This article is from the archive of our partner .

Nationally-syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg would like to ask a simple question. "Why isn't Julian Assange dead?" That's the opening line of his Friday column about the founder of Wikileaks and the U.S. government's inability to stop him. Assange, of course, has infuriated defense officials by continuing to publish classified U.S. documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Goldberg is puzzled as to why the CIA hasn't knocked him off yet:


Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

It’s a serious question.

In almost every corner of the popular culture, there are people who assume incredible competence on the part of our intelligence agencies. We take it as a given that spooks can, in the immortal words of Elvis, take care of business in a flash. In the Jason Bourne movies, say the wrong word into your cell phone, and assassins will find you at the train station in minutes. In AMC’s Rubicon, if you pay too close attention to crossword puzzles, your train will be “accidentally” derailed. In Three Days of the Condor, if you ask your bosses the wrong question, a postman with an ice-bullet-shooting machine gun will pay you a visit.

Goldberg's point is that there's a disconnect between our perception of how competent and ruthless the CIA is, and what happens in real life. This perception of the CIA, argues Goldberg, has been created by Hollywood liberals. After making his political jab, he goes on to say that he's slightly (just slightly) uncomfortable with the idea of the U.S. assassinating Assange:


Assassinating a hipster Australian Web guru as opposed to a Muslim terrorist is the kind of controversy no official dares invite. That’s fine. And it’s the law. Ultimately, I don’t expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone was thrilled with Goldberg's extended thought experiment on the assassination of Assange. Gawker's John Cook responds, "Why hasn't Jonah Goldberg been punched in the face yet today?":


Oh, wait, I get it. Goldberg isn't actually, seriously, soberly advocating the extrajudicial assassination of a journalist for publishing material in contravention of a direct order from the state. He's just having fun with the discontinuity between "left-wing accounts of the intelligence community," which tend to portray spooks as hyper-efficient bloodthirsty killers, and the curious fact of Assange's continued purchase on life. See! Liberals are stupid, because they think spies are bad, but look—Assange isn't "a greasy stain on the autobahn already," so liberals are wrong, spies aren't bad, therefore liberals are stupid. Q.E.D.

Ending his post, Cook clarifies his initial question—Goldberg-style.

We don't think, by the way, that anyone should physically assault Goldberg. That would be illegal.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.