Jonah Goldberg

I'd like to ask a simple question: Why isn't Julian Assange dead?

In case you didn't know, Assange is the Australian computer programmer behind WikiLeaks, a massive -- and massively successful -- effort to disclose secret or classified information. In a series of recent dumps, he unveiled thousands upon thousands of classified documents from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Military and other government officials insist that WikiLeaks is doing serious damage to American national security and is going to get people killed, including brave Iraqis and Afghans who've risked their lives and the lives of their families to help us.

Even Assange agrees. He told the New Yorker earlier this year that he fully understands innocent people might die as a result of the "collateral damage" of his work, and that WikiLeaks may have "blood on our hands." WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb.

So again, I ask: Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

It's a serious question.

In almost every corner of the popular culture, there are people who assume incredible competence on the part of our intelligence agencies. We take it as a given that spooks can, in the immortal words of Elvis, take care of business in a flash. In the Jason Bourne movies, say the wrong word into your cell phone, and assassins will find you at the train station in minutes. In AMC's "Rubicon," if you pay too close attention to crossword puzzles, your train will be "accidentally" derailed. In "Three Days of the Condor," if you ask your bosses the wrong question, a postman with a ice-bullet-shooting machine gun will pay you a visit.

Of course, that's just Hollywood. But if you read left-wing accounts of the intelligence community, two versions dominate. The CIA (and similar outfits) are either evil and incompetent, or evil and super-competent. Sometimes the folks at The Nation will mock the CIA for trying to blow up Castro with an exploding cigar. Other times some Oliver Stone type will insist that the military, or the CIA, or the NSA, or rogue elements from those quarters, managed to assassinate JFK and pin it on a Marxist dupe named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Under either scenario, you'd think Assange, super-whistle-blower of the international left, would be a greasy stain on the Autobahn already.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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