Bob Franken

Last Week’s Hearst-New York Times Column

(Writer’s note:The arrangement with the syndicators allows my columns to appear here a week after their newspaper release)

^ASSANGE, THE WIKILEAKER, GETS SCOOPED BY A LEAK@< ^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@< ^By BOB FRANKEN@= ^C.2010 Hearst Newspapers@= WASHINGTON December 22, 2010_ You gotta love it: The news that WikiLeak's Julian Assange was writing his memoirs was leaked before his announcement. Given what we've read about his personal life, a good title would be ``IckyLeaks.'' Truth is, we know way more than we should about the guy. He's not the really important part of the story about the massive amounts of confidential material his group has dumped into the public realm. Nor is the content, which is generally harmless ho-hum stuff. What matters here is the vindictive attempt by embarrassed officials to crush him. Set aside, for the moment, those Swedish sex charges, meritorious or contrived, and focus instead on the reported efforts by the United States government to imprison him for heinous crimes that carry severe penalties. What has leaked out (of course) from the Justice Department is that _ given the difficulty of pursuing full-fledged espionage charges against Assange _ prosecutors are now exploring a conspiracy charge instead, as in conspiring with the alleged computer hacker, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, to spill the secret beans. How spiteful is that, particularly when one considers what a cinch it is to get an indictment? The old bromide is that any prosecutor can get a grand jury to ``indict a ham sandwich.'' Imagine how easy it will be for any ham-handed attempt to get an indictment in the alleged Assange-Manning conspiracy. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is sometimes way out there, but this time he is spot on with his recent speech in the House of Representatives about the furious administration response. Paul, speaking on the House floor, issued a challenge to the ``hysterical reaction'' in the form of several questions. Probably the most fundamental was this: ``Do the American people deserve to know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?'' The answer to Paul's question should be a resounding, ``Of course,'' though many higher ups clearly don't think so. They are chagrined at how the WikiLeaks have laid bare the reality of a cyber-system that is vulnerable to the whims of a 23-year-old computer jockey. That reality is scarier than any actual disclosure in the leaked cables.

The true “offense” in the WikiLeaks case is that it has laid bare the reality of a cyber-system that is vulnerable to the whims of a 23-year-old computer jockey. That reality is scarier than any actual disclosure in the leaked cables.

If WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents, why shouldn’t the news media that reported these documents be prosecuted? It’s the logical next step. Just ask Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who says the New York Times should be investigated for printing the information. “Whether they’ve committed a crime,” he argues, “I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department.”

Law school graduate Lieberman is conveniently overlooking the 1971 Supreme Court precedent in the Daniel Ellsberg “Pentagon Papers” case which makes his suggestion foolish.
He’s not as extreme as one of the Tea Party favorites. Rep.-elect Allen West, R-Fla., tells a radio interviewer that the U.S. government “…should be censoring the American news agencies….”

Of course, we can always count on Sarah Palin to make sure we know she’s not just for killing animals for sport. On her Facebook page, she targets Assange and asks, “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

What might save him is the threat from his supporters to expect a retaliatory Big Hack Attack if he comes to real harm. All this really exposes the ineptitude of those who are supposed to be protecting secrets.

Quoting another Ron Paul question: “Why is the hostility mostly directed at Assange, the publisher, and not at our government’s failure to protect classified information?”
Good question.
^–@< (E-mail: bob(at); On the Web:

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