Should WikiLeaks Be Shut Down?

Backlash against the whistle-blower site reaches a fever pitch

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As soon as WikiLeaks founder and Australian activist Julian Assange released 92,000 secret U.S. documents pertaining to the Afghan war, there was an immediate backlash. Many feared the sensitive documents would expose Afghan informants and serve as a kind of "treasure trove" for Taliban and al-Qaeda assassins. News that the Taliban were rifling through the documents to mete out revenge killings exacerbated those fears. Now, neoconservatives including Liz Cheney and former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, want Assange apprehended and his website WikiLeaks shut down. Has the pendulum swung too far?

  • We Must Shut Down This Site, says Liz Cheney on Fox News: "Clearly Julian Assange's effort was to change course for the US policy in Afghanistan. He was unsuccessful in that. He does clearly have blood on his hands potentially for the people whose names were in those documents who helped the US and I think that's something he will have to live with now. I would really like to see President Obama to move to ask the government of Iceland to shut that website down. I would like to see him move to shut it down ourselves if Iceland won't do it. I would like to see them move aggressively to prosecute Mr. Assange and certainly ensure that he never again gets a visa to enter the United States. What he's done is very clearly aiding and abetting al Qaeda. And as I said, he may very well be responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan."
  • Find Assange and Arrest Him, implores Marc Thiessen at The Washington Post: "Let's be clear: WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise... A Taliban spokesman said the group is scouring the WikiLeaks Web site for information to find and 'punish' these informers. Beyond getting people killed, WikiLeaks' actions make it less likely that Afghans and foreign intelligence services (whose reports WikiLeaks also exposed) will cooperate with the United States in the future... Will President Obama stop WikiLeaks from doing so -- or sit back and do nothing?" Thiessen goes on to demand the U.S. arrest Assange on foreign soil even if the harboring nation disagrees.
  • Thiessen Is Woefully Mistaken, writes Michael Scherer at Time: "Assange's crime, according to Thiessen, is intentionally receiving and republishing classified information, something that is done with some regularity in the United States by respectable and responsible reporters working for top flight news organizations. To adopt Thiessen's view, one would effectively have to reject the Supreme Court's opinion in New York Times Co. v. United States, the so-called Pentagon Papers case from 1971."
  • Also—Using the Military to Capture Assange Is 'Wacky', writes Thiessen's colleague, Eva Rodriguez at The Washington Post: "Thiessen asserts that the United States does not need 'permission to apprehend Assange or his co-conspirators anywhere in the world' and that the U.S. should act alone if allies won't cooperate. I'm not sure this is legally accurate, but let's assume it is. Is Thiessen suggesting it would be a good idea to disregard an ally's sovereignty, perhaps do irreparable damage to our relationship with it and the international community just to get our hands on Assange? Thiessen's concerns about leaks may be justified, but at least some of his proposed plans of action are more than a little scary and, as it concerns the Wiki founder, more than a little wacky." The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan adds, "Thiessen backs a president-as-global-dictator, above the law and capable of doing anything. Nothing would surprise me. He's a Cheneyite."
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