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Monday, December 13, 2010

Rename dissent "espionage" and criticism of government "treason"

I'm with E.E. Cummings on this one.

Comments (31)

I bet he'll miss Alan Grayson.

Well, what are you going to do? There are empty cages at Guantánamo.

Only because Obama closed it (Gitmo) last year, right?

Prediction: Julian Assange TIME's Person of the Year 2010. Or maybe Lady Gaga.

Get ready for Margaret Attwood's future! in the USA.

While the actions of Assange may be far removed from acts of treason, they are most certainly that far removed from mere actions of dissent as well.

What better poster boy for freedom of speech than such a character. An alleged rapist forwarding information he had no right to have, in an effort to harm the country. All this, arguably for no other reason than personal recoqnition and gain.

This guy is much much more than a represenation of political dissent, and not in a good way. A tough pill to swallow, but not for those who truely understand the importance of his right to do what he does. Just pardon me if it seems less pleasant than swallowing my own vomit.

Gibby, he is not an alleged rapist. His crime was not to use a condom in consensual sex with two prostitutes.

The NYT published the Pentagon Papers, which also had no "right" to them.

We are entering a classic struggle here. I hoe you read both links thoroughly.

As far as I can tell thus far, wikileaks has done nothing but make us look good. Diplomats come across as astute, clear-minded, and dedicated to bettering the world. And the warning shots of the breaking wave of the Sunni-Shia conflagration have been fired, and we haven't looked like the bad guys yet. I've been repeating King Abdullah's assessment of Iran ("the head of the snake") freely in normal conversations, referring to things like the pharmaceutical industry, the clogged chimney, the broken gutter pipe, etc Persons who irritate the members of my household are now referred to as "weak and paranoid individuals" (diplomatic assessment of Karzai).

The world all shares one enduring love: gossip. We have provided it to the world, and they love it.

All these blowhards trying to treat this as though it were high treason should shut up and get to work trying to figure out how to make sure our information is actually secure in the future. Sniff.

PS On the gossip front, BEST recent gossip:

Kissinger: "And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

Nixon: "I know. We can't blow up the world because of it."

Julian could not have PO'ed any one more than, party switcher, what's in it for me, don't tell it like it is with Israel, than Lieberman. Be it what he did, right or wrong, Lie-berman (yes there is a hyphen when spelling Joe's last name) will do everything in his power to get Julian hung out to dry.

Thanks, Jack, for linking to that article. It is excellent. As far as the emptywheel link, I don't read anonymously written pieces.

"he is not an alleged rapist. His crime was not to use a condom in consensual sex with two prostitutes"

That is one account

My point is that any such allegation makes him even a better poster boy. No matter how one is painted everyone retains the right to speak freely

Just that we should never lose sightof the fact that this guy is scum, and no hero. Yet Amercians are still willing to protect his right ot free speech. Where were the same freedom of speech fighters when a certain minister wanted to burn a certain book just a few months ago?

Gaye gives the perfect example of the kind of harm that can be done with her reference to Kissinger's quote. In what context was this said? As bad as it sounds we are drawing inferences without knowledge of prior conversations and/or discussion.

Harm that can't be undone for personal gain makes Assange seem like scum.

How is it that Assange is so bad, and the media companies that publish what he reports to them, not?

Only because Obama closed it (Gitmo) last year, right?

This is an interesting subject. Obama gets a great deal of criticism for promising to close Guantánamo last year and failing to do so. Based on what I remember, I'd give him a pass on this. The obstacles were: (a) inmates who cannot be given a fair trial and whose release would result in widespread anger; (b) NIMBY rejections of proposed relocation of inmates within the US; (c) NIMBY rejections of trial venues for selected inmates (e.g., KSM in New York, where it seems people are deathly afraid of him); and perhaps most importantly (d) a senate minority that refused funding for the base closure.

What do you know about Assange in the context in which you examine the Kissinger quote, Gibby? I am well aware of out of context quotes, as I have had this happen to me, but I expected it as "business as usual"

And Bill B, there are lots of Bill B's in the world, classifying your use of it as as anon, in my book. You might want to address this to Marcy Wheeler, who is the owner of that blog. It certainly has an element of concern, I'll grant you.

This is a tough case. But I don't think that the release of this information accomplished much. It hasn't uncovered crimes, just embarrassed our state department as it tries to do it's job. Not sure that qualifies as a great blow in defense of free speech.

It would be horrible to use it as an excuse to clamp down on free speech and dissent. But certainly some crime has been committed here by someone. These are classified materials, illegally leaked. So we shouldn't pretend that this is a simple act of dissent or journalism either.

Finally, Assange is Australian. I'm much more simpathetic to Americans voicing dissent against America, then Europeans, Australians or the like. In other Western countries, critizing America out of resentment is just a sport. It's as common as breathing.

I was hammered recently for the link to a video, because it was "Tea Party" I just thought ya'all would like to have a look at what Naomi Wolf has to say about that subject:


Snards, the Pentagon Papers were top secret, and they were leaked. I presume that your position, in the name of consistency, would be that the US government should have gone after the NYT and of course Daniel Ellsberg. Then there was senator Mike Gravel, who read them in one marathon session into the Congressional Record.

What we really have to go after is the lack of transparency in Government, and the convenience of classifying documents that are embarrassing to perhaps, even grounds for impeachment or dismissal of major government officials.

Lawerence, my position is that people who leak classified documents should expect to be treated like they've committed a crime, because they have. Whether Assange, or the paper who eventually broadcasts them has any culpability, I don't know. That's a legal issue.

But my main point is that if you are involved in actions of this nature, taking on the State Dept. the US Military and ultimately the CIA and FBI, it would be incredibly naive to not expect to receive very serious heat over it. If you can't play hardball, don't step onto an MLB diamond.


Of course, but when put thus:

These are classified materials, illegally leaked.

and classification is used to cover up illegal activities then we have a problem in transparency.

Assange discusses his methodology to some extent in this interview from last July:


So, do we assent to the Espionage Act because of Wikileaks, and if not where to draw the line?

And what is your view of the whole Pentagon Paper issue? Should then Sen. Gravel have been arrested, even while reading them into the Record?

"The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot" by Naomi Wolf
The book illustrated ten common steps which Wolf stated could be witnessed in the transitions of open societies into closed regimes.
List from wikipedia, The ten steps by Naomi Wolf

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place.
3. Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
4. Set up an internal surveillance system.
5. Harass citizens' groups.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release.
7. Target key individuals.
8. Control the press.
9. Treat all political dissidents as traitors.
10. Suspend the rule of law.

More in detail on the ten steps on link:

Lawerence, the Pentagon Papers were on a much graver subject, the these diplomatic cables. Ellsberg absolutely should have (and was) prosecuted. And more to my point: he should have EXPECTED to be prosecuted, and accepted it as the natural consequence for his action.

The Senator couldn't be prosecuted which was part of the point of entering the papers into the record.

This is really just an argument between those who think that the government has no need to maintain any secrets in foreign affairs or military matters, and those who think they do need to be able to keep reasonable secrets. I think the former is a naive position.

Certainly, the classification of documents can be and is regularly abused. But the solution isn't to have some egotistical attention-hound publishing thousands of government docs indiscriminantly.

Diplomats will never again put frank assessments into this type of document. We've made it harder for them to do their jobs. And for what? What have we really gained in knowledge, or free speech rights, or anything else from this latest leak?

Snards, nowhere do I disagree with the idea that, in leaking the materials, and in the subsequent publishing, the entities involved are open to prosecution. In the case of Ellsberg, he was the leaker, but in the case of Assange, he is the publisher.

With respect to the Pentagon Papers, this was the outcome of the Ellsberg trial:

Ellsberg's trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 years, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon.


I also agree that no secrets allowed is naive. But what is reasonable is open to question. That the cables so far do not come up to the Pentagon Papers, I would most likely have, if I were Assange, to conclude "forget it" as it dilutes the power of the leaking process. At the same time, it does not rise to the level of wartime espionage, imo, anyway.

I also agree that his solution was nowhere near the best, but lacking any other, it is a start. But take my opinion here with a grain of salt as I am not privy to the kind of info from which I COULD make an informed decision. I am, therefore like most people posting about such matters. Most, but not all, obviously!

It is not essential that all political discourse be consistent and unhyprocritical, there is enough hypocrisy to go around the entire political spectrum, but there really seems to be a major disjunction on the Right when it comes to the topic of "Our American Freedoms". Whether it is the so called "Tea Party" or whether it is just the usual run of the mill Right Wing I keep hearing about how the "government" (read the democrats and Obama) are chipping away at Our American Freedoms and they are rallying the troops to defend the "constitution" etc etc. But they seem to have no problem with accepting that the same government that they scorn so much is wire tapping illegally, torturing prisoners, abriging freedom of speech and generally making a mockery of the very things we claim to be fighting to perserve. Is it only the "right" to have guns or the "right" to own property that they care about. I am assuming if the government tryied to stop Glen Beck or Sarah Palin from yammering away they would defend "free speech" then but they do not seem to care if it is speech they disagree with. Do not claim to support Liberty and then give aid and support to the very people who are bent on destroying liberty for the sole reason that you do not agree with the people being persecuted. You might be next.

Sounds like we agree on most of it. The sticky question is who gets to decide "is this big enough that people have to know?" And of course, everyone would define that differently.

Wikileaks has leaked some stuff earlier, regarding the Iraq war that was more pressing, I thought. Maybe they just need to filter better. Also their threat to release a "thermonuclear bomb" of leaks if anyone comes after them is blackmail, and sounds a lot like what a terrorist would say, in my opinion.

Yes, we did have one brave Senator then, Mike Gravel, who ended up weeping as he read the Pentagon papers into the record. A compelling story about how that came about.

That brave Senator came back and ran for President in 2008.
What was the problem with the "know it alls" in our country - as that Senator was sidelined and marginalized? Gravel was too old and wise? Telling truth, advocating real change for people to be in power as I recall a national petition idea he advocated for. Heavens couldn't have that now, could we? So people generally fell for the PR'd young movie star type, chanting "yes we can" with hope and change dangling in the air!

Will add, c h a n g e dangling in the air until hitting ground now, what will the smug ones think now that they dished off a true hero and leader, Senator Mike Gravel?

In my last link, the part about the Iraq war was discussed and the specific video displayed. I didn't see much connection to the current leaks.

The thinly veiled, if at that, blackmail is way beyond the beyond. What is his goal, self immolation?

their threat to release a "thermonuclear bomb" of leaks if anyone comes after them is blackmail, and sounds a lot like what a terrorist would say, in my opinion.

So now you air the fed's dirty laundry and you're a terrorist? Sounds like you are channeling Bush there for a second.

Reread what I wrote Jon.

I, too, am glad you linked this, Jack.
The thread died off abrubtly, sooner than I expected.

Whatever remnant or straggler has further interest, there is an especially comprehensive view of the topic -- something beyond 'espionage' and 'treason' pigeonholes, looking at authoritarianism or international relations as evolving phenomena -- and quite a thread full of comments, here.

And that link is recommended by being one of the nine blog finalists for the 3QuarksDaily Politics Prize 2010, compiled and judged here.

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