Pro-Russian propagandists are sure happy that Julian Assange is free. We should be worried.

The grouping of pro-Russian propagandists and far-right political figures cheering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s release from custody makes me feel like we should be spending much more time discussing the potential national security implications.

My colleague Rachel Maddow did a great job on Monday giving background on Assange — from his exposure of secrets about the United States’ war in Afghanistan to his role, wittingly or not, in a plot to disseminate hacked documents Russian agents stole from the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Maddow’s segment explains why some people, like some journalists, view Assange as a hero of the free press, while others, like Donald Trump and his allies, have openly praised Assange or WikiLeaks for their complicity in what was ultimately found to be Russia’s pro-Trump attack on the 2016 election.

And then there are folks like me who don’t trust Assange as far as I can throw him.

With that in mind, The Washington Post’s report on Assange’s “far-left” and “far-right” supporters hyping his release piqued my interest. It mentions Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and independent presidential candidate Cornel West as two people with ostensibly opposing worldviews who’ve touted Assange’s release. But one clear through line connecting Greene and West is their promotion of pro-Russia propaganda.

And the same can be said for many others cited in the Post’s report:

The curious mix of Assange’s most vocal supporters included independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who said he was ‘overjoyed’ at the news, and former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, who called Assange ‘a good man.’ The Green Party, former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, former libertarian lawmaker Justin Amash and former Democratic presidential candidate-turned-Republican booster Tulsi Gabbard all celebrated Assange’s release.

Amash is the only one in that group not known for promoting pro-Kremlin talking points or receiving the Kremlin’s political support. Similarly, the Daily Beast also published an article on the “Kremlin mouthpieces” who have hyped Assange’s release while, without irony, portraying the U.S. legal system as an unlawful “deep state.”

From the Daily Beast:

Kremlin propagandists certainly were thrilled to see Assange walking free Tuesday. In addition to [Russia Today editor-in-chief Margarita] Simonyan, former Vladimir Putin adviser Sergei Markov hailed Assange’s release as a win in the ongoing battle against the ‘deep state.’ Assange, he said, is a ‘symbol of the uncovering of secret crimes of the U.S. deep state.’ One popular pro-Kremlin Telegram channel even went so far as to liken Assange to two Russian figures convicted in the U.S., respectively, of arms dealing and drug smuggling — arguing that they were all victims of an out-of-control U.S. justice system: ‘The case of Julian Assange is on par with the cases of Russians Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko.’

At this point, none of us knows with certainty what Assange has planned for his life as a free man. Maybe he plans to go home, binge Netflix and leave geopolitics alone. But none of us should take that for granted, and we should be on alert.

Because it’s starting to feel a lot like 2016 again with regard to national security. The United States’ ability to guard against foreign manipulation campaigns appears weakened compared to 2020. Social media platforms are rife with right-wing propaganda and misinformation. And counterintelligence threats who aided the Kremlin’s pro-Trump manipulation efforts, such as Paul Manafort and Julian Assange, are walking free, all to the delight of their Russophilic supporters.