The latest release of documents from WikiLeaks is stirring up quite a controversy. “This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it's worse than a military attack,” New York House Representative Peter King says, calling for the federal government to prosecute the group and its founder, Julian Assange, for espionage. He adds, “They are engaged in terrorist activity. What they're doing is clearly aiding and abetting terrorist groups. Either we're serious about this or we're not."
King is not alone in his thinking. “We’re at war,” reminds Senator Lindsey Graham, “and the world is getting more dangerous by the day. People who do this are low on the food chain, as far as I’m concerned. If you can prosecute them, let’s try.”
"We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information," stated White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
When Julian Assange released his first set of documents, the world was listening. We understood that WikiLeaks exposed a weakness in our government’s Internet security. We also heard his point that America is engaged in disappointing rhetoric and deplorable actions behind the scenes. In Assange’s words, “Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington could not tell a lie. This document release reveals the contradictions between the U.S.'s public persona, and what it says behind closed doors.”
The latest release details how American foreign relations staff called Russia’s Vladimir Putin “The Alpha Dog,” France’s Nicolas Sarkozy “The Emperor With No Clothes,” North Korea’s Kim Jong-Ill “A Flabby Old Chap,” and said that Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai is “driven by paranoia.” We learn that Hillary Clinton has sent our diplomats overseas to collect secret information on foreign officials – such as credit card information, frequent flier numbers, and biometics. US missile strikes in Yemen have been exposed, despite a Yemeni government cover-up. There are stories of Afghani corruption, Israeli bluffing, North Korea and Iran bomb collaboration, and uranium fears in Pakistan.
At first, the stories seemed important, newsworthy, relevant. Digging up a story is good journalism, but revealing tens of thousands of documents all at once with wanton abandon is just reckless. Now Julian Assange seems to be the worst villain to America since Benedict Arnold. Are his motivations changing? Did he begin his crusade as a warning to U.S. officials to protect their classified documents more securely, to be aware that they can be held accountable for their actions, and to engage in sober discourse about the leaked documents? Yet, is he now simply obsessed with the cat-and-mouse game he’s playing? Has he moved from exposing the truth to infuriating as many prominent people as possible? Is he merely driven by the attention, riding high on a tide of egomania as the world’s self-appointed moral crusader?