WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has found himself center stage in the most controversial US election in over a century, but he is not a US citizen or even a free man. Instead, the vaunted whistleblower finds remains holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he looks to expose corruption and malfeasance by the world’s most powerful figures that has long made him a perennial target for attacks.
Whereas Julian Assange’s past publications have been derided by some as compromising to US and international security, held up by others as a model for the power of whistleblowers to enhance transparency, and viewed by nearly all as provocative the attacks lobbed against the WikiLeaks founder in previous years have been of the rhetorical sort, but many now fear an escalation towards violence.
Bob Beckel, a Hillary strategist enraged by WikiLeaks dump of DNC files showing collusion between the Democratic Party, Clinton’s campaign and the mainstream media, called openly for the next president of the United States to assassinate Julian Assange for what he views as the whistleblower improperly intervening in the US election.
“I mean, a dead man can’t leak stuff,” Beckel said of Assange. "The guy’s a traitor, a treasonist, and… and he has broken every law in the United States. The guy ought to be – and I’m not for the death penalty – so, if I’m not for the death penalty, there’s only one way to do it, illegally shoot the son of a b----."
WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 10, 2016
As Jake Sullivan points out in his chilling opinion piece titled "Why I’m Worried America’s Next President Will Kill Assange," the sentiment expressed by Beckel far from being an exaggerated response of anger has recently become part of the mainstream political discourse in the United States.
The author points to a new narrative, budding primarily from the Hillary campaign but expressed by think tanks and defense analysts throughout the country that "Russia Weaponized WikiLeaks to Disrupt the US Election" and various derivative forms of the conspiracy theory that Julian Assange is an anti-Hillary agent of Putin.
Assange for himself explained that he would gladly post damaging material on Donald Trump, but with the caveat that "we would have a hard time publishing something worse than what comes out of his mouth every second day."
Although the primary political beneficiary of the WikiLeaks file dumps, Sullivan is far from certain that Donald Trump would show more restraint in targeting the whistleblower than the former Secretary of State based on his "draconian approach to just about everything including a ruthless hatred of journalists, and most certainly whistleblowers."
"Trump has indicated his treatment of an extradited Assange or Snowden would be severely harsh," explained Sullivan. "Snowden, in particular, would be assassinated if Trump had his way. I can only shiver imagining how a President Trump would react to a major leak from the inner chambers of his new political empire."
The dangers for Assange and other whistleblowers for years to come appears to be that Democrats have joined Republicans in the rush towards a frenzied crackdown on controversial information.
Obama’s biographer and Time Magazine writer Michael Grunweld even tweeting "I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange" only days after the publication printed the article "WikiLeaks is Getting Scarier Than the NSA."
The extreme words of Bob Beckel were not an outlier and were not a mistake – it’s the new mainstream.