The US military has shown a startling lack of grip on reality by designating Wikileaks and its “world’s worst date” leader Julian Assange as military enemies.
According to the US, Assange is now equal to the Taliban and the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
To be fair, it is not as if officials have suddenly woken up to this. Fairfax Media said that the information has come from declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents, released under US freedom-of-information laws.
These show that military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters may be at risk of being charged with “communicating with the enemy”. This is a military crime which could get you the death penalty for the first offence.
It also does not mean that Assange will be available for a personal drone attack or US Seals to come crashing through his garden to shoot him in the head either. Just soldiers who talk to him will be in big trouble.
The papers are a record of a probe by the USAF’s Office of Special Investigations into a cyber systems analyst based in Britain who allegedly expressed support for WikiLeaks and attended pro-Assange demonstrations in London.
The investigation focused on whether the analyst, who had a top-secret security clearance and access to the US military’s Secret Internet Protocol Router network, had disclosed classified or sensitive information to WikiLeaks supporters, described as an “anti-US and/or anti-military group”.
The papers described the suspected offence as “communicating with the enemy, 104-D”.
At the time, the analyst’s access to classified information was suspended but investigators closed the case without laying charges. The analyst denied leaking information.
US Vice President Joe Biden labelled Assange a “high-tech terrorist” in December 2010 and US congressional leaders have called for him to be charged with spying.
Sarah Palin called for him to be hunted down like a moose, or at least she said words to that effect.
Of course Assange’s US attorney, Michael Ratner, said the designation of WikiLeaks as an “enemy” had serious implications for the WikiLeaks publisher if he were to be extradited to the US.
This is assuming that he ever would be, as he has not up until now.
But it does make things look bleak for US Army private Bradley Manning, who is charged with aiding al-Qaeda by transmitting information that, published by WikiLeaks, became available to them.