Bewildering Array of Choices for any American Voters Who Think the First Amendment might be Applicable to Wikileaks

Quote-mining by Richard Smith

Conservative Republican Mitch McConnell (Googling +”Mitch McConnell” +Assange, 415,000 hits) takes a Republican conservative position:

I think the man is a high-tech terrorist.

Democrat Joe Biden (Googling +”Joe Biden” +Assange, 929,000 hits) initially finesses the principle question, on 18th December:

I don’t think there’s any substantive damage.

…but just after that statement is issued, it seems that someone gives Democrat Joe Biden a good talking-to, and he starts to sidle towards the Republican conservative position, getting just over half way there, by 19th December:

Asked if he saw Assange as closer to a hi-tech terrorist than the whistleblower who released the Pentagon papers in the 1970s, which disclosed the lie on which US involvement in Vietnam was based, Biden replied: “I would argue it is closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers. But, look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world.

“He’s made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends. For example, in my meetings – you know I meet with most of these world leaders – there is a desire now to meet with me alone, rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome – so it has done damage.”

Tea Partier and libertarian Sarah Palin (Googling +”Sarah Palin” +Assange, 10,700,000 hits) takes a Republican conservative position:

“His [Assange’s] 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?”

“First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop WikiLeaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months?” she wrote.

Assange is not a ‘journalist’ any more than the ‘editor’ of al-Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a ‘journalist’,” said Palin. “He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.

Fox News Leftist Bob Beckel (Googling +”Bob Beckel” +Assange, 45,800 hits) takes a Republican conservative position, spelling out what “Assange is a terrorist” and “pursuing with urgency” really mean, if you couldn’t work it out:

“A dead man can’t leak stuff,” Beckel said. “This guy’s a traitor, he’s treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I’m not for the death penalty, so…there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”

Libertarian Ron Paul (Googling +”Ron Paul” +Assange, 1,320,000 hits) takes a libertarian position:

Number 1: Do the America People deserve know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

Number 2: Could a larger question be: how can an army private access so much secret information?

Number 3: Why is the hostility directed at Assange, the publisher, and not at our government’s failure to protect classified information?

Number 4: Are we getting our money’s worth of the 80 Billion dollars per year spent on intelligence gathering?

Number 5: Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war, or Wikileaks revelations, or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

Number 6: If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the first amendment and the independence of the internet?

Number 7: Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

Number 8: Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death and corruption?

Number 9: Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?

Well, I am not a local, so none of this makes any sense to me. Set me straight in the comments, ladies and gentlemen:

  • Is the First Amendment relevant to Wikileaks?
  • If so, which political party is the best custodian of it?
  • What, if anything, do you make of the Google counts?
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  1. Conscience of a conservative

    Wikileaks doesn’t feel all that different from the Pentagon Papers to me. Government always prefers limited disclosure and argues dire consequences or national security(just look at the Fed and Tarp and how long that took and no bank failures resulted from the release) The information released was not “Top Secret” but a lesser category and frankly most of what’s been discussed was frequently talked about on public affairs shows.

    1. Indigenous Centurion

      most of what’s been discussed was frequently talked about on

      ~~Conscience of a conservative~

      Is assAnge l’ange bleu? A yellow journalist? Neither yellow nor blue? Has he made an ass of our government?

      No! We have known for the past two centuries from their very lips that they were a gang of crooks. Tell me something! Did General U S Grant once say that what we did to Mexicans was “wicked”? Was that statement leaked to the public by yellow journalist after war against Mexico? No! It was in one of the president’s speeches.

      Did we know that war against Viet Nam was also wicked? Did we think it was a war against communism? If, then why Chinese were also invading VC? Were we there as excess riffraff to give US Economy a breather? Sent there just to get us out of town? Did Chinese send their riffraff there for same reason? Who knows? One thing for sure, “Today’s newsprint companies are making a fortune on the assAnge affair.” What’s profit for General Bull Moose is good for the USA.

      The big question here is less the profit but more the question, “did the Pope imply that assAnge should do it without a rubber?”.

      Tune into tomorrow’s episode

    2. sgt_doom

      So Joey bin Biden, and his fave, Karl Rove, don’t like Wikileaks.

      Also, that Swedish globalist/bankster think tank, the Timbro Institute, has unleashed its attack dogs on Assange (Moynihan) and his supporters as well.

      The Timbro Institute awhile back sponsored Karl Rove’s trip to Sweden to speak to them. They love Rove!

      And think that says it all…..

      “The event with Karl Rove was wonderful. We were delighted to have him come all the way to Sweden to speak for us. We all had such a great time and his speech was just terrific.” – TIMBRO

  2. attempter

    1. By any objective measure, Assange is an investigative journalist. He has done all the things an investigative journalist does, except actually clothe the exposed facts in words. He says he simply presents the facts, that he’s a real version of the Fox news slogan “we report, you decide”. (I didn’t see him quote that; I added that myself.)

    So while one could say he’s not as good a reporter as a skilled citizen activist reporter who expertly distills the truth from the raw information and presents it to the people, he’s infinitely better than almost all the phony “journalists” of today who see their job as to suppress the truth and distort and lie in the interests of organized crime.

    So that right there makes him far more of a journalist than almost anyone going. As Greenwald has described, Assange has done nothing which the NYT etc. doesn’t do all the time.

    The only difference is that Assange restitutes the people’s information, the people’s property, directly back to us, while the NYT helps steal it from us by only trickling it back down in an anti-public interest way.

    Clearly Assange’s only crime in the eyes of power is that he flouts their criminal anti-authority and insists on the absolute authority of the people to be the judge of our own public information.

    And for those who still want to believe in state secrets privileges, Assange has proven how outrageously this “privilege” is abused. Without exception, every single leak has been of something which should never have been classified in the first place. So even if one wants to believe in such a privilege in principle, Assange has proven that this government can’t be trusted with it.

    Why not just take the opportunity to decide that no government has any such “privilege” in the first place? The information is public property, and it’s clear that nobody is better qualified to assess it than we the people.

    So Hell Yes, the 1st Amendment applies.

    2. Neither. Both parties are nothing but organized crime. Nothing more, nothing less. The sooner a critical mass of Americans absolutely rejects both parties once and for all, the sooner we’ll redeem our country.

    1. lambert strether

      The real question isn’t whether the First Amendment applies to Assange.

      Isn’t the real question whether the First Amendment applies to Big Media?

      Surely, for an originalist at least, “the press” as currently constituted is nothing at all like the press of the framer’s day, starting from their existence as artificial persons, and moving on to its claims of intellectual property, its monopoly nature, its role as an arm of the State, and not a check on it, and so forth.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Quite right, lambert s. At the time the constitution was adopted, ‘the press’ consisted of sole proprietorships and a few partnerships. The very few corporations in existence in the late 18th century (none in the media) were chartered by express permission of the state legislatures.

        Thus, the near-absolute First Amendment right to free speech was directed to individual persons.

        There may be a place for corporate free speech too. But the First Amendment shouldn’t be assumed (as the courts have erroneously done) to automatically and fully apply to the likes of News Corp., New York Times Corp., Washington Post Corp., and the like. These corporate entities exist by dint of legislative fiat, and so do whatever rights of speech they may possess.

        Practically speaking, the corpgov media has made common cause with the political elite in order to preserve its exorbitant and unmerited privilege.

        Bloggers are the best contemporary analogue to the press described and protected by the First Amendment. Whereas the corpgov media is an illegitimate interloper; an impersonal wolf in citizen’s clothing.

      2. William C

        Interesting idea, the media as an arm of the state. Here in the UK I increasingly feel it is the other way round. Perhaps that is the next stage?

        1. lambert strether

          I should say “an arm of.” I should say “indistinguishable from.” Glenn Greenwald:

          I’ve written about this before, but what’s most remarkable is how — as always — leading media figures and government officials are completely indistinguishable in what they think, say and do with regard to these controversies; that’s why Burns and Rubin clung together so closely throughout the segment, because there is no real distinction between most of these establishment reporters and the government; the former serve the latter.

        2. lambert strether

          I should say “an arm of.” I should say “indistinguishable from.” Glenn Greenwald:

          I’ve written about this before, but what’s most remarkable is how — as always — leading media figures and government officials are completely indistinguishable in what they think, say and do with regard to these controversies; that’s why Burns and Rubin clung together so closely throughout the segment, because there is no real distinction between most of these establishment reporters and the government; the former serve the latter.

        3. Conscience of a conservative

          The media in our country is largely a captured entity. The government dangles out front row seats at press conferences and exclusive but carefully edited interviews to any media outlet that plays by their rules. The “hard hitting” 60 minutes Bernanke piece the other week a nice example.

    2. Conscience of a conservative

      Both Ellsberg and Assange went through established Newspapers. Ellsberg has gone on record defending Assange.

    3. Glen

      I have no problems with Wikileaks. It deserves First Amendment protection.

      What continues to worry me is how obviously the MSM is now the “government sanctioned” news media. Aside from efforts like Wikileaks, the bulk of the MSM is pretty much little more than Pravda – state approved propaganda.

  3. attempter

    I forgot to mention: Bradley Manning did nothing but what well-placed officials do every day – leak to the press. But of course “authorized” leaks, i.e. leaks against the public interest, are fine.

    It’s only when someone leaks in the true spirit of what are supposed to be American values of democracy, freedom, and benevolence that he becomes a “criminal” in the eyes of the system.

    1. Conscience of a conservative

      My take is that Bradley Manning as an officer has less rights than the average citizen in this regard. Army officers cannot be forwarding information at whim.
      Whe the Fed or Congress “leak” information they are doing something entirely different(and I’m not defending that practice) which is sending out “trail balloons” or engaging in well “politics”.

        1. Conscience of a conservative

          Bradley E. Manning (born December 17, 1987) is a United States Army soldier who was charged in July 2010 with the unauthorized disclosure of U.S. classified information. He has been held in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, since May 2010 and is expected to face a court-martial in the spring of 2011.[2]


          1. sgt_doom

            This moron, conscience of a conservative, even frigging posts a link to disprove what he keeps erroneously stating.

            How more frigging retarded can a clown get?

  4. robnoah

    ‘Revelations’ is the right word since the word ‘leaks’ is used to smoke-screen the failure of security measures between Governments, banks and many higher-ups.. Maybe the word for the whole business is ‘redirect tactics’ or ‘scrapegoat’!

  5. skippy

    Ummm paycheck from present or future employers, or facts and critical thinking…damn that’s a tough one Richard…can you give me a clue?

    Skippy…can some one turn off the shower…it’s get a bit wet down here.

  6. brian t

    What does USA law have to do with any of this? Wikileaks is not established in the USA in any sense. Assange is Australian, a citizen of a “friendly” nation. McConnell & co. are calling Assange a terrorist in the hopes that they can justify unilaterally treating him as they do other terrorists i.e. rendition to Gitmo. But even if that was done, so what? You could kill Assange, but Wikileaks would carry on. (Like they haven’t thought of that already?)

    1. propertius

      I also find the use of the word “traitor” in conjunction with Mr. Assange to be most peculiar. A “traitor” is one who betrays his own country. Unless our adventures in empire have (unbeknownst to me) extended to the annexation of Australia, Assange cannot possibly be a “traitor”.

    2. sgt_doom

      USA federal law holds that the US government, in illegally tasking multiple supercomputers to shut down the foreign Wikileaks sites, was committing multiple crimes.

      International law holds the same.

  7. Chromex

    Here is one point I don’t see anyone in charge making. Why was this stuff classified? Was it truly because lives were in danger or was it because the government wanted it kept secret for reasons that had nothing to do with legitimate reasons for classifying material? If, so it is those officials who classified the material improperly that should be charged. Then the first amendment doesn’t even have to be drawn upon.I have read nothing in these files that I think SHOULD be classified and I am appalled at our government for doing so. However assuming proper classification, then yes the first amendment applies and neither party has the guts to be the custodian. Ron Paul comes the closest but even his position does not deconstruct this enough.

    1. sgt_doom

      It was classified as it clearly and criminally implicates members of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, who should now have been arrested and facing trial.

      Unforunately, as Hillary the sleaze Clinton has failed to comprehend, there is no rule of law in Amerika!

  8. Ina Deaver

    The info wasn’t here, Assange wasn’t here, he’s not a U.S. citizen: we have plenty of laws that reach out of our jurisdiction to apply our laws to people that have absolutely no contact with the U.S., and I have no doubt that they could be used here to argue that the U.S. would have jurisdiction of Assange for some sort of crime involving the release of classified information (remember that federal crimes tend towards the technical and bloodless). The First Amendment would likely be of no benefit to him, because at this point we’ve got a long history of claiming that we can reach extra-jurisdictionally to reach behavior with our criminal laws, but that the rights that would avail an American charged with those crimes do not apply to ferners. You can thank our Supreme Court for that piece of insanity.

    1. Parvaneh Ferhad

      I know that this is the official line of argument, but this is odd thing to argue for a nation that purports to champion human rights all around the world.
      It’s quite revealing, in fact. It reveals what a joke and lie the US really is. The hypocrites in Washington don’t even believe the stuff about human rights they are preaching to the world.

      If they think the US Constitution does not apply abroad, they may technically be right, but they will surely have to concede that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does. Which, among other things, guarantee the freedom of speech.

      A civilised nation and signatory of said Declaration the US just cannot go about and kill, or eliminate in any other way, people they consider to be nuissance to them.
      This puts the US squarely outside international law and values.

      1. DumpTheBankInfoJulian

        I live in this hypocritical part of the world. We know our government is about the biggest fuck up there is, but we thought we were “voting for change.” Instead, we got corrupt Chicago politician….our bad.

        Can you accept our apologies?

        I believe Assange and Anonymous leaks/hack attacks are the only thing that will keep people honest myself. Show the liars and thieves for who they are!

  9. D

    Outside of an actual war (where combatant lives may be at stake), secrecy is almost always employed in the service of shaping domestic consumption and thought. Which is another way of saying it is used to further the goals, status and fortunes of those in power. Information is power – control of the former is helpful in maintaining the latter.

    1. Fair Economist

      To back this idea up, there has been a lot of flack directed at the NYT and other mainstream media for publishing this information. Since the information is publicly available and widely disseminated, publication by the NYT only serves to let the American people know what’s already known by everybody else. Apparently informing the American people is what really disturbs the Powers That Be.

  10. William Beyer

    I’m with Ron Paul on this one. Pursuing Assange is just more theater to distract us all from the ongoing frauds of the markets.

    1. Brian

      I’m curious how any of these idiots, excluding Ron Paul of course (the man has his flaws, but he’s the only honest person in DC and I’ll vote for him in a heartbeat in 2012 if he runs), can possibly call Assange a terrorist with a straight face while at the same time completely ignoring the leaked document linking BP and the 2007 $900MM oil-Locherbie BOMBER release swap. Being a Syracuse alumni, that document makes me sick.

      Just for fun I reread Catch-22 last month to refresh myself of how much of a joke this whole episode is.

  11. MGKurilla

    Here’s the best way to sum up Wikileaks:

    Daniel Ellsberg / Pentagon Papers / NYTimes
    Bradley Manning / Stae Dept cables / Wikileaks

    In the case of the first, the Supreme Court ruled, the government couldn’t prevent the NYTimes from publishing and more importantly, that the NYTimes was not committing a crime by publishing. Ron Paul is the most sensible mind on this matter.

    1. Conscience of a conservative

      The other difference is that Wikileaks is against Democrats and the Pentagon Papers targeted Republicans.

      1. sgt_doom

        How can one commenter be sooooo consistently WRONG???

        Negative, dearie, the Pentagon Papers targeted both criminal dems and Cons, just as the Wikileaked cables incriminate both criminal dems and R-Cons.

  12. lambert strether

    When you say “which political party,” you assume there are two. In fact, the legacy parties form a single entity, no matter what they might present to the rubes. That there’s no real distinction between what McConnell says, and what Biden says, shows this clearly.

  13. za

    I like RP’s take on this, too. So, the State Department has never heard of using email encryption, and there’s no clearance distinction between “Qadafi hangs with a hot blond we think may be his ho-bag” and “The US is secretly at war in Yemen”?

    Not to blame the victim here, but, elementary precautions, people. No one would have any sympathy for a business or personal user with such poor access control.

  14. Jim the Skeptic

    We all believe in our right to privacy. It is required to maintain our sanity and live out some semblance of a normal life. The right of the government to classify information and to safeguard it against any release to the public is an extension of the same principal.

    Information is classified for all sorts of different reasons. Does protecting the source sound familiar? How about protecting those mentioned in the document? How about encouraging a frank discussion by a pledge not to repeat it?

    In addition to those, it is imperative to safeguard the methods used to collect the information! We were listening to bin Laden’s phone calls until some idiot released that information to the press. Shortly afterwards he started giving the information to some person, who would get well away from their camp and make a call to relay the information. That method of collection was lost forever. And please spare me the self serving denials of the press, they are not criminally liable but they are guilty.

    Who should have the right to decide which information gets released to the public, our elected government, any bureaucrat of that government who gets access, the unelected press, or any one who gets possession legally or not? THE ONLY ANSWER THAT MAKES ANY SENSE IS OUR ELECTED GOVERNMENT AND IT’S NOMINESS GET TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS! That right can be abused but so can the President’s right to run the government, and when it gets abused the Congress can hold hearings to investigate or impeach.

    Private First Classes (PFCs) and Specialist Fours (Spec4s) do most of the line work in the Army. Most of them are under 21 years old. There is no way for an Army unit to do it’s work without them. Anyone who served any time in an Army intelligence unit would not have been surprised that a PFC had access to highly classified information. Anyone with access to classified information is periodically warned about the penalties for releasing that information to any unauthorized person or persons. This particular PFC will end up in prison and his crime requires solitary confinement to keep him from continuing his criminal activity.

    Having said all of that I have serious doubts about prosecuting a foreign national for releasing classified information. Why does he have any obligations to the US government? The lesson learned will be that all governments will have to suppress organizations which release information which they do not own.

    Neither political party owns this issue. Their statements are just rhetoric.

      1. Jim the Skeptic

        I am not completely satisfied that my vote is diluted by the votes of tens of millions of other voters.

        But hey I can I do about it! :^)

        1. Jim the Skeptic

          Oops. Should be:

          I am not completely satisfied since my vote is diluted by the votes of tens of millions of other voters.

          But hey, what can I do about it.

      2. Sufferin' Succotash

        That’s a real issue, though. At what point do we decide that an elected government lacks legitimacy and so has no claim on our obedience? Obviously Assange doesn’t enter the picture here because it’s not his government, but Manning certainly does. And it looks as though he made his decision about state legitimacy in the face of the oath he took when he joined up.
        It’s possible at this juncture to be agnostic as to the legitimacy of the elected US government. The problem is the more portentous one of sanctioning military indiscipline. Or does it matter finally whether we maintain any elected government, legitimate or not?

        1. Jim the Skeptic

          This PFC was an egomaniac. He leaked because his value was not being recognized!

          As to our form of government, I want an elected government over dictatorship or anarchy. An election must grant the winner the right to rule or it is meaningless. The solution to a bad government is the next election, and the hope that the electorate will learn from their mistake.

          1. Sufferin' Succotash

            I don’t know if Manning’s mental state matters a great deal.
            What seems pretty obvious is that he didn’t put a very high value on his oath or on the government which exacted that oath.

    1. PunchNRun

      Jim, you have a firm grasp of the facts. Pfc Manning is indeed subject to the Uniform Code and has sworn that he will conform to the orders of his superiors. If he indeed has stepped out of line and been instrumental in making the material available to Wikileaks is either an extraordinary act of conscience and bravery or the foolish and impulsive act of someone who did not consider the consequences. Likely it was both. Regardless, civil disobedience has long been a part of the repertoire of those who seek to make a point and raise public awareness of issues.

      The Quakers have a tradition and history of making effective use of this technique. Being bound by conscience to champion the powerless and to consider civil order and undertake only peaceful actions, the use of civil disobedience has proven one of their most effective tools. That one is prepared to suffer the consequences of one’s act adds greatly to the power of these acts, and Pfc. Manning’s testimony (testimony in this case being his acts and consequent suffering) put him squarely in this tradition, whether he knows it or not. The foolishness and blindness of the oppress is made ever more obvious by their very oppression of the one they believe caused their embarrassment, as if the issues raised will go away as soon as he signs some sort of confession.

      All that, of course, assumes that he is indeed the agent who made the material available to Wikileaks. Again, like oppressive regimes so commonly do, guilt is irrelevant so far as they are concerned. They make the case against them so very effectively.

      You rightly conclude, I am sure, that I do not agree with the your second statement. I do not have an confidence in the current powers in the US to tell the truth or act justly and fairly, to say nothing of bringing any semblance of peace and harmony to other lands. Indeed, they indict themselves by their every act.

      1. sgt_doom

        Anyone, myself included, who has ever served in the military and is therefore actually aware of the UCMJ is cognizant that Pfc Manning behaved legally, ethically, and correctly by military standards.

        He passed on “Collateral Murder” just as those who reported the My Lai Massacre behaved correctly.

        Unfortunately, there is no actual rule of law in Amerika.

  15. Dan Duncan

    1. The focus on 1st Amendment is misguided. The issue, first and foremost is whether Assange committed a crime based on a specific law(s).

    The specific laws being bandied about are The Espionage Act and/or 18 USC 641 about the receipt of stolen property.

    Consider The Espionage Act. It states: Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph…relating to the national defense, …(which) the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates…the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same…
    “Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

    If a person violated this law, that person is subject to prosecution. There is no exception for journalists.

    Did Assange violate this law? Certainly he has defenses.

    But, let’s just say he is deemed to have violated this Act. The question, then, is whether the Espionage Act is too broad. Personally, I think it is, but it would be an interesting legal battle at the Supreme Court. The Constitutional legitimacy of the Espionage Act has not received any scrutiny…and it should.

    Beyond, the Espionage Act, though, is the rule about receiving stolen property. On this count, Assange, again is not protected by virtue of being a journalist.

    For those who point to The Pentagon Papers as proof that journalists are protected on this issue, it was never formally litigated. The Court said the Nixon Administration cannot prevent the publication, but it did leave open the possibility that the Nixon Administration could pursue an action after the fact.

    These are unresolved issues that need resolution. Both the Espionage Act and 18 USC 641 prohibition on receipt of stolen property strike me as being way too broad and quite dangerous.

    That stated, the focus on 1st Amendment is premature and probably misguided.

    2. Neither Party is the better custodian of the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court is its proper and most effective custodian.

    3. As for Google counts…well, “Richard Smith + Assange” nets 256,000 hits. So…if you want to win this horse race, you could get you some hair plugs and park yourself as a blowhard 25 Term Senator and you’ll catch Biden.

    Or, you could get some signature glasses that highlight a myopic worldview…which will be further emphasized by continually uttering stupid shit on a regular basis…so that you’ll become a troubling obsession of Vanity Fair, Maureen Dowd and the Media Left…and you’ll catch good ole Sarah Palin.

    1. MGKurilla

      If the Espionage Act were ever to be applied the the media, then you can kiss a free press goodbye and hello Germany 1933.

      1. sgt_doom

        If the Espionage Act, and the Trading with the Enemies Act, were truly upheld, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and Rove would have been dangling at the end of a noose a long time back….

  16. Jackrabbit

    The response to Weakileaks has really been bungled. First, the Administration ignored the organization, then they allowed themselves to be baited into over reacting.

    In the movie “Clear and Present Danger” Harrison Ford advises the President: “Its no use defusing a bomb once its gone off.” If that advice had been heeded in the case of Wikileaks, we would be setting an example for the rest of the world in our tolerance for a free press and instead of compounding the embarrassment with talk of assassination and barring government employees from reading material that no one in their right mind can say is “secret” any longer.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Completely agree.
      The reaction has been unbelievably bungled, IMVHO.
      Banning military and government computers from viewing Wikileaks looks like juvenile petulance in the era of the Internet.

    2. moose

      Jackrabbit, you are correct about the bungling of the administration in handling their reaction to the leaks. Yes, at first it was no big deal (and wasn’t earlier in the fall when Wikileaks revealed Afghanistan docs), and then they got “baited” into overreacting.

      What few are looking at is what happened between their initial non-reaction and their subsequent overreaction? What happened was that Assange announced plans to publish in January a cache of email, etc. from a major FINANCIAL institution (Bank of America)- which could cause the American public to get into an uproar again over bailouts, lack of financial regs, etc. There are even rumors that the next cache will be embarrassing to the SEC and potentially NY Fed under Timmy Geithner and the extent to which the regulators deliberately turned a blind eye to the shenanigans.

      Oh, so…yeah, right, let’s get the memo out to call Assange a “high-tech terrorist”. Over and over call him a terrorist. Have the Swedes get Interpol involved over a burst condom. Get the UK to pin him down. Assange is a felon in the war on terror and must be stopped….right!
      This has much more to do with the financial / regulator/ extend and pretend model than it does with espionage. Distract the public, look over here at us waving the words of terrorism …don’t mind that man behind the curtain over there.

  17. Marukun

    Sorry this is off topic but Pro Publica has a potentially very interesting story that implies that essentially one group of Merrill lynch traders essentially used their bonus pool to motivate another less influential and less profitable group in the firm to take on the duff aaa rated positions in the CDOs they created – including magetar deals

    If this is true I think this would be dynamite. I think you could never get a better example of how misaligned incentives give rise to fraud on the shareholder (and taxpayer for that matter).

    Uveal this sounds just up your street – I am sure they need the help of someone as knowledgeable and professional as yourself to get the story a proper airing!

    1. sgt_doom

      that’s trivial by comparison in realizing that BankofAmerica has the controlling interest in BlackRock, which has the controlling interest in Monsanto.

      1. psychohistorian

        So who owns controlling interest in Bank of America?

        What do you mean that is secret? Why don’t we get to know who the uber rich are? Do they have something to fear? And why would that be?

        We wouldn’t want them to get a twitch looking back over their shoulder, would we?

  18. NYT reader

    But wasn’t it the NYT that actually published the stuff…and redacted it with the help of the state department? Shouldn’t we be trying the male members of the Sulzberger clan for high treason?

  19. Paul Tioxon

    This is a corollary to the VP Dick Cheney “Fair Game Doctrine” where people who oppose your stated hegemonic war policies can be destroyed, even if they work for the intelligence/military apparatus that executes your stated policies. See Valerie Plame. This can be seen as a counter move against the Hawks, and the legacy of the Bush/Cheney war, which of course is an obscene and unspeakable stain upon the Republic. A Democracy that votes for war, with no real defendable interest, other than the profit of the immediate office holders who pull the trigger for the Iraqi invasion. You did not honestly think that they would skate off into the sunset, and not have their legacy exposed, their policies discredited and their armies withdrawn? Wikileaks is a protected under the First Amendment with a clear judicial precedent set under the Daniel Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers case. It will only be protected as far as NC and others howl and rage against the government prosecution of Wikileaks being a publisher.

    1. PeterB

      And of course, Cheney has never been prosecuted for revealing Valerie Plame as a petty act of political revenge. A genuine traitor to the U.S. if ever there was one.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Which partly brings me back to the 3 questions posed by the post:

        Is the First Amendment relevant to Wikileaks?
        If so, which political party is the best custodian of it?
        What, if anything, do you make of the Google counts?

        1. The Sarah Palins and McConnell’s have never shown the least comprehension of the First Amendment. Nor has Cheney. Why is libertarian Ron Paul the one seeing the issues, and their possible relevance to the First Amendment, most clearly?

        2. Neither political party is custodian of the First Amendment at present; the GOP because they’ve been overtaken by ideologues, and by traitors (see also: Cheney, Richard). The Dems because they caved to the GOP for too many years, acting as enablers to the Iraq invasion and the financial disaster it proved to be (for the US, although not for the contractors).

        3. The Google stats are always worth keeping an eye on, but these are too raw for me to get a more clear picture. What were the timeline trends? Were there clusters of ISP’s, or some kind of alogo that was bumping up the Palin stats? (I’d be willing to bet anyone around here that someone is hacking those numbers to inflate Palin’s so-called significance.)

        So just for chuckles, I went on over to Google’s “Insights for Search” and entered Palin + Wikileaks + Biden + ‘Ron Paul’. Which is too much info, but still… the timeline is pretty interesting:'Ron%20Paul'&geo=US&date=1%2F2010%2012m&cmpt=q

        And if you repeat that search with the following more narrow trends, it’s interesting to see the timeline changes:
        Wikileaks + ‘Ron Paul’: not much quoting him earlier in the year
        Wikileaks + Biden: huge jumps in March and Nov-Dec, which means he’s all defense
        Wikileaks + Palin: huge jumps map to the periods of Wikileaks releases, suggesting that she’s an opportunist who can’t look beyond the end of her nose, and/or is being fed info by whoever is cheesed regarding Wikileaks.

        But unfortunately, the graphs at Google’s “Insights” make it a little hard to really see the magnitude of hits that are listed in the post; its best at identifying the moments in time when those search terms got a lot more visibility. But then, probably no one was very interested in what Ron Paul thought of Wikileaks back in July 2010.

        So the Google stats are significant, but I think the raw numbers are too incomplete to provide the kind of understanding that would be interesting to suss out.

        1. Paul Tioxon

          Google counts come under my general rubric of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics for the physical sciences, and all others, with the exception of marketers should back off of coming to anything useful in terms of comprehension. These counts are at best the rudimentary contributing data on the long haul to information.

          Of course Wikeleaks pertains to the 1st A. They were published in the jurisdiction of the USA in the NY Times. See l’affaire Ellsberg. If Julian expected to be badass radical, he knows he is a dead man walking, the problem is who will cause the most pain to whom? If you strike at the king, do not wound, strike to kill. Perhaps the BofA leaks will be our Pecora moment. He keeps the rage alive. All of this lancing of the boil of putrid corruption is reflecting to pre Obama. Who does it serve the best? Who ever uses it to their advantage the best. Obama, in comparison looks better and better. We now have the leisure to make history with the raw feed from Wikileaks, to bury and discredit the past, which is nothing more than prologue. Hope and Change is the brand. The republicans can only serve up treason trials, a thin gruel of patriotism, flag waving and treasures in heaven along with more pie in the sky. People are out of work, kids are idle and not going to college in the numbers they should be. There are a millions failed entrepreneurs, day traders, civil servants pilloried for salaries and benefits, and idle kids with computers and mad hack skills, roaming the streets and the info high way to hell, resentment boils, anger fires up sniffers, worms, packet rogues without portfolio, a million failed Zuckermans with no place to go but the chaos. 157 failed banks as of 12/17/10. Outstanding FDIC insured deposits, $5.4Trillion. 860 problem banks, representing what % of that 5.4? HALF! This event is larger than the media can measure, what is the unit of analysis of this discontinuity? Wikeleaks, contributing but critical component. There is plenty of plain old vanilla hell to pay right here in the USA.

  20. Jonathan Bernstein

    I’m with MGKurilla on this one; you’re right that the Supreme Court said that the First Amendment allowed NYT to publish the Pentagon Papers, and the Wikileaks material as well.

    Furthermore: if publishing the material was legal, then State Department personnel should be allowed to READ it. Even though Department policy forbids them from reading such things on their Department — or home — computers. Of course if diplomats from other countries have read the material and our own diplomats have not, then our own people are left, well, underinformed.

  21. mock turtle

    robert novak reported in the washinton post the identity of a covert cia agent and the cover company she worked for, based on information received from the bush administration which failed or refused to investigate an act of treason

    and then the vice presidents lead guy in the entire affair scooter libby obstructed the justice departments investigations

    any questions?

    1. Externality

      And for some reason, the politically connected State Department official who actually leaked the information, Richard Armitage, was never indicted or prosecuted.

      Not only did he confess to the FBI, he even admitted his role on CBS News.

      From Newsweek:

      The next day, a team of FBI agents and Justice prosecutors investigating the leak questioned the deputy secretary. Armitage acknowledged that he had passed along to Novak information contained in a classified State Department memo: that Wilson’s wife worked on weapons-of-mass-destruction issues at the CIA…

      “Armitage On CIA Leak: ‘I Screwed Up’
      CBS Exclusive: Interview With Man Who ‘Outed’ CIA Agent Valerie Plame”

  22. thedukeofurl

    It is interesting that the Espionage Act and the UK Official Secrets Act are similar. In the latter, if you tell person A what you had for lunch who then tells person B, both you and person A are guilty of violating the act. It is nonsense, but no one who can has any desire to change it.

    1. Dirk

      But is Ron Paul the only one in Congress who thinks like this? Are there more but they are willing for him to stand alone because he, as well established in his district, is not at risk from the machines of both parties? If so or not, why is that? Do you know? I ask because it bothers me that his is the only sensible voice in Congress on this matter that I’ve heard.

  23. Norman

    Has anybody considered that all this exposure is nothing more than a shake out of the State Department? Or, how did one person, Manning, get hold of all this stuff without the snoops getting wind of it? Is Manning being the sacrificial lamb, like the ones at Abu Ghraib? Might this also be deliberate to embarrass “O”? If the calls for Mr. Assange’s head as a terrorist, then so too the members of the Government & those outside of Government are terrorists & traitors, so shouldn’t their heads be give the same treatment they are clamoring for Mr Assange? One other thing, who said Manning gave over these latest leaks? Clean out the Government.

  24. sherparick

    Its not just leaders, but the followers. A good 40% to 45% of the American people are so full of fear, resentment, and anger that they would not only practice a shoot on sight policy with Mr. Assange, but would indiscriminately torture and shoot without trial anyone picked up in a “terrorist” dragnet, Muslims in general, and to anyone crossing our borders from Mexico and points south entering the country without proper papers, including pregnant women, infants and children (that these same people also violently claim they are pro-life and that every conceived embryo must be borne to birth apparently does not register any incongruity. Apparently if the fetus dies because the mother is murdered, that does not count as anti-life. Only if the woman survives does it become abortion). What we saw for a few weeks, propagated by our worst media and most demagogic politicians was the formation of a lynch mob.

    Biden, being the politician, and feeling the wind at his back, bent.

    And so as a people, in times of trouble and stress, we see that we are not much different our ancestors.

  25. john bougearel


    The 1st Amendment is not relevant to either Wikileaks or the American people. It is merely a carefully preserved relic of the US Constitution. So too is the 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms but a carefully preserved relic of the US Constitution.

    The entire US Constitution is but a carefully preserved relic, a symbol of what the Republic of America stand for. But this symbol of what the Republic of America stands for has been trampled and ridden roughshod by politicians over the past 100 years every time there was a crisis.

    The US Constitution is merely a symbol of values that Americans used to hold dear.

    The military oath of allegiance, by which military officers are sworn to uphold and protect the US Constitution is riddled with conflicts of interest and requires the officers to serve several masters simultaneously, reads as follows:

    “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).”

    The USA Patriot Act of 2001 was the final “coup de grace” to the once-living document known as the US Constitution. From Wikipedia:

    “The title of the Act is a contrived three letter initialism (USA) preceding a seven letter acronym (PATRIOT), which in combination stand for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. The Act dramatically…broadened the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act’s expanded law enforcement powers can be applied.

    “Opponents of the law have criticized its authorization of indefinite detentions of immigrants; searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order; and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records. Since its passage, several legal challenges have been brought against the act, and Federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional.

    “The USA PATRIOT Act has generated a great deal of controversy since its enactment. Opponents of the Act have been quite vocal in asserting that it was passed opportunistically after the September 11 attacks, believing there to have been little debate. They view the Act as one that was hurried through the Senate with little change before it was passed…Some believe the USA PATRIOT Act is too broad: it applies to terrorist, suspected terrorist, and law abiding citizens.”

    Assange is being branded rightly or wrongly as a “hi-tech terrorist” and “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” by politicians.

    The news media is portraying Assange as “the guy’s a traitor.”

    Politicians, when sworn into office, likewise swear an oath of allegiance to protect the US constitution. If they were viewed Assange’s activity as legal under the 1st Amendment, they would not be relabeling him a traitor.

    So Richard, to answer your 2nd question, which party, the Dems or GOP, is the best custodian of the 1st Amendment, the answer is neither party is a custodian of the 1st amendment, they are custodians of the USA Patriot Act. That is the decree, the law, the new master they serve.

    The “Patriot Act” falls into the same category as thousands of Adolf Hitler’s decrees, specifically the Decree of 1933 and the Enabling Act.

    From Wiki again:

    The Decrees of 1933
    (a) The February 28 Decree.

    “One of the most repressive acts of the new Nazi government, this one allowed for the suspension of civil liberties in the wake of the false crisis created by the Nazis as a result of the fire that gutted the Reichstag (parliament) building on the previous day. Without firm evidence, it was put about that it had been set by the Communists as the opening act in the attempt to overthrow the state. The president was persuaded that the state was in danger and, hence, that the emergency measures embodied in the decree were necessary. Even though under Art. 48 of the constitution, the decree would have been withdrawn once the so-called emergency had passed, any hope of this happening was prevented by the establishment of Hitler’s dictatorship following the Enabling Act (see below). It was in fact never withdrawn and remained until the end as an instrument of Nazi terror against ordinary citizens who ran foul of the regime.

    (b) The Enabling Act

    “Although Hitler won the office of German chancellor in legal fashion (the Nazis, after all, were the largest group in the Reichstag or lower house of parliament)), he was, of course, determined to rule Germany without the restraint of a democratically elected parliament. For this to happen he had to set aside the guarantees of civil rights and democratic procedures established by the Weimar Constitution…the “Enabling Act” gave Hitler approval of legislation enabling him to exercise dictatorial rule for four years, leaving the Nazis free to suborn Germany’s hitherto free institutions and subordinate both state and people to the ideological demands of the new regime…The Act was renewed in 1937 and persisted until the collapse of Germany in 1945.

    The official name of the Enabling legislation was “Law for the Removal of the Distress of People and Reich.”

    What the Enabling Act stood for is not a far cry from what the the USA Patriot Act stands for today: “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”

    What a charmed world we find ourselves living in…

    1. Dirk

      John, soldiers swear an oath to defend the Constitution, as you quote above. However, are soldiers in turn protected by all of the Constitution? I ask because Manning is being held without being charged (to my knowledge) which violates habeas corpus.

    2. Jim Haygood

      To summarize John Bougearel’s point: the USA PATRIOT Act is a declaration of martial law. Wholly inconsistent with the rights guaranteed by the constitution, it in fact suspends the constitution.

      The difference between the plain-spoken 1930s and today is that back then, they called a spade a spade. Martial law was proclaimed as such. Today, unctuous politicians assure you that ‘all of your constitutional rights are protected,’ even as they are quite obviously suspended.

      Told that everything is normal — the courts still open, elections still being held — 99% of americanos sit contentedly in front of their big screen teevees, munching Doritos in the bright LED glow. Freedom ain’t free, but you can charge it on VISA!

      1. Glenn Condell

        Well said Jim, as usual. I remember you from the olden days on Mondo, with Charlie Keating and a few others wearily batting away the hasbara from Richard Witty, Eurosabra et al. We all have bigger fish to fry nowadays, eh?

        Happy New Year to ye.

  26. deeringothamnus

    The first Amendement rights of U.S. citizens have been woefully abridged. Consider the use of law suits as a business strategy. No suit is too frivolous to get into court. Law suits are a game to force a less wealthy party to settle, and fork over whatever assets, patents, equity, whatever, before a case even gets near adjudication. Gag orders are an important part of this strategy. All one needs to claim is that great harm will occur , and a judge will rubber stamp a gag order for you. Since there is no way anyone can continue in business with a prior restraint of speech, I know at least one company that is in Europe due to such tactics.

  27. Cynthia

    As Glenn Greenwald and other staunch defenders of civil liberties have pointed out (listen to link below), the Obama Administration may indeed be offering a possible plea bargain to Bradley Manning, if he agrees to testify against Julian Assange for pressuring him to release various classified documents from the Pentagon and the State Department. And since the US government has proven time and time again to be extraordinarily successful at using physical as well as mental torture to pressure detainees into making false confessions, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Obama Administration is putting Manning through the proverbial wringer in order to get him to falsely confess that Assange coerced or enticed him to download hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.

    Assuming this is true, then Obama and his judicial thugs are making plans to prosecute Assange for conspiracy rather than for espionage. And this would explain why Assange has signed a book deal worth $ 1.5 million. It goes without saying that he needs every last penny from this book deal to buy himself an OJ-style dream team of defense lawyers who can keep him from being thrown in a Supermax Dungeon and Gitmo-ized to death!

    1. KFritz

      Richard ≠ Yves.

      That aside, it is a mistake to call anyone, let alone Sara Palin, a “Libertarian.” The lie is put to ALL libertarians by James Madison’s sage observation that if all men were saints, governments would be unnecessary. The critical shortage of saints makes governance necessary.

  28. MattBoston

    Well, if WikiLeaks doesn’t have servers in the US, then who cares what US laws say. In fact, the most comical aspect of the whole thing has been blowhard American pundits labeling Assange a traitor… when he is not even a citizen of this country.

    At any rate, both parties are proving themselves to be terrible custodians of the First Amendment and of human rights in general. Obama has essentially been Bush 3rd Term on human rights.

    I am no big fan of Ron Paul, but he is 100% correct on this one. The only things jeopardized by WikiLeaks are the American people’s tolerance for terrible foreign policy and the careers of some serially incompetent Washington VIPs.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Yes indeed, as many others have noted here, it’s hard to see how the feckless and impotent US DoJ has any standing at all or jurisdiction over any foreign citizen or any journalist like Assange. And regardless of legal standing, the United States in this case is clearly revealing callous disregard for its own principles and bill of rights. To this legal neophyte, it appears all standards of law and decency have been tossed out the palace window.

      As to Richard’s question, clearly neither party has any respect for the US constitution or basic human rights, but surprisingly Rand Paul is on the side of the angels here. How refreshing. I’d vote for more reps like him, tea party or not.

  29. Jack

    Palin gets 10+ MILLION hits on this issue, dwarfing all others cited combined. This makes her, de facto, the only online voice to be sought out.

    I really don’t know what to make of that. Is Sarah Palin the only online political voice that Americans want to hear?

  30. gatopeich

    > What, if anything, do you make of the Google counts?
    ~75% of (hits) people caring more about what The Air-Head has to say: Mass Media at its finest moment in history!?

    Thanks for the blog (all you there!), and have a great 2011!

  31. Doug Terpstra

    High Google-counts for Sarah Palin only measure the interest/curiosity factor and MSM flogging, not relevance or credibility. Traffic accidents also get attention, even more so fatal chain-reactions.

    Palin may yet prove her usefulness for the duoploy, if it appears that Obama, Wall Street’s loyal lap-dog, might need a Dole-caliber opponent to ensure his re-election in 2012 —for services faithfully rendered.

  32. Michael H

    Many of us already knew this, but Wikileaks has revealed, once again, the depth of the emptiness of everything that comes to us from the US corporate media. In case anyone still had doubts, or still believed there was such a thing as investigative journalism in the USA, that American journalists were still capable, *ever*, of speaking the truth to power, etc… well, in that case, Wikileaks has shown them, and the rest of us, irrefutably and for all time, the utter mindlessness of the US media, that we might as well skip the hypocrisy of even having journalists, a media, a Free press, etc and instead just receive our government news straight from the White House, our corporate news straight from the public relations officers of BP and Goldman Sachs, and our military news straight from the Pentagon. There would be literally no difference.

    US journalism is nothing but a joke, an irremediable void.

    1. Frank Lavarre

      It should come as no surprise to anyone that senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) was involved in quashing Spain’s effort to bring about a torture investigation.

      Wherever fascism rears its ugly face, you can be certain that the walking turd named Judd Gregg will not be far behind.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            Now wonder Obama picked Judd Gregg first as Commerce Secretary; he’s a reliably-twisted charter member of the corrupt kleptocracy.

  33. Doc Holiday

    There is a pattern,” said William K. Black, a well-known former bank regulator now at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, who has been critical of the government’s role in policing the financial crisis. “There seems to be a belief that people who wear nice suits don’t commit crimes.”

    Read more:

    The pattern also smells like dog crap on a hot Summer day…

  34. laptop

    All of this information is well and good Ernie, but I’ve looked over all your blog entries visible without going to archives and it seems every one is either 100% about the iPhone or involves some signifigant iPhone angle. I understand it’s a dominating new technological angle you’re living with, but some people don’t even have iPhones. I just wanted to point out that you’ve changed the direction of the entire site to Apple, and mainly one of their products, instead of the law and technology, or really even any other technology.–c1146_1159

  35. razzz

    This is not over yet, just beginning. The next Wiki release concerns the banking industry. Can’t wait.

  36. Daniel Daugherty

    * Is the First Amendment relevant to Wikileaks?
    –>Absolutely. Whether you like it or not, it is simply a press organization, broadcasting information as it sees fit. To come down on Wikileaks means the government must also come down on the New York Times.

    * If so, which political party is the best custodian of it?
    –>When it comes to issues like protecting bedrock constitutional principles, I’d be hard-pressed to choose between the two parties these days. I’m pretty sure that if they could find a reason to quarter soldiers in my home, both parties would sign the legislation so as to seem patriotic and in favor of a “strong” approach to security…

    * What, if anything, do you make of the Google counts?
    –>What Sarah Palin says reverberates more thoroughly through the echo chamber.

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