# 2020 대통령 선거가 6개월 남았고 한 기자에게 한 쪽 캠페인 내부로부터 비밀 이메일 뭉치가 전해졌다. 이 이메일 뭉치를 전해준 사람은 의심스런 동기를 가지고 있지만, 이메일들이 진짜라는 것은 의심의 여지가 없다. 이 기자가 뉴욕타임스, 워싱턴포스트, CNN, FT 같은 세계적인 언론사에 소속돼 있다고 가정하자. 이 기자와 언론사는 어떻게 할까?
대부분 언론사 기자들과 편집자들에게 답은 명백하다. 그들은 이메일을 모두 읽어보고 뉴스가 될만한 것들을 가려낼 것이고 보도할 것이다. 최종적인 판단은 독자들이 내리게 된다.
미국의 수정헌법 1조가 언론의 자유를 보장하고 있음에도 불구하고, 정부 당국, 검사, 판사는 추후 이 기사가 어떤 법에 저촉이 되는지, 그리고 중요하게는 법위반이 정당화 되는지를 판단하게 될지도 모른다.
지난 10여년간 줄리안 어산지가 폭로했던 내용들은 전세계 수백개의 언론이 대서특필했다. 전세계 거의 모든 주요 언론사의 심층보도로 이어졌던 그러한 누출로 인해 그가 미국으로의 인도를 앞두게 되면서 우리는 무엇이 위험에 처해있는지를 확실히 해야할 필요가 있다.
미국 법무부가 발표한 혐의들은 오싹한 메시지를 언론인들과 내부고발자들에게 경고하고 있다.
어산지가 비밀 군사 및 외교 문서를 받기위해 했던 일들-그가 지금 혐의를 받고 있는 것-은 수천명의 언론일들이 매일매일 하고 있는 일이기 때문이다.
'한 정보원이 잠재적으로 유용한 정보를 가지고 그를 접촉했다. 그는 그 정보원을 설득해 가능한 한 많은 가공되지 않은 세부 정보를 주도록 했다. 그리고 나서, 전세계에 걸친 이 글들의 출판 관련 파트너십 하에, 가장 좋은 뉴스 거리들을 공개했다. '
다른 어떤 것도 아닌 바로 이 행위가 어산지가 기소될지도 모르는 죄목이다. 어떠한 언론인 또는 언론 소비자가 이와 관련돼 무엇이 문제인지를 깨닫지 못한다면 언론은 우리가 두려워하는 것보다 훨씬 더 나쁜 상태에 놓이게 될 수 있다.
정보 누출은 저널리즘의 절대적인 생명줄이다. 호주의 언론인 머리 세일은 '실제로 저널리즘에는 오로지 두 가지 이야기만이 있다'는 공식을 만든 사람으로 일컬어 진다.
“우리가 죄인이 누군인지 말한다. 화살로 결함이 있는 곳을 가리킨다.”
줄리안 어산지와 위키리크스는 저널리즘과 전체 사회가 여전히 인터넷에 대해서 낙관적일 때 등장했다.
‘투명성이 우리를 자유롭게 해줄 것이다.’
그 때는 이렇게 이야기하곤 했다.
위키리크스는 스위스 은행 줄리어스 배어의 내부 문서들을 공개했는데, 이 문서들이 자금세탁을 강력히 시사했다. 이것은 지난 10년 동안 탐사 저널리즘의 특징이라할 수 있는 한 대량 데이터 폭로중 가장 초기 사례에 해당했고, 흥미진진했다.
위키리크스가 2008년과 2009년에 아이슬란드의 금융붕괴의 원인으로 비난받은 카우프팅 뱅크(Kaupthing Bank)의 업무를 폭로한 후 아이슬란드 정치인들은 어산지의 급진적인 비전을 수용해 아이슬란드 현대 미디어 발의안을 만들었다.
아이슬란드는 내부고발자, 해커, 인터넷 자유 활동가들에게 안전한 피난처가 되고 있다.
위키리크스는 금융위기의 핵심 실패원인 및 이라크와 아프가니스탄 전쟁에 대한 중요한 통찰을 제공해주었고, 내부고발을 중심부로 이끌어냈다.
미국이 그에게 씌운 혐의는 저널리즘 행위에 관한 것이다. 사람들이 동의할 수도 하지 않을 수도 있지만 연방 배심원에게 까지 올라가야할 그런 행위는 아닌 것이다.
영국에서는 지금도 경찰이 두 명의 언론인을 추정상 경찰로부터 훔친 문서를 사용한 혐의로 기소하려고 시도하고 있는데, 이 문서는 1994년 월드컵의 한 경기를 보던 천주교도 축구 팬들을 학살했던 사건 조사와 관련된 것이다.
그들은 발표할 중요한 이야기를 갖고 있고, 영국 경찰은 사력을 다해 이 이야기가 세상에 알려지는 것을 막으려 하고 있다.
미국이 ‘권력을 비밀을 누설한 사람을 쏴도 괜찮다’는 전례를 남긴다면 이러한 버릇은 도미노식으로 각국에 퍼져나갈 가능성이 높다.
현재 그에게 씌여진 혐의대로 미국이 위키리크스 설립자를 재판정에 세우고 투옥으로 이어진다면, 권력을 감시하는 의무를 지고 잇는 전 세계 언론은 새로운 공포시대에 접어들게 될 것이다.
Julian Assange Did A Lot Of Bad Things. Publishing Leaks Isn't One Of Them
What the WikiLeaks founder did to receive secret military and diplomatic documents — the crime of which he is now accused — is what a free press does every day.
Picture the scene: The 2020 presidential election is six months away, and a reporter is sent a cache of emails from inside one of the campaigns. The source of the cache has dubious motivations, but there's no doubt the emails are genuine. What should the reporter do?
The answer, for reporters and editors at least, is obvious. You comb through the emails for the newsworthy stuff, then you publish. The decision about what is in the public interest is, ultimately, up to the reporter and their editors. Officials, prosecutors, and judges may later decide whether laws were broken, and, importantly, whether that breach was justified. But these are all ultimately subjective decisions. Much like obscenity, what's in the public interest is never quite defined — but we know it when we see it.
These are the kind of decisions that Julian Assange, and the hundreds of media organizations across the world that have published his leaks, made dozens of times over the last decade. As he faces extradition to the United States over one of those leaks — one that resulted in extensive coverage from almost every major newspaper in the world — we need to be very clear about what’s at stake.
The charges announced by the Department of Justice yesterday send a chilling message to journalists and whistleblowers, because what Assange did to receive secret military and diplomatic documents — the crime of which he is now accused — was what thousands of journalists do every day. He was contacted by a source with potentially useful information; he cultivated and encouraged that source to give him as much raw detail as possible; and then, in partnership with publications of note from across the globe, he published the best bits.
This, and nothing else, is what Assange could face prosecution for. If any journalist, or any consumer of journalism, cannot see a problem with that, then the media may be in an even worse state then we fear.
Leaks are the absolute lifeblood of journalism. Australian journalist Murray Sayle is credited with the formulation that there are really only two stories in journalism: "We name the guilty man" and "Arrow points to defective part."
In recent years, I have established a formulation of my own: The three greatest words in journalism are "disgruntled former employee." I have had the privilege of judging investigative magazine Private Eye’s annual investigative journalism award, and from that I have seen time and again how leakers may be self-sacrificing, public-spirited, and essentially decent people. They may also just be people who bear grudges, or people trying to undermine a politician. Journalists shouldn’t be in the business of distinguishing between these motivations, if the news is good enough to print.
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks emerged at a point when journalism, and society as a whole, was still optimistic about the internet. Transparency will set us free, we used to say back then.
In 2008 I was working for Index on Censorship, and we awarded WikiLeaks a New Media Award, sponsored by the Economist. WikiLeaks had published papers belonging to a Swiss bank, Julius Baer, which it said strongly suggested a money laundering operation. This was one of the earliest of the mass data exposés that have characterized investigative journalism in the past decade, and it was exciting.
Even then, working with WikiLeaks was enormously frustrating. In the weeks leading up to the award ceremony, Assange went silent on us. We had arranged for the journalist Martin Bright, who recently had his own travails with the state and whistleblowers over Iraq war intelligence, to pick up the award on Assange’s behalf. About 15 minutes before the ceremony was due to start, a member of the venue staff told me there was a man asking for me at the caterers’ entrance. It was Julian Assange — then, as now, addicted to drama. He was apparently paranoid enough to avoid the main entrance, but not quite paranoid enough to avoid accepting an award in front of most of the British media and legal elite, who had paid good money to bask in the presence of worthy dissidents.
The pattern would repeat: While WikiLeaks would occasionally do stupid things, such as publishing Sarah Palin’s private family photos — what newspaper has not made a similar mistake? — the good appeared to outweigh the bad. After WikiLeaks exposed the workings of Kaupthing Bank — the institution widely blamed for Iceland’s financial collapse in 2008 and ’09 — Icelandic politicians embraced Assange’s radical vision and created the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Iceland would become a safe haven for whistleblowers, hackers, and internet freedom activists.
The Iraq War Logs and US diplomatic cables leak probably represented WikiLeaks’ zenith, but also the point where people began to question Assange’s judgment. His enthusiasm for full transparency for those he perceived as powerful elites was only matched by his own demand for full secrecy from those around him. And a hypocrisy was becoming clear: Assange’s definition of "power" and "elite" often stretched only as far as Western governments and their allies. Tyrants such as Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko (and later, Vladimir Putin) did not figure. At an Index on Censorship event in late 2010, Assange embarrassed the free speech–focused organizers by demanding no press photographers be allowed in the room.
We broke with Assange shortly afterward, when WikiLeaks refused to answer questions about unusual dealings in Belarus. Since then, Assange’s political leanings have steadily veered towards terrible, from Putin to Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.
All this is history, but it’s a history worth telling, because it’s important to remember that WikiLeaks and Assange were embraced by progressives and the media not just for the "wrong" reasons (reflexive anti-Westernism) but for the "right" reasons too. WikiLeaks provided crucial insights into the key failures of the financial crisis and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and put whistleblowing center stage. Assange, in a curious way, actually tamed the fundamentalist hack-for-the-sake-of-it tendencies of his internet peers, though he never quite shook the idea that there could not be such thing as a good secret (except when it came to himself).
Julian Assange went on the run in Britain, betraying people from John Pilger to Jemima Khan who had posted bail for him as a matter of trust: For that alone he is a traitor to his friends, and a criminal who has been found guilty. He has gone to extreme lengths to avoid facing sexual assault accusations in Sweden: For that, he is a coward and a misogynist who should face up to the consequences of his actions and attitudes toward women.
Some say he had been working with Putin’s Russia, in which case evidence should be brought.
But the charge brought against him by the US is about an act of journalism — an act people may agree or disagree with, but which should not take up the time of a federal jury.
In Britain, as I type this, police are attempting to prosecute a pair of journalists for using material supposedly "stolen" from police in their investigation of a massacre of Catholic football fans watching a game during the 1994 World Cup. They have an important story to tell, and that is likely why the police want to stop them telling it. This habit will be replicated across the world if the US sets the example that it’s OK to shoot the messenger.
If the US prosecutes the WikiLeaks founder on the charge currently laid before him, it’s not just Julian Assange who's in trouble.