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      Rep. Peter King's Dangerous Overreaction to WikiLeaks

      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.



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      Reader Comments (12)

      Assange is not employing terror -- or, for that matter, any form of violence -- so he is by definition not a terrorist.

      December 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Uebersax

      Assange is nothing more than a current and modern day version of the patriot Daniel Ellsberg.

      December 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary Eschman

      What can you expect? Arizona’s laws are made by corporations—like the prison industry constructed illegal immigration laws—listening to DN today—what can one think anymore? We say what we want to happen, and the corporations own the fucking government. We are all under surveillance. Doomed Democracy with Net Neutrality off the table. And if you want to view wiki leaks—well, you just better watch your back and not be a student at Columbia for sure—And don’t post your wiki leaks support on social network sites--Citizens mandated to purchase insurance from the same MF’s who use death panels based upon income—choice between the cancer scan or the feel your body all the fuck over violations—could you imagine if you were a sexual abuse survivor? This is the end of the US as we know it—and the people are asleep chanting freedom and war for freedom aka I can get my stuff and more stuff-- as they stare into screens—their ears plugged into the soundtrack of their own impending slavery—
      Dianna aka
      Target on My Scan the Social Network Site Chick AKA New World Gulag Come and Get Me Girl

      December 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdianna morton

      This is a gentle, brilliant call for them to see the illuminated truth. The real point here couldn't be made clearer. Thank you Mr. Hayden.

      December 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKookie Williams

      Beautifully said Mr Hayden.

      December 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Burstyn

      I fully agree with Tom Hayden and my comments are about the whole situation rather his article/letter.

      The situation with Julian Assange is complex and also has a gender dimension. Before his arrest, articles about him tended to express ambivalence about his unaccountability and apparent scattershot approach. This style and approach were perceived as something like a lone cowboy mentality. Now all the ambivalence seems to have disappeared.

      I think there is great value in exposing dirty state secrets of the U.S. or any government, particularly one that presents itself to the world as an exemplar of democracy and human rights. And so I value the leaked cables provided by WikiLeaks. I also believe it's incredibly scary that the predominant response in government and mainstream media is to denounce Assange with whatever label they find convenient to go after him. Those of us who value human rights should keep supporting Assange's contributions while also not forgetting the earlier ambivalence about style and approach.

      I am also interested in the larger dynamics and wondering about Assange's strategy and thinking; surely he knew this kind of response would come and greater repression. Is this load of cables in itself worth it? Do he and his advisers think that the controversy will result in greater openness as people realize what is kept from us and encourage more leaks? Or maybe foreign policy implications? What levels of politics are being played out here?

      I'd also like to see from the news media (alternative, since mainstream won't do it) as much analysis as possible of what comes out of the cables, since it's beyond the capabilities of most of us to read them all ourselves and even in many cases to understand the significance. And something more is needed to shake the feeling that none of this is surprising and nevertheless we can't do anything about it so why worry?

      December 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina Minkowitz

      Why would Haden expect King to behave in any way other than he has in the past, the present and will continue to in the future? Talk about grandstanding conservative political hacks...

      December 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstuart

      Truth is always dangerous to the powerful and corrupt...As the Bible says."the truth will make you free."

      December 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbarbara zimmerman

      I wonder why the Republicans are upset, when the Wikileaks revelations are infinitely more damaging to Obama, Clinton, and the Democrats than to any Republicans.

      December 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob Riley

      I've already sent my comment to Mr. Hayden, but here I can add that he is a sterling example of what it means to be an American citizen, active for the people who are often targets of injustice--economic, judicial, political, etc. And now he steps forwad to speak for a courageous man--not an American citizen, who is following our ideal that the electorate cannot make wise choices if ill-informed, who is making available information that our presses fail at doing. Why, then, is he, Mr. Assange, neither on Constitutional nor legal nor moral grounds, target for assassination?

      December 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergeorge sebouhian

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