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Julian Assange's Real Crime: Making It Difficult for America to Wage Superpower

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WikiLeaks pledges to continue to fight government secrecy despite persecution by the U.S. and other countries. by R_SH

Political leaders like the tyrannical Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and complicit authoritarian Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have come out in full support of prosecuting the now-captured and arrested Julian Assange under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Whether they can do so or not is of no concern to them, and don't expect that to matter as the press repeats this idea that Assange could be prosecuted.

Sen. Lieberman, Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) have introduced a bill that would "stop" WikiLeaks and make it "illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants." The bill known as the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD) would amend the Espionage Act. The main problem with the act is, as Dave Weigel of Slate wrote, "the information being leaked, while embarrassing, hasn't been highly classified. It's been secret, or marked "NOFORN," but it's not classified." Thus, it appears the act might currently be ineffective in "stopping" WikiLeaks or future releases of information by any individual, group or organization.

What these senators aim to do is guaranteed to further reduce the protections for journalists and members of the media in this country. It's guaranteed to further create a political climate where journalists are faced with the possibility of coercive measures if they actually exercise the rights and privileges granted to them by the First Amendment. And, it's that climate that ensures more and more individuals will leak materials to WikiLeaks instead of media outlets in America, who cannot give their sources guarantees they will be protected under the law.

Sen. Lieberman appeared on the Fox News Channel on December 7th to express his support for not only prosecuting Assange but also examining the culpability of media organizations like the New York Times, which have referenced in the leaked secrets in their news articles.

HOST: Julian Assange has written an editorial that points out or characterizes his organization as an underdog in the media world. And he's saying that he is a journalist and he's saying that he's just providing information out there for the world's citizens to see. He mentions that organizations like the New York Times have published his information, which you're classifying as state secrets. So, are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks put out there also culpable on this and could be charged with something?

LIEBERMAN: I have said that I believe the question you are raising is a serious legal question that has to be answered. In other words, this is very sensitive stuff because it gets into America's First Amendment, but if you go from the initial crime--Private Manning charged with a crime of stealing these classified documents, he gives them to WikiLeaks, I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated the espionage act. But then what about the news organizations, including the NYT, that accepted it and distributed it? I'm not here to make a final judgment on that. But to me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. [emphasis added]

In his appearance, Sen. Lieberman called the release of documents by Assange and WikiLeaks "the most serious violation of the Espionage Act" in America's history.

Sen. Feinstein, in her editorial published by the Wall Street Journal , wrote, "When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove--more than 250,000 secret State Department cables--he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage."

She claimed the authority to decide whether Assange is or is not a journalist, a power she and nobody in government holds. She promoted the idea that the release has hurt people, when there is absolutely no proof that anyone has been harmed as a result of these leaks. And, she concluded, "As for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has held that its protections of free speech and freedom of the press are not a green light to abandon the protection of our vital national interests. Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security."

This is where we get into the real crime that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are guilty of committing. They are guilty of posing a threat to American superpower.

They have made it more difficult to wage a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture false cases for any future wars. They have made it harder to mislead Americans and other citizens of the world to believe a country poses an imminent threat to the United States. They have made it more problematic for America to use illegal detention, torture, and rendition on the world's citizens when prosecuting the "war on terror." They have made it more complicated for America to use spying and blackmailing when engaging countries in diplomacy. And, they have made leaders of countries in the world less willing to upset the sensibilities of people whom they govern and lie to them to prevent them from demonstrating their disapproval and outrage for going along with a ruthless superpower.

Political leaders and media pundits are disinforming the public when they talk about prosecuting Assange. Leaders like Sen. Feinstein are cherry-picking portions of a Congressional Research Service report to suit their worldview on what can and cannot be done to "protect" America. Indeed, an October report did claim there exists "ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate the types of documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated." But, as Evan Harper commented on one of Glenn Greenwald's posts:

"In Feinstein's WSJ op-ed, she claims "That he is breaking the law and must be stopped from doing more harm is clear. I also believe a prosecution would be successful," citing a Congressional Research Service report which wrote that "there is ample statutory authority" for such a prosecution. But she very badly cherry-picked the report, which goes on to say:

'...we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction.'

Essentially, CRS found that a plausible reading of the Espionage Act, by itself, might find some grounds to charge Assange -- but that precedent, the Constitution, and jurisdictional issues all weigh against a successful prosecution. Feinstein was grossly dishonest in eliding this."

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)
 
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Welcome to the Peoples Republic of America!... by Bruce Morgan on Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010 at 8:41:08 PM
should be ashamed for acting as a procurer for US ... by Archie on Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010 at 11:12:48 PM
"Sen. Lieberman, Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) and S... by James Hadstate on Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010 at 7:26:45 AM
the very structure under attack will grow stronger... by David Roche on Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010 at 6:32:47 PM