Security experts say WikiLeaks designation as Foreign Terrorist Organization unlikely, unneeded

Jeff Winkler Contributor
Font Size:

Although New York Republican Rep. Peter King spoke adamantly and often Monday about designating WikiLeaks as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, defense experts who spoke to The Daily Caller said any such action is very unlikely.

King, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, went on several cable networks Monday and voiced his desire to classify WikiLeaks, the organization which has just unloaded another sizable stack of classified intelligence cables, as a terrorist organization like Hamas and al Qaida.

But that probably won’t happen.

“I appreciate the frustration but I’m not so sure that’s appropriate,” said James Carafano, a national security expert at the Heritage Foundation. “Don’t get me wrong. [WikiLeaks is] an enemy of the United States and they’ve acted irresponsible. But this is not what this list is designed for. This list was designed for people that are going out and intentionally, actively killing innocents.”

Carafano noted that only the State Department has the ability to officially designate FTOs and that there is an extensive set of criteria that must be met before doing so. If the titles and procedure below are any indication, the process for declaring a group a FTO is not a simple one, but rather a slow, bureaucratic slog:

The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the State Department “prepares a detailed ‘administrative record’ …  demonstrating that the statutory criteria for designation have been satisfied. If the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, decides to make the designation, Congress is notified of the Secretary’s intent to designate the organization and given seven days to review the designation, as the INA requires. Upon the expiration of the seven-day waiting period and in the absence of Congressional action to block the designation, notice of the designation is published in the Federal Register, at which point the designation takes effect. By law an organization designated as an FTO may seek judicial review of the designation in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit not later than 30 days after the designation is published in the Federal Register.

And that was only half of the U.S. State Department’s “Designation” section of the classification process.

Michael Ledeen, freedom scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the government has punished in the past and should continue to punish those who leak classified information, but that does not mean WikiLeaks should be designated a FTO.

“It’s a criminal act, you just prosecute the people,” he said. “There are plenty of ways to prosecute them.”

Ledeen also said it would save the U.S. government a lot of hassle if they simply published most of the cables in the first place, rather than classify them.

Carafano  said that the U.S. government already has plenty of tools to punish any Americans involved in the leak and stressed that other countries have their own laws to deal with such violations as well.

“[Wikileaks] should be hounded to the ends of the earth. But you want to use the right tools,” said Carafano. “We have lots of different enemies and there’s a reason we have different tools to deal with them.”

“I don’t think in the macro sense [the new leaked cables] are going to do much harm to foreign relations,” he added.