Sarah Palin says WikiLeaks committed a “treasonous act” with its document dump of US diplomatic secrets. Furthermore, on her Twitter feed Tuesday she said Congress should prod the Obama administration to use “all necessary means to respond to and defeat WikiLeaks.”
That may be the case. And she would not be the only Republican public figure calling for such action.
First off, let’s get the treason thing out of the way – treason is generally defined as a crime that undermines one’s own government, and that means Assange in particular and WikiLeaks in general can’t be treasonous in the context of United States interests. Assange is Australian, and WikiLeaks is a stateless computer cloud. It’s possible that the document leak damaged Australian interests, so perhaps Assange committed treason in that sense. But he’d have to be tried for that Down Under. If he ever shows up there.
However, that does not mean Assange did not break some important US law. A senior US defense official on Tuesday said that American government agencies are investigating whether they can charge Assange or anyone else associated with WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act. Technically speaking, this law would allow lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty as punishments for disseminating information with the intent to interfere with the operation of the US armed forces. But it has been seldom used since its passage during World War I and it’s not clear how higher courts might interpret the law today.
Palin, for her part, has been questioning the competence of the Obama administration in the wake of what she calls on her Twitter feed the “WikiLeaks Fiasco.” On Tuesday she included a link to an online Weekly Standard editorial by William Kristol, former chief of staff to GOP VP Dan Quayle, titled “Whack WikiLeaks.”
In the piece Mr. Kristol argues that the WikiLeaks leak makes the US look like a “pitiful, helpless giant,” and urges the administration to take more forceful action.
“Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are? Why can’t we disrupt and destroy WikiLeaks in both cyberspace and physical space, to the extent possible?” Kristol writes.
Hmm. “Harass, snatch or neutralize.” That sounds like Kristol is calling for a presidential directive to the CIA for clandestine activity, doesn’t it?
Palin is forwarding the link to this story around, so presumably she supports what he’s saying. On her Facebook page she provides a little more detail, saying of Assange, "He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?"
In a speech in New Hampshire on Tuesday Mr. Santorum urged that Assange be treated as a terrorist.
“We haven’t gone after this guy, we haven’t tried to prosecute him, we haven’t gotten our allies to go out and lock this guy up and bring him up on terrorism charges,” said Santorum of Assange. “What he’s doing is terrorism in my opinion.”