Why the kid gloves for Wik­iLeaks’ As­sange?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Ju­lian As­sange poses a clear and present dan­ger to Amer­i­can na­tional se­cu­rity. The Wik­iLeaks founder is more than a reck­less provo­ca­teur. He is aid­ing and abet­ting ter­ror­ists in their war against Amer­ica. The ad­min­is­tra­tion must take care of the prob­lem, ef­fec­tively and per­ma­nently.

The re­cent Wik­iLeaks doc­u­ment dump is the lat­est ex­am­ple of Mr. As­sange’s dan­ger­ous be­hav­ior. His re­lease of more than 250,000 U.S. diplo­matic ca­bles, many of them con­tain­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, is a ma­jor blow to our for­eign pol­icy. The essence of diplo­macy, es­pe­cially that of a great power, is the abil­ity to con­duct ne­go­ti­a­tions and hold talks in se­cret. For­eign lead­ers will not be will­ing to en­gage in sen­si­tive dis­cus­sions with Amer­i­can emis­saries if their words are go­ing to be splashed across the front pages of the world’s news­pa­pers. Of­fi­cials in au­to­cratic and Is­lamist states of­ten risk their lives to co­op­er­ate with Washington, usu­ally by pro­vid­ing vi­tal in­for­ma­tion or ad­vice. They now face a fur­ther dis­in­cen­tive to help us: The U.S. govern­ment can no longer guar­an­tee the pri­vacy and se­crecy of their dis­cus­sions.

Amer­i­can diplo­macy has been crip­pled. So has our abil­ity to con­duct the war on ter­ror­ism. For ex­am­ple, the ca­bles cache re­veals that the United States is work­ing closely with Ye­men’s dic­ta­tor, Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh, in launch­ing drone strikes against lo­cal al Qaeda bases. Al Qaeda has spread to Ye­men. Its in­sur­gency is grow­ing. Ye­men risks be­com­ing what Afghanista­n was be­fore Sept. 11, 2001: a vast sanc­tu­ary for ji­hadists. Mr. Saleh in­sists that Ye­meni pub­lic opin­ion, in­su­lar, xeno­pho­bic and in­creas­ingly Is­lamic, will not sup­port the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence on do­mes­tic soil. Hence, he says the pre­tense must be main­tained that Ye­men is fir­ing the mis­siles, not Amer­ica. This pre­tense has been shat­tered, and with it, per­haps, a key ally in the strug­gle against al Qaeda. Mr. As­sange is help­ing chase the Amer­i­can in­fi­del out of Ye­men’s des­o­late deserts.

This is what he wanted all along. The 39-year-old Aus­tralian poses as a cham­pion of govern­ment “trans­parency.” He likes to grand­stand for the me­dia as an ide­al­ist, a brave whistle­blower who only wants the truth to come out against U.S. “im­pe­ri­al­ism.” The Swedish govern­ment has ac- cused him of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing two women. Mr. As­sange is an anti-Amer­i­can rad­i­cal who wants to see the United States de­feated by its Is­lamic fas­cist en­e­mies. His goal is to hu­mil­i­ate Amer­ica on the world stage, to drain it of all moral and le­gal le­git­i­macy, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing the wars in Iraq and Afghanista­n.

Yet the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fuses to stop Mr. As­sange.

His pre­vi­ous doc­u­ment dumps dis­closed the names and iden­ti­ties of for­eign­ers work­ing with the United States in Afghanista­n and Iraq, in­di­vid­u­als ac­tively in­volved in de­feat­ing al Qaeda and the Tal­iban. Their ex­po­sure could lead to many of them be­ing killed, tor­tured or tar­geted by in­sur­gents. Mr. As­sange is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for en­dan­ger­ing their lives. He is an ac­tive, will­ful en­abler of Is­lamic ter­ror­ism. He is as much a threat as Osama bin Laden or Ay­man al-Zawahri. In short, Mr. As­sange is not a jour­nal­ist or pub­lisher; rather, he is an en­emy com­bat­ant, and should be treated as such.

As Mr. As­sange has con­ducted cy­ber­war­fare against Amer­ica, Pres­i­dent Obama has dithered. For months, he has in- sisted on view­ing Mr. As­sange as a pub­lic nui­sance, noth­ing more, noth­ing less.

In­stead, the ad­min­is­tra­tion should have pres­sured Aus­tralia to take de­ci­sive ac­tion against the leaker. It also should have is­sued an in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rant and de­manded that he be ex­tra­dited to the United States to face charges of aid­ing ter­ror­ists. At a min­i­mum, back in the sum­mer, the ad­min­is­tra­tion could have launched a dev­as­tat­ing cy­ber­at­tack against the Wik­iLeaks web­site, shut­ting it down.

Also, Pfc. Bradley Man­ning, who is sus­pected of be­ing the main source for ac­cess­ing the State Depart­ment’s trea­sure trove of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, was not in­ter­ro­gated ag­gres­sively. He should have been court-mar­tialed im­me­di­ately. The ques­tion that re­mains to be an­swered is: How did a lowlevel Army in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst get ac­cess to such de­tailed, priv­i­leged con­ver­sa­tions? Who else helped him and why?

Mr. Obama, how­ever, could not be both­ered with any of this. For him, for­eign pol­icy is a dis­trac­tion, some­thing to be crammed into his sched­ule as he seeks to trans­form Amer­ica into a mul­ti­cul­tural so­cial democ­racy.

The United States is pay­ing a se­vere price for Mr. Obama’s neg­li­gence. This is the great­est diplo­matic cri­sis since the late 1940s, when com­mu­nist agents in the U.S. govern­ment pro­vided atomic se­crets to the Soviet Union.

The world is wit­ness­ing the ab­surd, al­most sur­real spec­ta­cle of the Amer­i­can su­per­power stand­ing help­less in the face of a lone hacker. Her diplo­matic se­crets are no longer safe; her al­lies and friends are be­ing be­trayed; and her cy­ber-en­e­mies are free to roam with im­punity. Amer­ica is no longer feared or re­spected.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. vows that he is look­ing into pos­si­ble crim­i­nal charges against Mr. As­sange. It is too late for tough talk. At this point, we are be­yond in­dict­ments and courts. The dam­age has been done; peo­ple have died, and will die be­cause of the ac­tions of this puerile, self-ab­sorbed nar­cis­sist. News re­ports say the Wik­iLeaks founder is hid­ing out in Eng­land. If that’s true, we should treat Mr. As­sange the same way as other high­value ter­ror­ist tar­gets.

Jef­frey T. Kuhner is a colum­nist at The Washington Times.

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