Watching officials of the Empire, their allies and other public figures react to Julian Assange and Wikileaks this past few weeks has been like watching an old Keystone Kops episode without all the hilarity.
While Sarah Palin recommended we hunt down Assange with the same fervor we seek al Qaida and the Taliban, Democratic strategist and commentator Bob Beckel recommended a different tack: “We’ve got special ops forces. A dead man can’t leak stuff. … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
Senator Joe Lieberman pontificated that, “The recent dissemination by Wikileaks of thousands of State Department cables and other documents is just the latest example of how our national security interests, the interests of our allies, and the safety of government employees and countless other individuals are jeopardized by the illegal release of classified and sensitive information,” Then, with two other senators, he wrote the SHIELD Act. Since Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution forbids Congress to write ex post facto laws, Wikileaks and Assange cannot actually be prosecuted under this act for anything they’ve published, but it sure could put a crimp in any future attempts by journalists to shine a light on the Empire’s dirty laundry – despite the 1st Amendment prohibition that Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.
In the meantime, U.S. Rep. Peter King, who called WikiLeaks a “foreign terrorist organization” that “posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States,” wrote presented a House version of the SHIELD Act.
Do these legislators ever read the Constitution they swore to “support and defend”?
During this same time, as I mentioned last week, pressure was put on Amazon, EveryDOS, Paypal and certain credit card companies as “good corporate citizens”, to boot Wikileaks off their servers and shut down donations to the group.
As if that wasn’t enough, the government banned a couple of million employees from downloading or reading wikileak cables on their work computers because, though they were available on newspaper websites as well as WikiLeaks, they officially remain classified. And Columbia University’s Office of Careers Services sent out an email warning students that they risk future job prospects if they download any of the material – although they later rescinded the warning.
While all this went on, Pfc. Bradley Manning, the young man who has been charged with leaking the documents, has been sitting in solitary confinement, in circumstances tantamount to torture in many countries, for seven months without a trial. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/12/14/manning This, even though according to the U.S. Armed Forces Rules for Courts-Martial, Manning is entitled to a trial within 120 days after having been restrained. Although, Since arraignment constitutes fulfillment of this “speedy trial” thing, I suppose the Army could now hold him in solitary indefinitely, or at least until he says what they want to hear.
For, as Charlie Savage writes this week in a NY Times article, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/16/world/16wiki.html?_r=1&emc=na “Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.”
He also states that, “Still, prosecutors would most likely need more than a chat transcript laying out such claims to implicate Mr. Assange, Professor Richman said. Even if prosecutors could prove that it was Private Manning writing the messages to Mr. Lamo, a court might deem the whole discussion as inadmissible hearsay evidence.
“Prosecutors could overcome that hurdle if they obtain other evidence about any early contacts — especially if they could persuade Private Manning to testify against Mr. Assange. But two members of a support network set up to raise money for his legal defense, Jeff Paterson and David House, said Private Manning had declined to cooperate with investigators since his arrest in May. “
And, in other news this week, while the Empire was defending its right not to have its dirty laundry exposed to the public, Homeland Security has come up with this little gem: http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/12/12/homeland-security-and-tsa-fear-paranoia-at-a-walmart-and-airport-near-you/ “The Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) has just expanded a campaign that you will not be able to avoid if you shop at Walmart, ride the subway in New-York or Washington DC, and go to a big sporting event. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, is lending her voice to this “Big Brother” (Big Sister) assault on US citizens’ peace of mind during what is supposed to be the relaxing time of the holidays season.
“The campaign is called:”If You See Something, Say Something” and the nationwide expansion was announced by Napolitano last Wednesday. It is, as the name indicate, an open invitation for people to spy on each others, and to become unpaid informants for the federal government by reporting any “suspicious activities”.”
There have, of course, been voices of reason in all this: Ron Paul’s speech on the floor of the House of Representatives and the questions he raised there. http://jonathanturley.org/2010/12/11/ron-paul-speaks-about-wikileaks-on-the-floor-of-the-house/
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell, joined a group of former government officials in a letter of support for Assange, writing, “WikiLeaks has teased the genie of transparency out of a very opaque bottle, and powerful forces in America, who thrive on secrecy, are trying desperately to stuff the genie back in.” /pundits_openly_calling_for_wikileaks_founder%27s_death_have_crossed_a_very_dangerous_line?page=entire
Even as the President’s Review declared the Afghan War “on track”, Daniel Ellsberg, who has spoken out on behalf of both Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, was one of 131 protesters arrested Thursday along with two Nobel prize winners, Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Chris Hedges, ex-CIA analyst and peak oil writer, Ray McGovern while speaking out against the war in Afghanistan and on behalf of Assange and Wikileaks. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/12/16/132119597/daniel-ellsberg-among-anti-war-protesters-arrested-at-the-white-house.
And faculty and officers at the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism wrote and signed a letter to President Obama and Attorney General Holder, stating that, that “while we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks’ methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment” and that “as a historical matter, government overreaction to publication of leaked material in the press has always been more damaging to American democracy than the leaks themselves.” http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/romenesko/110885/columbia-j-school-staff-wikileaks-prosecution-sets-dangerous-precedent/
Well, I don’t know how you feel about all this. As for me, it’s one thing to have defenders of the Empire bloviating about “worse than terrorism” and illegally shooting the “son of a bitch”, Senate and House members writing unconstitutional legislation, government departments banning workers from reading Wikileaks documents on work computers, universities warning students about reading them on their computers and the military holding an American citizen in solitary confinement for seven months without being convicted of a crime.
It’s quite another to have the Department of Homeland Security unleash hoards of hapless Walmart shoppers to spy on each other and the rest of us. When that happens, you might as well stick a fork in democracy; it’s done. The Empire has officially and dangerously gone bonkers.