Published December 01, 2010
As the U.S. government considers espionage charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Interpol adds him to its global wanted list, the White House on Wednesday seemed to dismiss the world's most infamous leaker as some sort of pajama-clad misfit.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in an interview with Fox News, assured the public that the Obama administration is "not scared of one guy with one keyboard and a laptop."
Gibbs dealt out a string of putdowns, as he sought to explain why President Obama has not personally addressed the website's leaking of 250,000 State Department documents.
"Our foreign policy and our country is stronger than one guy with one website," Gibbs said. "We should never be afraid of one guy who plopped down $35 and bought a web address. ... Let's not be scared of one guy with a laptop.
"We're the United States of America," he added. "We have a robust foreign policy that pursues our national interest and ensures the safety and security of those around the world. That's something this administration and administrations in the future, regardless of what one guy with a web site or what somebody does when leaking highly classified information. Those people are criminals and they'll be punished as such."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the latest leak Monday as an attack on the international community, and some lawmakers have described Assange as a threat who must be dealt with before he spills more secrets.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., called Assange a "menace." He compared his operation to the bands of pirates off the Somalian coast, and said he must be stopped.
"If we can't shut this guy down, shame on the civilized world," Lieberman told Fox News.
Assange's lawyer, meanwhile, said his client is being persecuted. According to The Associated Press, lawyer Mark Stephens said Assange has not been provided any information about the sexual misconduct case brought against him by a Swedish prosecutor. Assange has refuted those charges.
In an interview with Time magazine, he also called on Clinton to resign if it turns out she ordered diplomats to "engage in espionage" in the United Nations. He was referring to documents instructing diplomats to gather information about foreign leaders.
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the instructions probably emanated from the intelligence community, not the State Department.
Gibbs, in a separate interview with NBC News on Wednesday, called Assange's demand "absurd" and said Clinton did nothing wrong.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday that he would not speak to the leak, but that diplomats are not intelligence assets. He also dismissed calls for Clinton to resign.
"You know, by tradition, any document that leaves the Department of State has the secretary of state's, you know, name on it. She is responsible, but she is not the author of that particular document and, you know, the contents of that came from outside the Department of State," he said.