A Time magazine writer kicked up controversy on Saturday night when he tweeted about supporting the assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange,” Michael Grunwald, a senior national correspondent for Time, wrote in a tweet that he later deleted.
A very poorly executed joke or genuine sentiment? Either way, the condemnation came swiftly.
Glenn Greenwald -- a columnist for the Guardian who sometimes gets branded an activist for his strident writing against government drone strikes and electronic surveillance -- made his point via Twitter:
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I assume you're allowed to express this vile opinion & still be an objective "journalist"- not an "activist", right? https://t.co/NhXiZ5jdTl
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 17, 2013
Greenwald has authored several columns in the the Guardian about a particular animus against Assange among certain journalists. And, as a 2010 Greenwald piece in Salon shows, this is hardly the first time a commentator or journalist has openly fantasized about the government killing the WikiLeaks founder or suggested that he should be treated as a “traitor” to the U.S. (despite his Australian citizenship).
After retweeting several violent threats and anti-Semitic slurs made against him by other Twitter users, Grunwald began backpedaling as the criticism mounted, writing later on Saturday:
It was a dumb tweet. I'm sorry. I deserve the backlash. (Maybe not the anti-Semitic stuff but otherwise I asked for it.)
— Michael Grunwald (@MikeGrunwald) August 18, 2013
A Time magazine representative told the Huffington Post that Grunwald’s tweet was in no way representative of the publication’s views. WikiLeaks and others have called for Grunwald to resign, with the former tweeting:
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 18, 2013
Assange has been residing at Ecuador’s Embassy in London since June of last year. Ecuador has granted him political asylum, but the U.K. is prepared to arrest him should he step outside the embassy. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden associated with allegations of sexual assault. He and many of his supporters fear a trip to Sweden would mean extradition to the U.S., which is said to be mulling charges against him related to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of diplomatic cables.
WikiLeaks has been back in headlines of late, thanks to its assistance to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked information on government surveillance to Greenwald and others. The organization occasionally posts encrypted “insurance” files, presumably with bombshell leaks inside, possibly to be revealed at a later date. Last week, WikiLeaks encouraged supporters to download three new insurance files, one of which is a huge 349 gigabytes in size. This latest cache of files may be teed up to coincide with the sentencing hearing for Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army soldier convicted of criminal charges related to his passing of classified material to WikiLeaks.