In an op-ed to the Washington Post this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tried to fight back against accusations that he is working with the Russian government to sow the seeds of destruction throughout Western civilization.
Assange said that he was no different from news outlets like the Post and the New York Times; he was essentially a journalist looking for the truth, no matter where it might lead or who it might hurt.
“On his last night in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a powerful farewell speech to the nation — words so important that he’d spent a year and a half preparing them. ‘Ike’ famously warned the nation to ‘guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,’” Assange wrote.
“The truths we publish are inconvenient for those who seek to avoid one of the magnificent hallmarks of American life — public debate,” he continued. “Governments assert that WikiLeaks’ reporting harms security. Some claim that publishing facts about military and national security malfeasance is a greater problem than the malfeasance itself. Yet, as Eisenhower emphasized, ‘Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.’”
Assange may not be an agent of the Russian government, but his high-minded ideals fall a little flat when all of WikiLeaks’ recent releases seem designed to weaken the U.S. and its allies. That’s not to say that Assange is compromised, but the U.S. intelligence community isn’t wrong to consider him an enemy of the state. The question then becomes: If he’s an enemy of the U.S. government, does that also make him an enemy of the U.S. citizen?
That question is a little more complicated, but generally, we have to come down on the side of transparency. Assange has, to his credit, exercised a great deal of responsibility when it comes to publishing names and information that could seriously compromise U.S. security or put our intelligence officials in jeopardy.
But until he can prove that he’s consistently willing to expose countries like Russia in the same way he’s willing to expose the U.S., there’s ample reason to question his motives.
That won’t stop us from perusing WikiLeaks with great interest, of course, the next time Assange publishes a fiery set of documents.