WikiLeaks as Terrorists?

It was only a matter of time before someone pressed the State Department to make this classification: New York Congressman Peter King, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for WikiLeaks to be classified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

King made the call in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNET reports:

"WikiLeaks appears to meet the legal criteria" of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, King wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reviewed by CNET. He added: "WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States."

The idea of WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization seems to follow logically from statements made by the State Dept. itself, as WikiLeaks planned to dump its 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and State Dept. officials prepped other countries for the documents' pending release.

In a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his attorney, State Dept. Counsel Harold Koh reiterated the U.S. government's claim that the WikiDump would put U.S. lives in danger and charged that WikiLeaks had obtained the documents "illegally." From Josh Rogin's write-up at The Cable:

"Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals. You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without redaction, and without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger. We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials," Koh wrote.

The criteria for designating Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) are set out in section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states:

1) In general.-The Secretary is authorized to designate an organization as a terrorist organization in accordance with this subsection if the Secretary finds that-

(A) the organization is a foreign organization;

(B) the organization engages in terrorist activity (as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B) 1a/ or terrorism (as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. 2656f(d)(2)), or retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism); and

(C) the terrorist activity 1a/ or terrorism of the organization threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States.

The definitions of "terrorism" and "terrorist activity" at play here seem to demand that "violence" be practiced before an individual or organization meets the criteria.

But section 212(a)(3)(B) 1a/ of the Foreign Relations Act enumerates "a political, social, or other group that endorses or espouses terrorist activity" in its list of terrorist activities.

And that's how King makes his case. He writes:

WikiLeaks engaged in terrorist activity by committing acts that it knew, or reasonably should have known, would afford material support for the commission of terrorist activity.

So the idea is that, by publishing all these leaked cables, WikiLeaks has made it easier for terrorists to engage in terrorist activity.

Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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