Sarah Palin, who is widely tipped as a possible Republican candidate for president in 2012, has said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be hunted down in the way armed forces are targeting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Her outburst comes during a week when the WikiLeaks founder faced troubling accusations, with the Interpol international police organisation putting him on ‘red notice’ for alleged offences. The notice does not amount to an arrest warrant but is aimed at locating Assange, whose whereabouts have been unknown for some time.
Assange denies the allegations, and has branded them part of a smear campaign against him. The accusations began to surface in August. Around that month Assange was preparing to release a stash of communications from US ambassadors, revealing high level doubts over David Cameron’s ability as British prime minister, details that the US authorities had sanctioned spying on United Nations officials, and claims that China had hacked into Google. Assange is now targeting big business in the next data release.
In an outburst on Facebook this week, Palin - who once encouraged oil companies to "drill, baby, drill" in the middle of an Arctic wildlife reserve - branded Assange an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands”.
She wrote: “Assange is not a 'journalist', any more than the 'editor' of al-Qaeda's new English-language magazine Inspire is a 'journalist'." But in a 2008 US television interview with presenter Katie Couric, Palin herself appeared unable to name the newspapers she reads.
Palin continued: “His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders?"
She claimed WikiLeaks’ financial assets should be frozen "just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organisations".
She said “cyber tools" should be used to "permanently dismantle WikiLeaks". In an interview with Forbes magazine, Assange was asked for a response to rumours that famous hacker Peiter Zatko, who also goes by the name ‘Mudge’, was working with the Pentagon to develop technology that can stop such data leaks. He declined to comment directly, but asserted that new forms of communication were always a step ahead of technology aimed at stopping them.
Remarks spreading this week across the US political spectrum demonstrate the increasing concern over the comments of ambassadors being unveiled by WikiLeaks. The news has been plastered across newspapers and the internet.
The Obama administration said the WikiLeaks documents had a “fairly modest” impact on US policy. Nevertheless, it has opened an urgent data security review.