Thursday, December 9, 2010

WikiLeaks founder must face consequences

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

The word this week, ladies and gentlemen, is “WikiLeaks.”

While this may sound like a word describing a hole in the roof of a Hawaiian hut, it may actually be one of the most dangerous threats to national security in decades. Or — it may not.

The storyline reads like the epic spy-thriller movie it will surely become. Julian Assange, founder of the “whistle blower” site, prowls cyberspace looking for classified documents, allegedly to “out” government agencies and officials going about their daily business…much of which is classified.

Granted, many of the alleged secrets that WikiLeaks has made public border on the ridiculous. One such Top Secret document is supposed to have contained information that the United States and Canada are allies.

No one, at any level, is going to deny that our government tends to go overboard on virtually everything that is does.

There are however, other, far more sensitive documents that are supposed to be among the tens of thousands in WikiLeaks files.

If, and it is a big “if” because we can’t always believe everything our own government tells us, Assange and his company have acquired these documents, I fail to see what the big turmoil is, as to what to do with him.

Granted, Assange is now in custody on unrelated charges. The thought has crossed my mind that it is quite possible that the charges against him could have been fabricated in order to remove him as a threat. That scenario does sound very CIA-like.

For some reason, our country rarely just does something in a straight-up fashion.

By my way of thinking, if Assange has been engaging in the gathering of information and documents that could compromise the safety of the United States, he is guilty of espionage. Since his alleged activities could effect other countries, possibly even his native Australia, I would suggest that the same espionage charges could be alleged by every country mentioned or suggested in his documents. Almost certainly, one or more of those countries has the death penalty for treacherous crimes such as his. Even if they don’t, life behind bars should be a given.

It has been suggested to me that all Assange is doing is digging up documents that will keep our country honest and will hold official accountable. In other words, it could keep them from hiding things.

As a journalist, I am one of the most curious people in the world. I like to know what is going on, and why, about everything. I don’t like secrets.

I do, however, recognize that in order to survive in the world that we live in, it is necessary for some things to remain a secret. The Cold War may be over but the threat to our national security may be greater now than ever.

I understand that most of folks today were not born during the years spanning our last World War. The war evoked hundreds of thousands of secrets. Some were even kept with the knowledge and consent of the press. How many Americans, before and during World War II, knew that their Commander-in-Chief, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt could not walk?

The bottom line is that, no matter how much we don’t like it, and in spite of what we members of the media think, there are some things that we do not have the need to know.

No system is perfect and, Lord knows that a fair share of government workers, up to and including the President of the United States, have abused their authority and needed to be held accountable…just look at Watergate.

The general rule needs to be the there is a valid reason for most government secrets on subjects that could affect national security. Those who compromise those secrets must be held accountable.

It must also be said that there is no way that Assange perpetrated these acts alone. Civilian and military personnel must have assisted in some way for that kind of information to be released. When caught, each and every one of them should suffer the same fate. For Americans, the charge should be treason against their country. We are at war. The penalty for that crime is death.

I don’t know if those accomplices don’t know or just don’t care but their actions could potentially cost many American lives. Maybe yours or mine.

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