Ex-backer denounces "cultish devotion" to WikiLeaks founder

LONDON Wed Feb 6, 2013 12:53pm EST

Britain's Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistani politician Imran Khan, leaves City of Westminster Magistrates Court in central London December 14, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

Britain's Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistani politician Imran Khan, leaves City of Westminster Magistrates Court in central London December 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hackett

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LONDON (Reuters) - Jemima Khan, a celebrity backer of Julian Assange who put up bail money for him, has gone public with her frustrations about the WikiLeaks founder, saying he demands "blinkered, cultish devotion" and should face justice in Sweden.

An article by Khan published on Wednesday on the website of British magazine The New Statesman gives an insight into how Assange, whose whistleblowing website angered Washington by releasing thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, has alienated some of his staunchest allies.

Assange was arrested in Britain in December 2010 on an extradition warrant from Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual abuse made by two women.

After losing a protracted legal battle to avoid extradition, which went all the way to Britain's Supreme Court, Assange jumped bail and sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London last June. He has been inside the building ever since.

Khan, who first rose to prominence as an heiress but is now a campaigner and an associate editor of The New Statesman, described in her article how she had gone from "admiration to demoralization" on the subject of WikiLeaks.

"The problem is that WikiLeaks - whose mission statement was 'to produce ... a more just society ... based upon truth' - has been guilty of the same obfuscation and misinformation as those it sought to expose, while its supporters are expected to follow, unquestioningly, in blinkered, cultish devotion," she wrote.

Khan was executive producer of a documentary film about WikiLeaks entitled "We Steal Secrets" which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the United States.

Khan said the film, directed by Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney, sought to present a balanced view of the WikiLeaks story but Assange had denounced it before seeing it.

"When I told Assange I was part of the We Steal Secrets team, I suggested that he view it not in terms of being pro- or anti-him, but rather as a film that would be fair and would represent the truth," she wrote.

"He replied: 'If it's a fair film, it will be pro-Julian Assange.'"

Khan's article praised WikiLeaks for exposing corruption, torture, war crimes and cover-ups but criticized it for a "with us or against us" mentality that was detrimental to its cause.


She wrote that she was among those who had found the timing of the sexual abuse allegations against Assange suspicious, as they came at the height of the furor over the revelations on WikiLeaks, but had come to the conclusion that the allegations had to be dealt with through Swedish due process.

"The women in question have human rights, too, and need resolution. Assange's noble cause and his wish to avoid a U.S. court does not trump their right to be heard in a Swedish court," she wrote, referring to Assange's fears that Sweden could be a first stop on the way to an espionage trial in the United States.

"I don't regret putting up bail money for Assange but I did it so that he would be released while awaiting trial, not so that he could avoid answering to the allegations," Khan wrote.

Khan has not disclosed how much money she put up and whether she has had to surrender it since Assange skipped bail.

Khan wrote that it was hardly surprising that a man who had spent his life "committed to this type of work, wedded to a laptop, undercover, always on the move", would have an unusual personality.

"I have seen flashes of Assange's charm, brilliance and insightfulness - but I have also seen how instantaneous rock-star status has the power to make even the most clear-headed idealist feel that they are above the law and exempt from criticism."

(Reporting By Estelle Shirbon; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Comments (2)
AustinHook wrote:
Jemima Khan’s observations about Assange’s character and “cult following” may be accurate or overblown or somewhere in between, and the desire for him to face justice in Sweden is understandable, despite what seems to be a somewhat arcane system there. However, she does not persuade us that his future after that problem is dealt with, penalty or not, would be a trip to Ecuador.

It does seem that a switch to a jurisdiction where extradition can be implemented with just the political decisions of two parties, is better than being in in one where the jurisdiction (the UK) is still regulated by some non-political decisions. The point some make is that if Assange consents to going to Sweden he will still have two levels of protection from arbitrary extradition to the USA, in the form of the judgements of ministers of both the governments of the UK and Sweden. Yet in such a case the two remaining levels are both in the hands of ministers, who are politicians and who are easily influenced by a powerful ally. They would not, in this context, be answerable to a court of law. This makes all the difference. Assange is not stupid enough to ignore that difference, and he has had plenty of time to consider it. Some other of his decisions might have been rash or wrong, but I am sure no one of them had time for such consideration as he has given to this one. I am sorry, Jemima, but for all his alleged faults, and all the other technical details of law that are discussed endlessly in careful blog comments concerning his situation, this is the operative fact.

I sometimes wonder if all the idealists whose desire for perfect purity, will ever know how to get to grips with the real world and the
messy problems therein. Best we all protect Assange as well as we can, even if there remains some injustice, which, sad as it may be, is less important than the injustices served up to us every day in the name of state secrecy — which is our common enemy.

Of course Jemima has a publication to promote. It’s a tough call.

Feb 07, 2013 3:07am EST  --  Report as abuse
ICthruU wrote:
There will always be persuasive and charasmatic individuals as well as coordinated like-minded groups who engage in actions which are presented in a package of a noble cause or a great hope. So often, beneath the
external, there is darkness and contradiction.

The people who are enmeshed into this particular issue do fulfill the criteria of a cult.

For example, when Reuters published this story, one comment,above, was posted. You can see that it is a lengthy pseudo-intellectual and digressing presentation.

Next, the new CyberTyrants,who closely associate with the primary mission of unauthorized access and removal of private/corporate/government documents, disrupted the ability of anyone else to post.
This left only the one rebuttal. At the height of interest and public
response, Reuters site was blocked from receiving public opinion.
This is the classic behavior of “causes” which espouse “freedom” and
“rights” yet are the very worst offenders of this – for everyone else
but them.

Only after the day concluded and several complaints were disseminated to Reuters and others, was the site released for additional opinion.

These CyberTyrants are the front line promoters of the cause discussed in this article. They function in tandem with them.

It is a bold and healthy action to exercise your freedom of speech in
areas where it is incumbent upon you to share a revelation you believe should be shared for the public good. Yet, sadly, this woman, and perhaps the news publisher,will likely be subjected to cyber retaliation because of the mere exercising of free speech reflecting one’s experience and views.

The internet antics associated with the release of this article is a perfect example of a cult. It demonstrates the tyrannical behavior, the narcissism, and the deception that those of a cult mentality are about.

This article was a small light of discovery held up for those to find their way out of the propaganda by. The event of obtaining the referenced documents is a separate and distinct issue from the individuals and group who rushed to associate themselves with it and
control it for ulterior motives with any and all means, regardless of how unethical or undemocratic.

It is my observation that when people engage in highly violating and unlawful actions, there will always be those who champion it not for the core reasons but purely because of the violating and unlawfulness of it. I believe this has been a large part of what formed a cult-like
abusive outer core of people who now comprise the informal
membership of this “movement.”

America beware. What is masquerading as your savior may be worse than what self-appointed vigilantes tell you that you are being saved from.
When you validate and cheer some of the spoils gained by disreputable tactics, you will receive the entire ball of wax, COD,like it or not.
The only other option is to maintain principles despite difficulties in
reaching your goals.

Reuters, thank you for demonstrating that you will not be bullied into
censorship of a valid story. Those who love and respect freedom- for all- not just for some, encourage you.

Feb 08, 2013 1:30am EST  --  Report as abuse
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