Wiki Crimes? No Laughing Matter …

Update 6 a.m. Tuesday: CNN is reporting that Assange has been arrested in London on sex crimes charges.

But leave it to SNL to try anyway.

I’ve held off commenting on the WikiLeaks scandal, mostly because it’s so complex that I’m not sure I could do it justice with the little time I have available for blogging. But I’ll try anyway.

Julian Assange has developed quite a following and no doubt fancies himself a hero for releasing secret U.S. military, intelligence, and diplomatic documents into the public domain. Two of my friends, for example, have urged their friends on Facebook to join pro-WikiLeaks groups or donate money to the organization. I respect both of these people, but fail to see how the release of these documents helps the case for what Time magazine calls “WikiLeaks’ war on secrecy.”

As a former reporter and freedom-of-information advocate, I support the idea that we should err on the side of the sunshine. But you do reach a point where the sunshine, in the case of the WikiLeaks Afghanistan document dump, irreparably harms U.S. interests by exposing the identities of valuable intelligence operatives who could be killed in reprisal.

Or, in the case of the recently released diplomatic cables, it will likely inhibit candid communication among diplomats for fear that their frank assessments will end up on the front page of The New York Times. How could anyone think that exposing our intelligence sources to death, or putting a chilling effect on the exchange of ideas, is a good thing?

I tend to agree with the those who say that Assange should be brought up on criminal charges. But the problem is that laws on publishing classified material are murky. Moreover, Assange is not a U.S. citizen and does not reside here. And persuading a sovereign nation to extradite him is highly problematic, especially if the alleged crimes are considered political in nature.

So we’ll probably just have to live with this fellow unless we want to dispatch an assassin to put a bullet between his eyes. Oh, I forgot. That option is no longer available, thanks to the Ford administration.

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