Foreign and Defense Policy

Next up for WikiLeaks: The sinking of the SS Assange?

In October, I attended a satellite speech by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Sydney Opera House, where he described the state of his criminal enterprise this way: “WikiLeaks is a rather big boat with a lot of torpedo holes in it that has taken water in and is drifting along and we’re doing our best to keep it afloat.”

Little did I know at the time, he meant this literally. Fox News reports:

Julian Assange’s investors are in the process of purchasing a boat to move WikiLeaks’ servers offshore in an attempt to evade prosecution from U.S. law enforcement, FoxNews.com has learned….

Another WikiLeaks source said attempts had been made to place servers on old military barges in the ocean, in international waters. The source would not say whether those attempts had been successful, citing concerns for compromising the success of WikiLeaks and its future plans to move offshore. WikiLeaks’ servers are now based in Sweden and Iceland, among other locations….

“Then they can keep running WikiLeaks and nobody can touch them,” one source told FoxNews.com. “If you get a certain distance away from any land, then you’re dealing with maritime law … They can’t prosecute him under maritime law. He’s safe. He’s not an idiot, he’s actually very smart”…

If Assange is indeed planning to move his servers offshore, he’s actually not very smart. If anything, such a move would make it far easier for the United States or other concerned parties to take out WikiLeaks’ capabilities.

The Pentagon has offensive cyber-attack capabilities that could do enormous damage to WikiLeaks’ servers. One likely reason those capabilities have not been used is the fact that WikiLeaks’ servers are in Sweden and Iceland. An attack on WikiLeaks would require launching a cyber-attack on the territory of two friendly countries, one of whom is a NATO ally. Thus, WikiLeaks has been free to disseminate classified U.S. government information with near impunity.

But if WikiLeaks’ servers are moved offshore, that is a whole different ball of wax. We can reach those servers without having to worry about violating the sovereignty of a friend or ally. The United States could launch a covert action in cyberspace that would disable and destroy its servers.

Or, if Assange were on board a ship in international waters, the United States could send a special operations team to capture him and bring him back to the United States to stand trial. Assange is kidding himself if he thinks he would find protection from such an operation in “maritime law.” In 1989, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a memorandum which declared  that “the FBI may use its statutory authority to investigate and arrest individuals for violating United States law, even if the FBI’s actions contravene customary international law” and that an “arrest that is inconsistent with international or foreign law does not violate the Fourth Amendment.” In other words, America can apprehend Assange or his co-conspirators anywhere in the world—including at sea.

It is unlikely the United States would exercise this authority if Assange is on the territory of an friendly nation such as Britain or Sweden—though we could seek his extradition. But if he is hiding out on a ship in international waters, there is no need for extradition—the United States can just grab him and bring him to America to face justice.

Or the WikiLeaks ship carrying its servers could mysteriously sink in the deep blue sea—the victim of a “rogue wave” or some other “natural” disaster. The open ocean is a dangerous place. Bad things happen out there.

In other words, WikiLeaks could end up precisely as Assange described it in Sydney: a “boat with a lot of torpedo holes.”

Smart indeed.

17 thoughts on “Next up for WikiLeaks: The sinking of the SS Assange?

  1. The internet does not work that way. The servers are mirrored tens of thousands of places around the world. Anyone who has viewed the website has a cache of the file on their computer.

    What you are suggesting is literally impossible.

    • John,

      Can you then explain why Wikileaks is seeking to move the servers offshore? I don’t think you have thought this through all the way. DNS has to resolve to somewhere–if some of those servers are inside countries, the US can pursue legal means to have them shut down. If others are in international waters, surely the ship-to-shore data links can be disrupted.

  2. “Hey let’s blow up some one else because we don’t like what they are doing” …wait one second, isn’t that called terrorism? Ohhh I’am sorry, I thought this was ‘mericah. You know, the place where we don’t do this kind of horrible activity.

  3. Pentagon… cyber-attack capabilities… lol

    Since when is Wikileaks a criminal enterprise ?
    The land of the free and home of the brave has sunk so low…

  4. You are truly a Richard Cranium.

    P.S. Go start another war with Atlantis you wank pole. Scared the nudes of you and the Navy Seal Team are going to make it onto interweb? Cyberwar? Get a life.

  5. Marc Thiessen, how ill-informed you are about what you write.

    It seems that your technological knowledge is about as deep as the keyboard you are using.

    First time on this site for me, and where the owner, American Enterprise Institute sound rather grand, it seems to be mere pomposity given the caliber of this article and by inference all others.

    Last time on this site. I am not going to get any valuable information here.

    • Michel:

      Where can we find a link to your superior qualifications and cogent analysis? Mr. Thiessen’s resume, not to mention his past writings published in places too numerous to list, confirm he is qualified to write on the subject, even if one disagrees with his assessment. But you? I doubt it. But go ahead — prove you’re not just some troll living in your Mom’s basement between OWS rallies: List your qualifications and provide some counter-analysis.

  6. In fact, the United States could certainly take out WikiLeaks servers offshore and yes, the Internet does work that way. Perhaps not the way Marc has described it, but a cyber or physical attack on servers floating offshore could certainly begin the end of WikiLeaks espionage.

    I’m all for this. So are the majority of Americans. Perhaps not those commenting anonymously here, but who cares about them? They live in a CAVE: Completely Against Virtually Everything.

    I hope Assange moves offshore. I’ve got a lead life preserver for him.

  7. If Assange had done this to China or Russia, he would be a corpse by now.

    But thanks to our self-righteous, fanatical legions of left-wing radicals, we have to pussyfoot around the issue.

    Seems distributing the classified information of a nation is just A-OK, nothing to see here, just “free speech”, “no big deal”, “get over it”. No thank you, I think I’d rather see him hanged.

  8. The laws governing classified material were enacted by Congress. Violation of these laws is a criminal act. Americans have the right to demand that our country’s secrets be protected. Assange is a criminal and a violator of human rights. If you don’t agree with these facts, you are welcome to try to change the law. We’ll see what the American people think about that.

  9. All the hand-wringing about Marc Thiessen speculating about the mere possibility of something bad happening to Julian Assange’s servers if they move onto the high seas is hilarious.

    Julian Assange can’t have it both ways – he can either be The Pirate King or Tiny Tim Cratchit, but not both at once. When Assange cooperated with that Army private who betrayed his oath of office to publish hundreds of megabytes of classified US diplomatic cables, he – whether his admirers like it or not – plumped for the pirate life, literally.

    Assange is big, he’s bad, and he’s on the Pentagon’s dirt list for good. Virtual aggression against the United States of America, he’s learning, is just as dangerous as taking up physical arms against us. If ALL we do is toast his servers once he moves them off the territory of friendly nations, he’s really lucky. I’m sure there are all sorts of directed energy weapons and nanobots the geeks over at DARPA are just ACHING to try out on the SS Assange.

  10. Rapist Assange won’t be able to fly the flag of any nation-state over his ship and he’ll be the target of REAL pirates, not the type who think Cpt. Jack Sparrow is cool or who think they are bad a$$es because they can copy DVDs.

    I’d love to see a bunch of Somali pirates attack the guy and then see him call the US Navy for help.

  11. maybe he is moving them off shore at the request of the russian government who is his new employer. his true colors have at last been shown

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