Jacob Heilbrunn

WikiLeaks and the Neocons

Sarah Palin said it first. Now Charles Krauthammer has jumped on board. They're talking about the prospect of taking out Julian Assange, major domo of WikiLeaks and general nuisance to governments, democratic and authoritarian alike, around the globe. Palin announced in one of her Facebook postings that the Obama administration was delinquent in not pursuing Assange with the same fervor that it pursues members of al Qaeda.

According to Krauthammer,

Let the world see a man who can't sleep in the same bed on consecutive nights, who fears the long arm of American justice. I'm not advocating that we bring out of retirement the KGB proxy who, on a London street, killed a Bulgarian dissident with a poisoned umbrella tip. But it would be nice if people like Assange were made to worry every time they go out in the rain.

Well, I guess. But it seems a bit odd to invoke the old KGB, and one of its most notorious hits, as an exemplar for America's secret services. Maybe Krauthammer will also suggest that Assange should, at a minimum, be waterboarded. Trying to haul him into court under the provisions of the obscure 1917 Espionage Act seems like a waste of time--it would provide Assange with a fresh platform to denounce America.

The main thrust of the right's attacks against the Obama administration is that it has been too passive in responding to the WikiLeaks. But it's not clear what the administration can really do, apart from trying to take down WikiLeaks servers, which somebody is clearly doing, and, in any case, Krauthammer, Palin, and others tend to exaggerate the significance of the leaks. Most of them tell us what we already knew--Russia is corrupt, Angela Merkel lacks imagination, Saudi Arabia regards Iran with loathing. What, exactly, is new about all that?

And as far as targeting Assange: it looks the Swedish government is doing a pretty good job on that front. Assange is wanted on sex crime charges. Who better than neutral Sweden to take down Assange? If America or Germany lodged those kind of charges, they would be accused of carrying out a witchhunt. And if Assange is actually assassinated, he'll become a martyr. Best to ignore him, let justice run its course, and stop speculating about poisoned tip umbrellas.