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Bob Wooten: Assange was not the only villain

In comic books, the villains were always more interesting than the heroes.

The bad guys generally wore cooler costumes and used marvelous technology to carry out their wicked plans. Most also had bizarre character defects that steered them toward careers in evil.

As villains go, one could easily imagine Julian Assange being created in the art studios at DC Comics.

After all, he has the technological genius of Lex Luthor and the Joker's gift for mischief. He also appears to be a very snappy dresser.

Assange, as you may have read, is the mastermind behind the WikiLeaks document dump that has agitated governments around the globe in recent weeks. In hundreds of thousands of secret documents, diplomats have been revealed saying undiplomatic things about various world leaders.

This follows earlier disclosures of classified documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by WikiLeaks, a website with murky origins.

The leaks are said to have damaged international relations, jeopardized intelligence sources and put lives at risk.

Assange and his WikiLeaks colleagues argue that they are simply a new generation of journalists speaking truth to power, forcing transparency on governments and big business.

Of course, Assange seems more anarchist than journalist, an Abbie Hoffman wannabe with a laptop.

His most recent disclosures have many in our government demanding that he be prosecuted, despite the fact that laws covering such matters were written almost a century ago, long before the Internet came along.

And even if domestic prosecutors find a way to press an espionage case against Assange, they'll have to wait their turn. He is currently in custody in Britain, detained on sex crime allegations pending against him in Sweden.

In any case, calls for prosecuting Assange or shutting down WikiLeaks have more to do with sound bites than sound policy. With the Internet, anyone can put up a website and play anarchist.

Rather than chasing the comic book villain, the focus should be on his toady sidekick.
The government claims that Assange got much of that classified material from 22-year-old Bradley Manning, a private first class in the U.S. Army.

Manning, who is being held at Quantico under suicide watch, is said to have downloaded thousands of the files onto a CD and provided them to WikiLeaks. Odds are he will grow old in a prison cell.

So far, the government hasn't said much about why a young man who spent much of his work day sweeping up and fetching coffee also had an intelligence clearance giving him access to thousands of pages of secrets.

One possible answer is the premium placed on intelligence sharing in the wake of 9/11.
Cooperation among government agencies makes sense, but the sensitive material probably ought to be for adults only.

We have to keep our state secrets safe, because the world is full of villains willing to use them against us.

• Bob Wooten is the managing editor of the Daily. Contact him at 800-296-5137 or at bwooten@nvdaily.com.

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