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This week in press freedoms and privacy rights

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Source: The Guardian

The travesty calling itself "the Bradley Manning court-martial," the kangaroo tribunal calling itself "the FISA court," and the emptiness of what the Obama DOJ calls "your constitutional rights."

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I'm on a (much-needed) quick vacation until Sunday, so I'll just post a few brief items from what has been a busy and important week of events, particularly when it comes to press freedom and privacy:

(1) In the utter travesty known as "the Bradley Manning court-martial proceeding," the military judge presiding over the proceeding yet again showed her virtually unbreakable loyalty to the US government's case by refusing to dismiss the most serious charge against the 25-year-old Army Private, one that carries a term of life in prison: "aiding and abetting the enemy." The government's theory is that because the documents Manning leaked were interesting to Osama bin Laden, he aided the enemy by disclosing them. Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler explained in the New Republic in March why this theory poses such a profound threat to basic press freedoms as it essentially converts all leaks, no matter the intent, into a form of treason.

At this point, that seems to be the feature, not a bug. Anyone looking for much more serious leaks than the one that Manning produced which ended up attracting the interest of bin Laden should be looking here. The Obama White House yesterday told Russia that it must not persecute "individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption" -- as Bradley Manning faces life in prison for alerting the world to the war abuses and other profound acts of wrongdoing he discovered and as the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers rolls on. That lecture to Russia came in the context of White House threats to cancel a long-planned meeting over the Russian government's refusal to hand over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US to face espionage charges.

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(2) The kangaroo tribunal calling itself "the FISA court" yesterday approved another government request (please excuse the redundancy of that phrase: "the FISA court approved the government's request"). Specifically, the "court" approved the Obama administration's request for renewal of the order compelling Verizon to turn over to the NSA all phone records of all Americans, the disclosure of which on June 6 in this space began the series of NSA revelations. This ruling was proudly announced by the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which declassified parts of that program only after we published the court ruling. In response, the ACLU's privacy expert Chris Soghoian sarcastically observed: "good thing the totally not a rubberstamp FISA court is on the job, or we might turn into a surveillance state"; the Wall Street Journal's Tom Gara noted: "Reminder: The style guide for mentioning the FISA court is that it's written 'court' with scare quotes."

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