly responded: 'I'm very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses.'"
  • And How It Is Raising Questions Within WikiLeaks  Newsweek's Mark Hosenball also asks whether "WikiLeaks [is] too full of itself," but winds up suggesting that the organization itself might be less arrogant than its founder. That's why insiders are having doubts about Assange:
A person in close contact with other WikiLeaks activists around Europe, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive topic, says that many of them were privately concerned that Assange has continued to spread allegations of dirty tricks and hint at conspiracies against him without justification. Insiders say that some people affiliated with the website are already brainstorming whether there might be some way to persuade their front man to step aside, or failing that, even to oust him.
  • The Person Really Behind the 'Smear Campaign' Says Michael Moynihan, something of a specialist when it comes to Swedish policy and media: "even a cursory look at the case would suggest that while it appears that Assange's name is being dragged through the mud, it isn't by the CIA" Writing at Reason, he has a few harsh words for conspiracy-theorist bloggers relying on Google Translate. For starters, he says, "if any of these subliterate bloggers knew anything about the kristen vänster ... they would probably have guessed that Assange's accuser was, as is common in Sweden, operating off of a very broad definition of rape and 'sexual molestation.'" Furthermore, "if any of these bozos did twenty minutes of research, they might," he continues, have found the blog of one of the alleged victims, Anna Ardin, whose radical feminism includes a post on "how one can exact 'legal revenge' on men who have been 'unfaithful.'" Given reports that Ardin "filed a complaint because Assange didn't wear a condom during sex," Moynihan thinks "the boring truth" likely is that "Assange didn't come up against a CIA conspiracy, but the rather broad Swedish conception of what constitutes a sexual crime."
  • Swedish Justice System Is Not Handling This Well, comments Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal, struck by an official's pronouncement that there is "reason to believe that a crime has been committed." Responds Weisenthal to the series of quotes: "So apparently in Sweden you announce that there's 'reason to believe that a crime has been committed' before you make a 'final decision.'"
  • If the CIA Were up to Anything at All, Assange Would Already Be Dead That's Jonah Goldberg's provocative take in a National Review newsletter:

I'm not necessarily advocating that we take him out. First of all, even if it were a good idea, it's too late now. But think about it. If you go by nearly every Hollywood treatment of the CIA or the NSA, Assange is precisely the sort of guy who should have been garroted in his French hotel room years ago. ... Some of these disclosures are guaranteed to damage American national security and put U.S. interests and lives at risk. What are super-cool CIA assassins for if not stopping this sort of thing in its tracks? Whether you think the CIA is an honorable and unfairly maligned outfit that does democracy's dirty work, or if you think it's a hotbed of lawless evil setting back human progress at every turn, you would still expect the spooks to off this guy quietly before anyone had heard his name.

What I think is interesting about this is that the Wikileaks case is a perfect illustration of how not just outfits like the CIA and NSA but also the far more powerful entity most commonly known as "The Man" aren't nearly as powerful as many think they are.

UPDATE: Blogger Fabius Maximus, on the other hand, thinks there's something suspicious about the way the rape accusations cropped up both in the same week. Moreover, he thinks the mainstream media have been negligent in not looking into this further (and, accordingly, offers words slightly less than complimentary regarding this aggregation post). The Atlantic's James Fallows, reviewing Fabius Max's argument, is intrigued: "It comes from a source whose judgment I've learned to respect over time." On the other hand, continues Fallows, "the conspiratorial interpretation he suggests is one I usually resist, and I don't have the resources or time to go independently into the questions he has raised." He thinks it's worth noting, though, that Fabius Maximus actually looks at the whole narrative, and thus is able to point out where the sections don't match up. Or, as he summarizes: "this part doesn't match that part, and this other part is extremely improbable, and if we're to believe the official version, then the following ten coincidences must all have gone the same way."

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