Coming to Grips with WikiLeaks

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Coming to Grips with WikiLeaks

Post by Guest on Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:33 am

Critics of Donald Trump’s approach to campaigning for the White House have every reason to claim vindication. In the transition from campaigning to governing, this administration has done several about-faces. Perhaps none are more surprising, or more welcome, than the revelation that Trump’s Department of Justice is preparing to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

The Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly concluding an investigation into Assange and his organization. The investigation began in 2010 after the release of damaging and confidential intelligence documents fed to WikiLeaks by Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. Under Barack Obama’s attorneys general, the Justice Department allegedly could not determine how to bring charges against Assange in a way that would hold up to scrutiny. After all, WikiLeaks joined protected journalistic outlets like the New York Times in revealing U.S. military secrets. “The U.S. view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents,” CNN reported.

The investigation into Assange could have slowed to a crawl after Obama left office. After all, his successor famously declared his fealty to the “hacktivist” organization, which appeared to dedicate its efforts to undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. “I love WikiLeaks,” Trump declared. He had earlier solicited, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, the aid of Russian information warfare specialists in uncovering and publishing emails Clinton deleted from her private server.

The Trump administration’s tone shifted radically after the campaign was won. “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” asserted CIA Director Mike Pompeo with refreshing candor. “Whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,” said Sessions at a Thursday news conference. Asked if reports indicating that the U.S. was preparing to charge Assange and seek his arrest were correct, Sessions confirmed those reports and noted that the WikiLeaks’s founder’s capture was a “priority.”

This is welcome news. In creating continuity with Obama’s DOJ, this is a consistent position for Donald Trump’s Department of Justice to take. Trump critics who feared that the president’s DOJ would politicize the pursuit of justice and reward institutions that illicitly aided the Trump campaign were wrong. This news does, however, put many of Trump’s most committed defenders in media in a deservedly awkward position. More than a few supporters of the president on the right forgot their antipathy toward anti-American espionage amid the frenzied efforts to push Donald Trump over the top last November.

Trump himself alleged at various points that Russian operatives did not provide Assange with the information on Clinton’s campaign. He also treated as a conspiracy theory claims that Democratic committees were hacked at all. Following his lead, the real estate mogul’s defenders dubbed Assange an agent of truth. In so doing, they disregarded WikiLeaks’s shamelessly thin cover story allegedly absolving the group of links to Russian intelligence (Assange later confessed that his sources were Russian). More disturbing, they forgot how Manning’s leaks compromised American sources in Afghanistan. Those leaks made it less likely that locals would cooperate with American soldiers. According to official testimony, the leaks made U.S. operations overseas more difficult and put American lives at risk.

Intellectual flexibility is the privilege of the political class, but commentators and columnists should ideally have a more rigorous relationship with the truth. Trump’s Department of Justice will have a difficult time serving its arrest warrant for Assange, but it has struck a righteous and justified stance by even pursuing it. In the process, it’s helped guide some on the right back to a place of moral clarity. It’s a tragedy they needed that kind of shepherding in the first place.


https://www.commentarymagazine.com/politics-ideas/coming-to-grips-with-wikileaks/

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