Britain’s arrest Tuesday of WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange on sex crime allegations is a little like getting Al Capone on income tax evasion, but at least he’s now behind bars. He has been denied bail and will remain in Britain until at least December 14.
While Assange fights his extradition to Sweden we can only hope that U.S. Attorney General Holder will move swiftly to charge Assange with espionage under the 1917 Act and ask for his extradition to the United States.
But the WikiLeaks scandal should be a wakeup call to America: It's concrete evidence that we are unprotected against a major cyberattack and that this new era of warfare has already begun.
In fact, former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden told me recently that the next Pearl Harbor sneak attack won’t come from land, or air or sea – it will come from cyberspace.
Such an attack can be launched by individuals like Julian Assange, or criminal organizations or enemy governments. And despite being the most vulnerable nation in the world to a cyberattack, we don’t have the technical or legal systems in place to deal with it.
Think about it. Our entire military and intelligence system relies on satellites, computers and the Internet to do everything from navigating the Fleet to guiding our missiles. Ditto our nation’s infrastructure -- everything from municipal water supplies to the electric grid are run using a cybersystem. Ditto again for our banking system, stock exchange, medical records, railroads and airlines, even down to the GPS system sitting on the dashboard of your car.
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are just the first of what will be many cyberattacks unless we move quickly and effectively to create the systems and mechanisms our nation needs to protect itself.
Last year the Defense Department created a CyberCommand to defend our military, but we still have nothing in place to protect our civilian society from cyberattack.
So far, WikiLeaks has only published about ten percent of these documents and while some are pooh-poohing them as nothing new, we don’t know what the next documents dumps will contain.
In the meantime, we’ve already started seeing the fallout from the fact that we can’t guarantee our secrets – U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers abroad will have to be reassigned, and foreign countries and intelligence agencies are reportedly already starting to clam up.
Last week White Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told Fox News “we should not and we should never be afraid of one guy who popped down $35 and bought a web address. Our foreign policy is stronger than that. We're a stronger country than that. We're not scared of one guy with one keyboard.”
With all due respect, Mr. Gibbs just doesn’t get it. He sounds like one of the three little pigs who sang "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?" just before the wolf blew his house down.
Julian Assange is a cyber-terrorist. He should be punished to the full extent of the law -- not just for what he’s done but also to serve as a warning to those who would follow his example.
He’s an anarchist trying to bring down the U.S. government. He also wants to ‘bring down’ a major bank and insurance company.
In his own words, his goal isn’t transparency, but to create such chaos and mistrust in the U.S. government --which he calls a “conspiracy” – that agencies will grind to a halt as they “lock down internally and balkanize” and “cease to be as efficient as they were.”
If we don't possess the technical ability to shut down WikiLeaks we should develop it, fast.
If we don't have the legal authority to prosecute him for espionage and to go after his alleged co-conspirator Pvt. Bradley Manning for treason and conspiracy, we should create it. I
And, if we don't have the political will to do it, we need to wake up.