Julian Assange’s Plea Deal Is a Tragedy

In 2010 and 2011, WikiLeaks released a cache of illegally obtained classified documents revealing American methods, assets, and allies in the Afghan and Iraqi theaters where U.S. service personnel were actively engaged in counterinsurgency operations. His work outed the Afghans who worked directly with American servicemen, opening them up to retribution. And they most certainly did face retribution. The Taliban and other Islamist outfits, for example, used those documents to rally prospective insurgents and murder the tribal elders who helped the U.S. advance its mission in Afghanistan.

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The release of this information, to say nothing of the private contacts opposition leaders and human rights activists had with U.S. diplomats, had a deleterious effect on America’s ability to build relationships with indigenous sources. As former State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley confessed, the information dumps even compelled the United States to withdraw diplomatic personnel from certain hotspots. “We had an ambassador in Libya, and we had to remove him from his post because he was directly threatened by Moammar Gadhafi’s thugs,” he mourned.

Assange’s “crime” was not limited only to the publication of documents that explicitly imperiled U.S. interests and provided insurgent organizations with actionable intelligence on military bases, prisons, and the movement of U.S. troops and local security forces. It was to facilitate the pilfering of those documents in the first place.

Ed Morrissey

As I wrote earlier, I'm torn on this subject. There may have been legit whistleblowing behind some of what Wikileaks published, but that got eclipsed by the wholesale public dump of information. There is plenty of room for debate about Assange's status as villain or journalist, but the truth is that Assange would probably have served no longer than the five years he ended up doing in the UK had he been convicted here. Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) got a 35-year sentence for the actual theft of the material and subsequent transmission to Wikileaks, but Obama commuted the sentence after Manning had done seven years. And Manning's crimes were more straightforward. 

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