Dear Rep. King,
I am hoping you will reconsider your call to place WikiLeaks on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. I would hope that as chair of the Homeland Security Committee you would take a more responsible approach than many of your Republican and conservative colleagues who are calling for the assassination of Julian Assange.
You and I remember the time a few short years ago when there were extreme voices opposed to a visa for Gerry Adams and calling for the designation of Sinn Fein as a terrorist organization. And you and a bipartisan coalition were willing to take a risk for peace and conflict resolution, a process that is still ongoing and regarded as a great success.
The comparison, you may say, is incorrect. In one respect, there is a huge difference, which only strengthens my point: Sinn Fein was leading a republican movement that included years of armed struggle, with thousands of British and Irish casualties. WikiLeaks is a nonviolent whistleblower organization whose only weapon is the Internet. Despite weeks of dire warnings, the WikiLeaks disclosures have caused no deaths or suffering so far, nor provoked any terrorist attacks anywhere. The organization, and its media intermediaries, have made conscious efforts to redact any references to individuals which might cause harm.
The current controversy is less about national security than about securing the official reputations of officials conducting secret warfare. As a result of the WikiLeaks documents, the American public has learned, for example, that:
- our government is deceiving the public and Congress by denying our secret bombing of Yemen;
- our Special Forces are in Pakistan;
- the CIA has directed a secret army in Afghanistan;
- there is a secret Task Force 373 conducting assassinations in Afghanistan.
These revelations do no damage to our national security. Instead, they helpfully add to public and Congressional awareness of improper and arguably illegal behavior undertaken under the cover of secrecy.
If your proposal to list WikiLeaks as a terrorist group is adopted, my understanding is that anyone offering nonviolent “material support” to WikiLeaks could be prosecuted under the Patriot Act. As you told MSNBC on Nov. 28, “we’d be able to stop anyone from helping them in any way, whether it’s making contributions, giving free legal advice, or whatever.”
Do you remember when you stood up again and again for lawyers in Northern Ireland trying to defend republicans in court? Do you remember those lawyers like Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson being assassinated as a result of their brave legal advocacy? Are you seriously recommending that any American lawyers “giving free legal advice” to Julian Assange should be prosecuted?
The New York Times has provided page upon page of coverage of the WikiLeaks materials over a period of months. Is the Times “assisting in terrorist activity” because the information is “being used by Al Qaeda”, as you put it?
Where does this end? If thousands of Americans join in the legal defense of Julian Assange or WikiLeaks will they be defined as accessories to terrorism?
I urge that you and your colleagues not overreact, not turn to scapegoating, not contribute to a climate of violence, but instead respect freedom of the press, freedom of dissent, and the right to due process under a system of law. We all need more light shed on our secret policies, not greater limitations on the public’s right to know.