Is WikiLeaks a Terrorist Organization?

Sarah Palin and Peter King seem to think so

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WikiLeaks' release of hundreds, and eventually hundreds of thousands, of secret U.S. diplomatic cables has drawn sharp rebuke from all reaches of the U.S. government. But as calls to prosecute WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange mount, some have taken their outrage a step further. Republican Congressman Peter King, who is widely expected to become the next chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for WikiLeaks to be classified as a terrorist organization. Sarah Palin wants Julian Assange to be handled (read: killed) in the same manner as a Taliban or al-Qaeda leader. Are they right? What would be the implications of treating WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization?

  • Of Course They're Terrorists  National Review's Rich Lowry writes, "Assange’s goal is wanton destruction, pure and simple. He wants to expose to retribution those who cooperate with us on the ground in war zones. He wants to undercut domestic support for our wars. He wants to embarrass our foreign allies and exact a price for their trust in us. He wants to complicate sensitive operations like securing nuclear material in Pakistan and attacking terrorists with missiles in Yemen. ... [He has a] determination to do the 'American empire' more harm than just lashing out against it in feverish books gobbled up by college sophomores."
  • State Dept Doesn't Like This Idea  Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin reports, "[State Dept Spokesman PJ] Crowley also rejected the call by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who could become the next chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, that the State Department classify WikiLeaks as a foreign terrorist organization. 'We are treating this seriously. We see it as a crime. But the disclosure, unauthorized disclosure of information, in and of itself is not a terrorist act,' he said."
  • GOP Will Push Obama for 'Action' on Assange  NPR's Frank James writes, "King's statements indicate the kind of pressure the Obama Administration is likely to come under to use the full extent of executive power against Assange. Anything short of that could leave the administration open to further charges that it is relatively weak on national security matters. That could allow the administration's critics to build on attacks they made after Obama announced his plans, since frustrated, to close the Guantanamo prison facility and his administration's controversial decision to have civilian trials for some admitted or suspected terrorists."
  • Policy Change Unlikely  Slate's David Weigel predicts "the difficulty Republicans [will] face when they ask for WikiLeaks to be designated a terrorist organization." He cites a lengthy and humorous cable relaying UK Print Andrew's trip to Kyrgyzstan. "It's hard to argue that bitchy revelations about the Duke of York are on par with, say, funding a suicide bomber."
  • Palin's Proposal  Salon's Justin Elliott sighs, "It's first worth noting that there is no evidence that Assange has 'blood on his hands' [as Palin suggests]. In a review of a previous round of leaks on Afghanistan, the Pentagon found no evidence that anyone had been endangered. But more important: Palin is advocating that Assange be pursued like an al-Qaida operative. In the current context, it's not unreasonable to interpret that to mean he should be assassinated."
  • Would Restrict First Amendment Freedoms  Think Progress's Matthew Yglesias points out, "the rule is that it’s illegal to be the guy with legal access to classified information who passes it on to outsiders, but once you receive the leak you’re free to do what you want with it." Considering Assange a terrorist "would, it seems to me, necessarily entail challenging our current understanding of the First Amendment. ... King’s suggestion that we designate WikiLeaks as a foreign terrorist organization is in part grandstanding and in part an effort to devise a way to begin restricting freedom of the press."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.