President Donald Trump’s tweets could lead the United States to “stumble into a nuclear conflict with North Korea,” according to a former CIA agent who has begun a crowdfunding campaign to buy Twitter and ban the president from using it.
The former agent, Valerie Plame Wilson, worked on nuclear issues at the CIA and now works with Global Zero, a nonprofit that works to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons. Last week, in conjunction with Global Zero, she launched a campaign on GoFundMe that aims to raise $1 billion in order to buy a controlling interest in Twitter.
Wilson said she has been bothered by many aspects of Trump's Twitter use, including his penchant for personal attacks, but it was his recent escalation of rhetoric with North Korea that truly concerned her.
“People who understand how crises escalate...[know] it is absolutely alarming that the president uses this global platform...[and] perhaps we would stumble into a nuclear conflict with North Korea,” she told Newsweek Thursday. “And that is unacceptable.”
Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.” Following Trump’s threats, North Korea announced it was preparing a plan to launch missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam
North Korea, which has recently tested intercontinental ballistic missiles it claims can reach the U.S. mainland and carry nuclear warheads, appears to have since backed away from that threat. To Wilson, though, investing in one individual the power to launch nuclear weapons is dangerous enough without having that power in the hands of someone who possesses the temperament and diplomatic skills displayed by the current president.
“His head is chaotic, to say the least,” Wilson said. “He’s got one finger on Twitter, one finger on the nuclear weapon. I think most Americans walk around in the ignorant but secure belief that somehow there’s a considered way to launch a nuclear weapon. And that’s not the case. He has immediate access to this awesome destructive power and he loves to emote reckless bravado, and it makes this scenario that much more likely.”
In response to the crowdfunding campaign, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested in a statement Wednesday that it violated the president’s First Amendment rights.
“Her ridiculous attempt to shut down his first amendment is the only clear violation and expression of hate and intolerance in this equation,” she said.
Wilson, though, argues that Sanders’s comments represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment, which is designed to prevent the government from infringing on free speech and also has its limitations.
“I flatly reject her framing of it,” she said. “Unfortunately she doesn’t quite get how that works. Some speech is prohibited when it incites violence or hate speech.”
Wilson left the CIA in 2005 after her identity as an operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush’s administration in an attempt to discredit her husband, a former diplomat who criticized the invasion of Iraq,
Twitter, Wilson contends, is also failing to protect against violent speech. There have been previous calls for Twitter to suspend Trump from the platform, but it has thus far rejected those appeals.
“The actual Twitter rules say they forbid hate speech and inciting violence and I think it’s fair to say that nuclear war would be inciting violence,” she said.
Wilson added that the campaign was a way of “holding Twitter executives' feet to the fire.”
While a majority stake in Twitter would currently cost around $6 billion, a $1 billion stake would make Wilson the largest shareholder and give her a powerful voice.
With the current amount raised standing at just over $44,000, Wilson accepts that her goal is ambitious, but she says that if the target is not reached, all the money will go to Global Zero to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. And, if nothing else, she added, it will raise awareness of what she considers should be a major concern to all Americans, regardless of their political leanings.
“My real hope in launching this campaign is to shine a spotlight on how dangerous Donald Trump’s use of Twitter really is,” she said. “We don’t have to sit by while he uses this huge global platform to undermine our national security.”