The massive WikiLeaks breaches should prompt Congress to re-examine how the nation guards its secrets and bring its anti-espionage statutes into the Internet age.
The First Amendment’s protections for the freedom of the press exist to protect the people’s right to know; they do not exist to protect foreigners bent on waging a cyberwar against the United States.
WikiLeaks is not a journalistic organization and should not be treated as such.
“Saying [an organization like] WikiLeaks is protected by the First Amendment is as ridiculous … than them saying, ‘Actually, we’re a religion and you can’t inquire into what we’re doing,'” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told me in an exclusive interview. “We may need to take even more steps and review the statutes as we review them.”
The current laws were written when the nation’s biggest threats came from other nations, not rogue villains like Julian Assange who have a vendetta against the U.S.
WikiLeaks has done al-Qaida, China, North Korea, and Russia a huge favor by giving them free access to classified documents. And conspirators like Pfc. Bradley Manning have provided the same sort of service to our enemies that Cold War turncoats like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hansen provided to the Soviets.
And the cases Ames and Hansen vividly illustrate what can happen when our nation’s secrets fall into the hands of our enemies because the information they gave the Soviets cost numerous lives.
Bolton believes the threat WikiLeaks poses to national security is without precedent and should be dealt with accordingly. He expresses reluctance to apply the World War I-era Espionage Act against Assange because it does not neatly fit the crime.
“We shouldn’t be blind to what’s going on because of some sort of abstract constitutional principles,” Bolton said. “Every principle including the 1st Amendment, which I think is the bedrock of freedom in this country can be abused by people who want to do us harm, and I think we’re fools if we simply accept their say-so anymore than if Assange says WikiLeaks is a new religion.”
According to Bolton, the new Congress should make how the WikiLeaks episode happened a top priority and do everything it can to rewrite the law to clear up any ambiguities that could let people like Assange off the hook on 1st Amendment grounds.
The WikiLeaks threat has done something that few things have in that it has brought Republicans and Democrats together to call for tough penalties for the leakers and for Assange, himself.
Outgoing Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak told me Manning and his fellow leakers have done serious damage to national security and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, although he did not go nearly as far as Bolton in suggesting indicting Manning and others like him for treason.
Assange should be indicted and extradited to the U.S. because letting him off the hook would set a bad precedent for future copycats.
Bolton told me inaction will encourage others to follow in his footsteps, and reports show dissidents in Assange’s organization plan to launch a rival site called OpenLeaks in the near future. This has to be stopped.
Assange also needs to feel pain where it will especially hurt ̶ in his pocketbook.
Congress should consider making it a criminal offense for any company or individual who does business in the United States to provide donations to any organization that trades in classified material, especially where lives can be lost.
Bolton was right on target when he told me the United States should work with allies such as Australia where Assange has citizenship and Iceland where some of his servers are located to shut him down.
WikiLeaks has declared war on the United States, and it is time the nation returns the favor and shuts down the greatest national security threat to appear on the scene since al-Qaida first appeared in the 1990s.
All available tactics should be employed to destroy WikiLeaks, whether through diplomacy, through cyberwarfare, or through the courts. No holds should be barred, and everything should be on the table.