If the United States is so upset with Julian Assange and Wikileaks for continuing to expose its stash of 200,000+ purloined U. S. diplomatic cables, why aren’t they trying to extradite the guy to face trial in the U. S.? I can think of at least four reasons.

First there’s the problem of actually convicting the guy, which is doubtful. While the Department of State might well be able to extradite Assange, either before or after his date-rape trial in Sweden, they are unlikely to gain a conviction in most U. S. courts. What’s the charge? Violating the Espionage Act outside the United States as an Australian citizen who isn’t accused of having stolen anything? That won’t stick. If it sticks for awhile it won’t continue to stick on appeal. If you charge Assange, how do you not also charge the New York Times?

The second reason is that even if the charge could be made to stick, such a trial would provide Assange for several weeks with a global pulpit. There could be no better venue to air his views about U. S. government secrecy. Of course the government might try to conduct the trial, itself, in secret, but that, too, is doubtful. I think this is the major reason why no extradition attempt has yet been made, since a public trial could be very embarrassing for the U. S. If a trial compromises U. S, national security, as I’m sure they’d claim, the stronger legal precedent is actually in favor of not pressing the Assange case whether he’s guilty or not.

The third reason why Julian Assange isn’t being brought to trial is because the whole episode hasn’t been all bad for the U. S., at least as far as it has gone so far. The cables released have been of modest import and, while embarrassing, have also shown a generally responsible and active U. S. diplomatic corps that’s more-or-less on the job.

No diplomatic sexting so far.

It’s not bad enough to get any diplomats sent home but it is enough to get America’s opponents to sit up in their chairs, which is actually good.

Finally there is Assange’s threat of dumping his entire 1.3-gig document stash on the Net from a dozen or more locations simultaneously, which the U. S. does not want, nor can it technically defend against. You can bet that bac- channel negotiations are ongoing concerning that stash, possibly through the news agencies that are involved. Assange is plenty powerful in this, going toe-to-toe with governments — heady stuff for a geek.

Many people think that security breaches of this sort will lead to a crackdown on free speech over the Internet. Certainly there will be bluster about that, but look at the U. S. government’s initial administrative response — telling the military and government employees they can no longer carry USB flash drives. How hopeless is that? Very. It’s a ban that is almost impossible to enforce. First there is the broad issue of what even constitutes a flash drive. Most smartphones certainly qualify, yet the new regs reportedly make no mention of them.

Bluetooth devices don’t even need to be attached. Nor does the Sheevaplug media server in our minivan, which synchronizes automatically with our home network over WiFI from the driveway. While Shrek is what’s being transferred to our parking lot, who is to say it couldn’t be sensitive e-mails or documents?

This is a problem that is difficult to defend, especially retroactively. We’ll see more documents that shouldn’t be secret made secret even if the excuse is to hide the real stuff in a haystack, which isn’t good policy. We’ll see stricter penalties and maybe even attempts to make data self-destructing, which is a clever idea unless, of course, it backfires.

The fact is that times have changed and we as a nation can probably take one of two practical positions. Like my Mom recommends, if we can’t find anything nice to say we shouldn’t say (or record) anything at all. Or (this is my personal preference) we as a nation can say, “Screw it. We’re the super-power, remember? ”