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Ex-Harper adviser regrets 'glib' call for retaliatory WikiLeaks assassination

Julian Assange, founder of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, holds a news conference in Geneva on Nov. 4, 2010.

Valentin Flauraud/REUTERS

A former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper is backing down from calls he made for the assassination of WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange.

"I regret that I made a glib comment about a serious subject," Mr. Flanagan, an author and political science professor at the University of Calgary, told The Globe and Mail Wednesday. "If Mr. Assange is arrested on the recently announced Interpol warrant, I hope he receives a fair trial and due process of law."

Mr. Flanagan made his comments on CBC's Power and Politics show Tuesday evening. In a discussion about the significance of the leaks, Mr. Flanagan said: "I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract or maybe use a drone or something."

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Host Evan Solomon noted that his guest's remarks were "pretty harsh."

Noting that some of the diplomatic cables released is "not stuff that should be out," Mr. Flanagan replied: "Well, I'm feeling very manly today. ... I wouldn't feel unhappy if Assange disappeared."

His comments are now attracting international headlines. British newspaper The Telegraph picked up the statement in a story it published about how Mr. Assange should be treated for his actions. "A former adviser to Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, suggested a different solution to the international diplomatic crisis - assassinating Mr. Assange," the paper reported.

The professor has long been associated with Mr. Harper, having written a revealing book looking at his time on the Conservative Leader's staff. He was also the architect of Tory election campaigns and advised on Mr. Harper's winning effort in 2006.

Mr. Flanagan's comments, however, prompted swift dismissals from the Prime Minister's Office. "Everybody knows Tom Flanagan is no advisor to the Prime Minister," director of communications Dimitri Soudas said on Twitter.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Mr. Flanagan's comments were "utterly unacceptable" and "crosses the line."

"I am not a defender of Mr. Flanagan but I think it is absolutely irresponsible, reprehensible to use language of this sort. Mr. Flanagan constantly speaks on behalf and for the Conservative Party, he is constantly on television. He is a man of experience, he is a man, I thought, of judgment. He showed astonishingly poor judgment."

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But Scott Reid, a former communications director to prime minister Paul Martin, was on the panel with Mr. Flanagan. The Liberal strategist knows what it's like to attract headlines for pointed comments.

"To my ear, Tom was being his usual colourful and provocative self but he was obviously talking tongue in cheek," Mr. Reid said Wednesday. "Not for a second did I think he was suggesting seriously that someone's life be put at risk. He's a great guy with strong opinions, not a mean guy with lunatic opinions."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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