If further evidence was necessary to prove that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a man of limited and flexible ethics, well, the guy himself has provided it.
Free on bail in Britain, pending extradition to Sweden where he faces jail if convicted, Assange was required to stay every night at a specific address from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., else forfeit the equivalent of $380,000 bail to which supporters had contributed.
Under terms of his bail, this money may now go into state coffers. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden in connection with a couple of alleged sexual assaults of women, which he claims is politically motivated. He's more fearful of the U.S. extraditing and charging him with "aiding the enemy" by publishing leaked documents on WikiLeaks.
Already the army's Bradley Manning faces trial for leaking documents to WikiLeaks, even though most of those documents which have been seen relate to what previously has been speculated about in print and comment -- things like the Americans view Afghan President Hamid Karzai as an unreliable crook.
Instead of returning to his place of overnight confinement as decreed in his bail agreement, Assange sought refuge in London's Ecuadorian embassy and applied for political asylum. So Assange is safe unless he leaves the embassy, and then will be arrested. The Brits say even if Ecuadorian diplomats try to smuggle him to the airport for a flight to Quito (or wherever), he'll be fair game for arrest.
So, in a sense, Assange is already imprisoned in a small embassy room. His case revives memories of Hungarian Cardinal Josef Mindszenty, an heroic anti-communist symbol in 1956 who spent some 15 years in sanctuary inside the American embassy in Budapest. But Assange is no Mindszenty.
Ask some of those who put up Assange's bail money, subscribing to the idea that he was some sort of modern Don Quixote, tilting the U.S.'s bureaucratic windmill -- he's a principled martyr advocating freedom of information and openness. Well-known people like creepy filmmaker Michael Moore, the excellent journalist and espionage author Phillip Knightley, Nobel Prize winner John Sulston and magazine publisher Felix Dennis are among those who contributed the equivalent of $30,000 each to Assange's bail of about $380,000.
Because his supporters are mostly left of centre, there may be a feeling among non-lefties that they deserve what Assange did to them -- betray their trust. His bail supporters are the ones who acted on principle by trusting him, and whether or not he gets away with his ploy of seeking asylum in Ecuador, he's forever damaged as a person to trust or respect.
Ethical values have taken a beating in recent years. It used to be that a handshake was all that was needed to cement a deal. No longer. Even giving one's word is no longer sacrosanct if the courts rule against it. It strikes me that regardless of what a court may order, if a journalist gives his/her word not to reveal a source -- ball game over. Silence should prevail. Assange considered himself a journalist. Yet he seems shamefully eager to sabotage those who trusted him.
One wonders if his financial supporters will learn from this experience? Unlikely. They never do. The late Bill Buckley and Norman Mailer both went to bat and helped get murderers freed whom they thought were innocent or reformed. One was later charged with kidnapping an attempted murder, the other stabbed a 22-year-old to death.