Dear Mr. Assange,
Normally, when I write a letter to a public official here, I am writing it to point out what I perceive to be an error in their thinking, as manifested by their public statements. This letter is not to point out an error in anything you have said or done. It’s to confess errors in my thinking toward you, and to apologize to you for it.
I realize, stuck as you are inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, you will likely never see my words. In a way, you are in jail, though admittedly a rather nice one, as thoroughly as if you left the Embassy, the police arrested you, and the British courts (or US ones) convicted you. Your cage is a gilded one, but a gilded cage is still a cage, nonetheless.
When the news of WikiLeaks broke, I joined the multitudes who were rushing to condemn you. I should have known better. But I had a knee-jerk reaction of anger against someone who potentially threatened my government, my country and what I perceived was supposed to be my way of life.
In my rush to judge you, I forgot some things. I forgot a few things Benjamin
Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
The second quote, a favorite of mine from Ben Franklin, should have stopped me in my tracks. As a Christian, Jesus’ words about judgement should have stopped me, too. But alas, they did not.
So, what changed my mind? It was a combination of events, as is usually the case in such things. It started with the NSA revelations of Edward Snowden. As officials in the US rushed to judge him, I wanted to thank him and shake his hand for his courage and convictions to expose the government spying on its own citizens so flagrantly. In my outrage against my government’s behavior in breaking its own Constitution, I neglected to apply it to what you did, too.
It continued with attending the TEAM LIFE Summer Leadership Convention last weekend in Columbus, OH. I heard Oliver De Mille speak there. He said if we wanted to change things in our world, among other things, we needed to read between the lines and discover not just what was being said, but what was meant by what was said. I failed to see between the lines with you and what you did.
Finally, I spoke with a friend there about that talk, about Mr. Snowden, and about you. It was this conversation that was the last piece in the change of my mind. It helped me to put the scattered pieces of judgmental thinking, the implications of freedom and looking between the lines together. Thinking about it was what caused me to write this public apology to you.
I am aware I am going out on a wire with my faithful readers. I feel it is something like a cross between Nick Wallenda’s Niagara Falls wire walk and his recent one over the Grand Canyon. Both times, he walked without a net, and I’m out here without one, too. But it is only out in front, on a high wire without a net, where you find leaders. So if this is to truly be a leadership blog, I must go out and lead, and take the consequences as they come. Even if it angers you, my much beloved loyal readers. I hope it doesn’t, but my conscience as a person, blogger and leader is more important to me than your opinion of me.
Because what I realized, Mr. Assange, is that you did what Mr. Snowden did. You saw something you thought wasn’t right, and you exposed it. Like Mr. Snowden, who now is a man without a country, you did it without thought to your personal comfort and safety. You lived out Benjamin Franklin’s quote on liberty and safety I so love.
So, all this is to say I’m sorry for judging you. I was wrong to do it. I realize this won’t mean a thing to you, and as I said, you’ll likely never see it. But now I know my conscience is clear about you.
I still believe your co-conspirator in the US military deserves whatever necessary discipline given to him. He broke the Uniform Code of Military Justice, his oath and his faith with his brothers in arms. These are things by which the military must stand, and must discipline the breaking of, if it is to survive. While I have sympathy for his reasons, as I do for Mr. Snowden, and I can feel compassion for the example the US government will make of him (in lieu of not having you), I cannot agree with his oath-breaking, however justifiable his reasons to himself or anyone else. He must take the punishments his misdeeds deserve.
Since I know from Mr. Snowden’s revelations the NSA monitors all blogs, including mine, I know they’re seeing this post. I want to take this time to say in my apology to you, I am in no way a co-conspirator in any plot to spy on or overthrow the government of the US or any of its officials.
I don’t like the way my country is now. But I don’t believe, “My country; right or wrong,” and I never have. I believe, “My country; if it’s not right, change it!” This post is a small part of my efforts to change my corner of it.