The Russian prime minister is a witty man. Asked by Larry King about spies like Anna Chapman, Putin replied, “The methods employed by our special services differ in a good way from those used by US special services. Thank God, neither the agents in question or any other Russian intelligence officers are known to have been involved in creating secret prisons, kidnappings, or torture.”

Of course, Marina Litvinenko has a different take on the ways of Russian intelligence. She says U.S. diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks prove that Putin was behind her husband’s assassination. (Strictly speaking, the document in question only relays speculateion that the Russian leader must have known about the plot, “given Putin’s attention to detail.”)

Sending thugs out to murder political nuisances with polonium is pretty rough. But it sounds as if top GOP presidential prospects would like to do something like that to Julian Assange.

Sarah Palin: “He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

Newt Gingrich: “Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism. He should be treated as an enemy combatant.”

Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, is the compassionate conservative who contents himself with demanding capital punishment for (presumably) Bradley Manning: “Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty.”

Apparently Bill O’Reilly believes that even foreigners like Assange can be tried for treason. And why not? “We’re an empire now,” as a flunky of George W. Bush’s once said, and that means anyone anywhere might be asked to kill or die for Uncle Sam. Canadian Tom Flanagan, a one-time adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Halper, wouldn’t be outdone by any natural born American — he took to the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s airwaves to aver, “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.”

The WikiLeak cables report Defense Secretary Robert Gates lamenting that “Russian democracy has disappeared.” I’d love to know what Russian cables say about ours.