Foreign Policy Question: Should USA Assassinate WikiLeaks Founder?

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Let’s talk about one of the tools that governments use to take care of problems – assassination.

For as long as history has been recorded, there have been stories of important figures being poisoned, stabbed (Et Tu, Brute?), or blown up with a Hellfire missile (link is to a video) for political benefit. Like it or not, assassination – targeted killing – is a tool that all governments use to execute policy.

The USA – as far as I can tell – has been using a very slippery moral framework to justify targeted killings. It seems to go like this:

  1. Political leadership killings are never OK (Gerald Ford took care of this in 1976)
  2. Legal arrest is our preferred means of dealing with bad guys
  3. When the bad guys (or gals) are beyond the reach of any police force friendly to the USA, we may blow them up with a missile. At least, that is, if they’re terrorists.

These rules are problematic. First, I would argue that all targeted killings are inherently political. Von Clausewitz said that war is “the continuation of politics by different means” about 200 years ago, and that logic still stands. It’s got to make political sense to execute someone without a trial…the USA can only get away with blowing up a terrorist in Pakistan because it’s politically acceptable to do so. Drawing a distinction between “political leaders” and terrorists is a little simplistic.

Second, the idea that the USA exhausts all legal options before engaging in a targeted killing is a little Pollyanna. Most police forces outside of the Western world tend to be guilty of both corruption and brutality. When a US policymaker says “we extradited so-and-so from Pakistan,” what they’re really saying is “the Pakistani police tortured this guy and his family for a few days, burned his house down, etc., and then turned him over.” There’s no moral benefit in associating ourselves with many foreign police forces when the police are human rights abusers of the highest order.

Three, when we have intelligence that identifies someone as a terrorist, we will kill them with a Predator drone. We do this because, even if they terrorist isn’t actively engaged in a terrorist act, we know that he or she could engage in a terrorist act at some point in the future. The fact that these people are willing to attack us is enough to put them on our hit list. This is known as the “preemption” doctrine of George W. Bush, and Obama seems to have embraced it as well.

But why should we stop at terrorists? WikiLeaks has published a list of facilities critical to the security and well-being of the USA and the rest of the world. This information is classified, and while it may be true that many of the places on this list are obviously important, a terrorist might not realize that a certain mine in a certain South American country is critical to the U.S. computer industry. As a result, dozens of critical locations across the globe are a little less safe today than they were prior to this WikiLeaks disclosure.

While we can try shutting down sources of funding and computer servers, the issue here is the people behind WikiLeaks. Follow along with me for just a moment:

  1. We kill people who we think are terrorists because they might try to commit an act of terrorism at some point in the future.
  2. Terrorists seek to disrupt our society, and their primary tools are violence and the threat of violence (fear is a weapon).
  3. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seeks to disrupt our society by publishing secret information that can negatively impact our military, relations with foreign countries, and our security.
  4. Assange’s decision to publish data about the locations of important facilities around the world increases the likelihood each of these facilities will be attacked.
  5. Assange – indirectly – is threatening these facilities with violence by publishing their importance.

I would guess that many terrorists would love to replicate Assange’s recent acts. He’s disrupted the American government, raised security concerns at dozens of facilities around the world, and he’s done it all with a computer.

What’s worse is that Assange plans to keep on doing these things.

Assange is not a political figure, he is beyond the reach of all legal authorities, and he’s acting as an information terrorist. He represents a danger to the USA and an argument could be made he should be killed ASAP. This is in keeping with our existing targeted killing policy (as far as I can tell) and it would have the added benefit of sending a chilling message to others who threaten our society…sort of like Israel’s Mossad killed Gerald Bull.

Thoughts?

13 Comments

  1. You are so misguided by the American propaganda.

    “I would guess that many terrorists would love to replicate Assange‚Äôs recent acts”

    Are you guessing or accusing?

    I’d punch the fuck out of you If you lived in Australia.

    problem is, Assange is not American. He does not have to follow American law.

  2. Jason

    August 3, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Josh – The crux of any intelligent comment is that it contains a threat to ‘punch the fuck’ out of someone. However, I’ll bite and respond to your point that, because Assange isn’t American, he doesn’t have to follow American law with…so what?

    The USA and Australia have an extradition agreement, which means that the USA can indict Assange in absentia, and assuming the indictment supports a charge, produce a warrant for his arrest. The USA can then ask any nation in the world that has signed an extradition treaty (including Australia) to produce Assange if he is within their borders.

    It’s a fundamental concept. Thanks for playing.

  3. Your article has led me to conclude that you are a deeply frightening individual from a moral perspective. I find it shocking that you would countenance the extra judicial murder of someone who publishes information which he believes is in the public interest.

    Assange’s basic position – that governments act on behalf of their electorates without sharing sufficient information about those activities – is not without merit. You should be a little more careful about how you frame the issue.

    Assange is a controversial figure and there is certainly room to debate whether he acts responsibly in selecting and releasing the information he does, but you are entering territory where your ‘moral compass’ has been tossed overboard.

    From your own commentary:
    “The fact that these people are willing to attack us is enough to put them on our hit list.”
    “Terrorists seek to disrupt our society, and their primary tools are violence and the threat of violence (fear is a weapon).”

    If you can’t see the thinking trap in your own statements above, I’ll be adding stupidity to your list of qualities. This is precisely the kind of intransigent attitude that leads to an escalation of violence. This is ultimately what gets your – and our – soldiers killed in Afghanistan and other theatres of war.

    Rhetoric like yours damages the good name of the USA. Fortunately, those of us who live in countries that are counted as your allies (in my case, the UK), know that the vast majority of Americans are still capable of circumspection and respect for the rule of law.

    I’ll leave you with a thought to help you to restore your absent moral faculties. Just because something DOES happen, it doesn’t follow that it SHOULD happen. Morality is concerned with the NORMATIVE, not the DESCRIPTIVE world. Think that through then re-read your piece – you may wish to make some revisions. Thanks for playing.

  4. A thousand times what Adrian said. Interesting that OP has yet to respond.

  5. Jason

    October 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I think you should re-read my article. I noted early that this is a “very slippery moral framework” and that the current “rules are problematic.”

    I was simply stating that, using the morally questionable set of rules our government seems to adhere to, killing Assange would seem to be acceptable. If you read my follow-up – http://jasonlancaster.com/38/information-terrorism/ – which was written many months ago, you’ll see that I clarified myself. I never once advocated killing Assange – I merely stated that, using the current doctrine, it would seem to be “legal” to do so.

    Considering that Assange and Wikileaks were so careless as to release unredacted versions of all the documents – http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/09/wikileaks-unredacted-cables/ , which could have lethal consequences for sources in Afghanistan (among many others) – I find it laughable that anyone would defend him as some sort of journalist aiming to “share information.” His actions are beyond the realm of any acceptable journalistic behavior.

    My article was merely an exploration of the process the US government uses to kill random people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc., and then applying the logic of that process to Assange. As a defender of free speech, you should appreciate my article more than most.

  6. Simple solution, if OP thinks it’s ok to kill Assange, then I firmly believe OP has forfeited the right to live as his view point is what is wrong with the world today. Please die in a fire OP and let your loved ones bare witness to it before they themselves get put down with the sword <3

  7. Adrian hit the nail on the head. How anyone can want to kill a human who is only out to do what he thinks is the right thing is beyond me. I am on Assanges side here. If we ever want a world that is secure for our children then we need as much international transparency as possible and this is the same transparency that Julian is creating!

  8. I have learned more truth from Assange than from years of ingesting corporate media. I like truth. Therefore, I appreciate that you have been honest about how much you hate it.

  9. Hey, if people disagree with what you published on this page, is it okay for them to call for your murder?

  10. I don’t see the parallel. Assange didn’t publish something controversial – he published secret documents that not only negatively effected government operations but also endangered confidential sources in Afghanistan.

    What’s more, you didn’t read the post very closely (or the comments) if you think I called for Assange’s murder.

    Quite frankly, anyone who defends Assange in the here and now is clueless.

    1. Assange is actively trying to avoid prosecution for a Swedish charge he claims is trumped up. Why not face prosecution if he’s innocent? That’s not very “transparent” of Asasnge, is it? If he’s such a great person, why is he also an accused rapist who won’t give his alleged victims their day in court?

    2. Assange is seeking asylum in Ecuador, a South American country with a leader who doesn’t allow free press. The irony is incredible.

    3. Assange is hosting a TV show paid for by the Russian government, another country that doesn’t allow free press. Again, the irony here is just off the charts.

    If the mission of wikileaks is so sacred, why is the founder cozying up to world leaders who actively block the press? If Assange is such a great “truth teller,” why is he making friends with dictatorial leaders and avoiding prosection?

    It’s a joke, and Assange is the punchline.

  11. so jason the question remains …. are you for or against his death ?

  12. if you are against i will remove your name and entry from my blog post …. fair enough ?

  13. Jason

    June 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    There is no question – read the post, the comments, etc. If you purport to be a person of conscience, due dilligence is required.

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