Quantum leak

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It's all beginning to feel as if it were a Stieg Larsson novel. You have computer hacking, a journalist exposing the dirty doings of the rich and powerful, outcry and outrage from the said rich and powerful, and before you know it there are attempts to discredit the journalist, legal proceedings and it all ends up in the Swedish courts. All that's missing is a girl with a dragon tattoo.

I have watched the Wikileaks affair with a mixture of astonishment and amusement, and with a deep-seated appreciation of just how nasty and downright corrupt all those people who I'd always assumed were downright nasty and corrupt truly are.

Was I shocked that the lickspittle but bestial Saudi regime wanted the US to bomb Iran? Not for a minute, but to have it in black and white and in their own words was not anything I'd ever expected to see.

Nor have I ever believed the "special relationship" between the US and Britain was any more special than my teenage relationship with Valerie Higgins, for whom I pined and ogled and convinced myself she cared for me like no other. She flirted a little, as she did with most of my friends, but frankly her relationship with her cat Grainne was considerably more special than the one with me, or any of my fellow deluded friends.

I was, however, spared the cringing embarrassment of having her amused disdain exposed to all my classmates on the blackboard. Britain has not been so lucky. Successive US ambassadors and diplomats have amused themselves by poking fun at fawning British politicians, and their pathetic diplomatic eye-making, while carving up British companies to make sure US companies get big government contracts in places like Spain.

Even worse, it appears the US Army has little time for its British counterpart. It seems a long time ago now that the British press and politicians were explaining that "our boys" were doing a much better job in Basra then the Yanks were doing in Baghdad. Apparently years of "peacekeeping" in Northern Ireland had made the British Army much better at this sort of stuff than its US equivalent.

Except, of course, the US took over in Basra, and both they and the Afghan government have little good to say about the British. With special friends like these...

What is extraordinary about all the stuff being leaked is that it covers just about every aspect of the way our rulers behave, from the darkest and most sinister reports of spook behaviour through to downright titillation.

At the dark end we have the apologists for torture, the belligerent warmongers and the bitter animosities between supposed allies.

Meanwhile we can be titillated by talk of a Mafiosi Russian state, a huffy French president, a philandering Italian premier, a lightweight British prime minister and a loathsome British prince.

A few serious journalists have pooh-poohed Wikileaks, saying, "Oh, we all knew all this," to which the obvious reply is, "Well why didn't you share it with the rest of us?"

In truth, the standard of investigative journalism has been very low of late. With the exception of the Telegraph's exposé of MPs' expenses there has been little to compare with Woodward and Bernstein, John Pilger or the unsurpassable Paul Foot.

However, if newspapers have often seemed timid, the internet has become a force to be reckoned with and Julian Assange has become the man who most breathtakingly has used it to further the cause of investigative journalism and freedom of both press and information. Since he founded Wikileaks he has dedicated his operation to exposing wrongdoing and injustice.

Even before the latest furore, Wikileaks had dealt with such issues as extrajudicial killings in Kenya, for which Assange won the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award, and had published material about toxic waste dumping in Africa, Church of Scientology manuals, and documents detailing torture at Guantanamo Bay. Now the authorities are after him in sinister and nasty ways.

How our rulers must envy those of China, who can merely shut down the information highway. And how they must regret letting the internet creep up on them and pass them by before they even knew it was out there.

In their desperation, demented US politicians call for death sentences, Hillary Clinton, William Hague and their equivalents call for prosecutions, and somewhere murky and grimy a Swedish prosecutor brings a case. Hang on, did I just see a girl with a dragon tattoo walk by?