Terrorists Defined as 'All Who Oppose Us'

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Steve Peter King (we'll get to Steve in a bit) wants Wikileaks designated as a terrorist organization. Dave Wiegel dissects:


King was specific: He wants WikiLeaks classified as a terrorist organization. As Republicans come into power, they're going to explore what can be done. They can't do much. But let's be honest. The quest to find some way to define Assange's group as terrorists is not about fighting terrorism. It's about indulging the fantasy, well put by Cornell law professor William Jacobson, of Assange being hunted down like a Robert Ludlum villain and possibly "killed while resisting arrest." 

And all of this assumes there's something talismanic about declaring someone a "terrorist." In reality, American agents could capture any boogeyman they wanted and prosecute him in the United States. The 1992 decision in U.S. v. Alvarez-Machain affirmed that the government was within its rights when a Mexican citizen was abducted and brought to the U.S. to be tried for the murder of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. "We have kidnapped people to bring them to justice," explains David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown. "Whether it applies in this case, I don't know."

I think there actually is something talismanic about designating Assange a terrorist--politically talismanic. I think we're getting close to a point where "terrorist" indicates a certain view of your enemies, as opposed to a statement of tactics. I have mixed feelings about the Wikileaks dump, mostly because I don't really see any great scandals, atrocities, or cover-ups being exposed. Assange oeuvre is mostly hacker, and occasionally, accidentally humanitarian. 

But in no real sense of the word is Assange a terrorist, except in the sense that "terrorists" are people who we have come to see as belonging outside of our justice system, miscreants somewhere in the range of child molesters. Dubbing Assange a terrorist is, as Dave indicates, mostly about saying to your base, "I am willing to have those who oppose us hunted down and killed on the spot." It's not about actual governing. It's about rallying cries for the GOP's white populist base.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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