| Bradley Manning cleared of ‘aiding the enemy’ but guilty of most other charges!

Bradley Manning cleared of ‘aiding the enemy’ but guilty of most other charges ~  at Fort Meade, theguardian.com.

• Pfc. Manning convicted of multiple Espionage Act violations
Acquitted of most serious ‘aiding the enemy’ charge
• Army private faces maximum jail sentence of 130 years

Bradley Manning at Fort Meade

Bradley Manning has already spent 1,157 days in detention since his arrest in May 2010. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Bradley Manning, the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, faces a possible maximum sentence of more than 130 years in military jail after he was convicted of most charges on which he stood trial.

Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. “Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty,” she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning – on top of the three years he has already spent in detention – dawned.

The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for Manning was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him – that he knowingly “aided the enemy”, in practice al-Qaida, by disclosing information to the WikiLeaks website that in turn made it accessible to all users including enemy groups.

Lind’s decision to avoid setting a precedent by applying the swingeing “aiding the enemy” charge to an official leaker will invoke a sigh of relief from news organisations and civil liberties groups who had feared a guilty verdict would send a chill across public interest journalism.

The judge also found Manning not guilty of having leaked an encrypted copy of a video of a US air strike in the Farah province of Aghanistan in which many civilians died. Manning’s defence team had argued vociferously that he was not the source of this video, though the soldier did admit to later disclosure of an unencrypted version of the video and related documents.

Lind also accepted Manning’s version of several of the key dates in the WikiLeaks disclosures, and took some of the edge from other less serious charges. But the overriding toughness of the verdict remains: the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22 counts against him, and of an amended version of four others.

Manning was also found guilty of “wrongfully and wantonly” causing to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the US, “having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accesible to the enemy”. That guilty ruling could still have widest ramifications for news organisations working on investigations relating to US national security.

The verdict was condemned by human rights campaigners. Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy, Widney Brown, said: “The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.

“Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government. You investigate and prosecute those who destroy the credibility of the government by engaging in acts such as torture which are prohibited under the US Constitution and in international law.”

Ben Wizner, of the American Civil LIberties Union, said: “While we’re relieved that Mr Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

“Since he already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information – which carry significant punishment – it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”

In a statement to the Guardian, Manning’s family expressed “deep thanks” to his civilian lawyer, David Coombs, who has worked on the case for three years. They added: “While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform.”

Once the counts are added up, the prospects for the Manning are bleak. Barring reduction of sentence for mitigation, which becomes the subject of another mini-trial dedicated to sentencing that starts tomorrow, Manning will face a substantial chunk of his adult life in military custody.

He has already spent 1,157 days in detention since his arrest in May 2010 – most recently in Fort Leavenworth in Kansas – which will be deducted from his eventual sentence.

A further 112 days will be taken off the sentence as part of a pre-trial ruling in which Lind compensated him for the excessively harsh treatment he endured at the Quantico marine base in Virginia between July 2010 and April 2011. He was kept on suicide watch for long stretches despite expert opinion from military psychiatrists who deemed him to be at low risk of self-harm, and at one point was forced to strip naked at night in conditions that the UN denounced as a form of torture.

Lind has indicated that she will go straight into the sentencing phase of the trial, in which both defence and prosecution lawyers will call new witnesses. This is being seen as the critical stage of the trial for Manning’s defence: the soldier admitted months ago to being the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures, and much of the defence strategy has been focused on attempting to reduce his sentence through mitigation.

With that in mind, the soldier’s main counsel, David Coombs, is likely to present evidence during the sentencing phase that Manning was in a fragile emotional state at the time he began leaking and was struggling with issues over his sexuality. In pre-trial hearings, the defence has argued that despite his at times erratic behaviour, the accused was offered very little support or counselling from his superiors at Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad.

The outcome will now be pored over by government agencies, lawyers, journalists and civil liberties groups for its implications for whistleblowing, investigative reporting and the guarding of state secrets in the digital age. By passing to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 documents, Manning became the first mass digital leaker in history, opening a whole new chapter in the age-old tug-of-war between government secrecy and the public’s right to information in a democracy.

Among those who will also be closely analysing the verdict are Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has disclosed the existence of secret government dragnets of the phone records of millions of Americans, who has indicated that the treatment of Manning was one reason for his decision to seek asylum in another country rather than face similar aggressive prosecution in America. The British government will also be dissecting the courtroom results after the Guardian disclosed that Manning is a joint British American citizen.

Another party that will be intimately engaged with the verdict is WikiLeaks, and its founder, Julian Assange. They have been the subject of a secret grand jury investigation in Virginia that has been looking into whether to prosecute them for their role in the Manning disclosures.

WikiLeaks and Assange were mentioned repeatedly during the trial by the US government which tried to prove that the anti-secrecy organisation had directly steered Manning in his leaking activities, an allegation strongly denied by the accused. Prosecutors drew heavily on still classified web conversations between Manning and an individual going by the name of “Press Association”, whom the government alleges was Assange.

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| Snowden Becomes Eighth Person to Be Indicted for Espionage by the Obama Justice Dept!

Snowden Becomes Eighth Person to Be Indicted for Espionage by the Obama Justice Department ~ , FDL.

A sealed criminal complaint indicting former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden on two counts of espionage has been filed by federal prosecutors. He was charged with willfully communicating national defense information to a person that was unauthorized to receive it. He was also charged with “theft” and “conversion of government property.”

The Washington Post further reports that the complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia. Not only is this jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, happens to be headquartered, but it is also where key prosecutions for espionage have been filed under President Barack Obama.

It is unknown what section of the Espionage Act Snowden was charged with violating, but what is indisputable is that he is the eighth person to be indicted under the Espionage Act. This is more than all previous presidential administrations combined.

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was indicted for espionage in April 2010 after he communicated information on surveillance programs to a Baltimore Sun reporter.

For disclosing classified information on FBI wiretaps to a blogger, FBI translator named Shamai Leibowitz was indicted under the Espionage Act in May 2010.

Pfc. Bradley Manning was charged with multiple violations of the Espionage Act in July 2010 after disclosing US government information to WikiLeaks.

Stephen Kim, a former State Department contractor, was indicted in August 2010 for revealing classified information on North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen. (Rosen was labeled an “aider, abettor and co-conspirator” in the leak.)

In December 2010, a former CIA officer, Jeffrey Sterling, was indicted under the Espionage Act after he communicated with New York Times reporter James Risen about Iran’s nuclear program in the 1990s. (The Obama Justice Department has fought in the courts to have a judge require Risen to testify against Sterling.)

John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, was indicted under the Espionage Act in January 2012 after he shared information related to a rendition operation with reporter Matthew Cole.

A much lesser-known individual, James Hitselberger, a former Navy linguist, was indicted for espionage for providing classified documents to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

The Espionage Act charges were dropped in the cases of Drake, Kiriakou and Leibowitz. Manning has pled guilty to lesser offenses but not the espionage charges. Hitselberger, Kim and Sterling’s cases are all still pending.

Both Drake and Kiriakou’s cases went through the Eastern District of Virginia. Sterling’s case is pending in the same jurisdiction.

This law is a law from 1917 that was intended to criminalize individuals who engaged in spying, not leakers or whistleblowers. It was not initially used to prosecute government employees who passed on information to a reporter or a media organization. But, under Obama, the Justice Department has exercised wide discretion and interpreted the law as one that can be used to criminalize government employees who blow the whistle on corruption or share information on operations, policies or programs with the press.

Justice Department whistleblower Jesselyn Radack, a director of the Government Accountability Project’s national security and human rights division who has defended national security whistleblowers, and her colleague at GAP, Kathleen McClellan, have written:

These “leak” prosecutions send a chilling message to public servants, as they are contrary to President Barack Obama’s pledge of openness and transparency. The vast majority of American citizens do not take issue with the proposition that some things should be kept secret, such as sources and methods, nuclear designs, troop movements, and undercover identities. However, the campaign to flush out media sources smacks of retaliation and intimidation. The Obama administration is right to protect information that might legitimately undermine national security or put Americans at risk. However, it does not protect national security interests when it brings cases against whistleblowers who divulge information that communicates important information to the public; sparks meaningful dialogue; or exposes fraud, waste, abuse, illegality, or potential dangers to public health and safety. A free and open democratic government welcomes debate. Stifling information violates that democratic principle.

The Justice Department does not have to identify or prove that any harm to national security has occurred. They only have to prove that a person had ”reason to believe information could be used to the injury of the United States.”

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer highlighted, when Drake was still charged with violating the Espionage Act:

…Because reporters often retain unauthorized defense documents, Drake’s conviction would establish a legal precedent making it possible to prosecute journalists as spies. ‘It poses a grave threat to the mechanism by which we learn most of what the government does,’ [Mort] Halperin [of the Open Society Institute] says…

That shows what these “leak” prosecutions can do to freedom of the press.

President Barack Obama came into office committed to “protecting” whistleblowers.

Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

However, when Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, the White House coordinated with Congress so that employees at national security or intelligence agencies would not be covered. That means, when Obama had the opportunity to make it easier for employees to go through proper channels when exposing corruption or wrongdoing, he did the exact opposite.

As for the theft and conversion of “government property” charges, the charge is probably under United States Code 641 or a code against the “embezzlement of government property.” This is also a code that Manning is accused of violating multiple times.

The defense in Manning’s case has argued that the prosecutors must prove that the information disclosed without authorization was a “thing of value” and Manning intended to deprive the government of the use or benefit of this “property” in order for him to be convicted of this offense.

Snowden is still in Hong Kong. He has reportedly considered seeking asylum and/or citizenship in Iceland. There have been reports about a businessman connected to WikiLeaks being willing to fly Snowden on a private jet to Iceland. However, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir has urged Snowden not to board any private jet to Iceland.

“I have worked with asylum seekers in Iceland. I would not recommend that path for #Snowden. Citizenship offers the only real protection,” she tweeted. She added that Iceland had a “terrible track record when it comes to turning back asylum seekers.” And, “There is much general support for Snowden among the general public in Iceland, thus it is still an option to seek citizenship.” But she hoped he would not take any risks with jets.

Going forward, a very real problem the United States government may have is that Snowden has been charged with espionage. This could terribly backfire as it may send a signal that this is a political case. Whether he remains in Hong Kong or somehow ends up in Iceland, a government is more likely to push back on an extradition request because the indictment is not limited to the charges of theft and conversion of government property.

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| Perverting Justice: The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning!

The Judicial Lynching of Bradley ManningChris Hedges, Truthdig.

AP/Patrick Semansky
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse at Fort Meade, Md., on Wednesday after the third day of his court-martial.

FORT MEADE, Md.—The military trial ofBradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the websiteWikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.

The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience. Our email and phone records, it is now confirmed, are swept up and stored in perpetuity on government computers. Those who attempt to disclose government crimes can be easily traced and prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Whistle-blowers have no privacy and no legal protection. This is why Edward Snowden—a former CIA technical assistant who worked for a defense contractor with ties to the National Security Agency and who leaked to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian the information about the National Security Council’s top-secret program to collect Americans’ cellphone metadata, e-mail and other personal data—has fled the United States. The First Amendment is dead. There is no legal mechanism left to challenge the crimes of the power elite. We are bound and shackled. And those individuals who dare to resist face the prospect, if they remain in the country, of joining Manning in prison, perhaps the last refuge for the honest and the brave.

Coombs opened the trial last week by pleading with the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, for leniency based on Manning’s youth and sincerity. Coombs is permitted by Lind to present only circumstantial evidence concerning Manning’s motives or state of mind. He can argue, for example, that Manning did not know al-Qaida might see the information he leaked. Coombs is also permitted to argue, as he did last week, that Manning was selective in his leak, intending no harm to national interests. But these are minor concessions by the court to the defense. Manning’s most impassioned pleas for freedom of information, especially regarding email exchanges with the confidential government informant Adrian Lamo, as well as his right under international law to defy military orders in exposing war crimes, are barred as evidence.

Manning is unable to appeal to the Nuremberg principles, a set of guidelines created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations after World War II to determine what constitutes a war crime. The principles make political leaders, commanders and combatants responsible for war crimes, even if domestic or internal laws allow such actions. The Nuremberg principles are designed to protect those, like Manning, who expose these crimes. Orders do not, under the Nuremberg principles, offer an excuse for committing war crimes. And the Nuremberg laws would clearly condemn the pilots in the“Collateral Murder” video and their commanders and exonerate Manning. But this is an argument we will not be allowed to hear in the Manning trial.

Manning has admitted to 10 lesser offenses surrounding his leaking of classified and unclassified military and State Department files, documents and videos, including the “Collateral Murder” video, which shows a U.S. Apache attack helicopter in 2007 killing 12 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children on an Iraqi street. His current plea exposes him to penalties that could see him locked away for two decades. But for the government that is not enough. Military prosecutors are pursuing all 22 charges against him. These charges include aiding the enemy, wanton publication, espionage, stealing U.S. government property, exceeding authorized access and failures to obey lawful general orders—charges that can bring with them 149 years plus life.

 

“He knew that the video depicted a 2007 attack,” Coombs said of the “Collateral Murder” recording. “He knew that it [the attack] resulted in the death of two journalists. And because it resulted in the death of two journalists it had received worldwide attention. He knew that the organization Reuters had requested a copy of the video in FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] because it was their two journalists that were killed, and they wanted to have that copy in order to find out what had happened and to ensure that it didn’t happen again. He knew that the United States had responded to that FOIA request almost two years later indicating what they could find and, notably, not the video.

“He knew that David Finkel, an author, had written a book called ‘The Good Soldiers,’ and when he read through David Finkel’s account and he talked about this incident that’s depicted in the video, he saw that David Finkel’s account and the actual video were verbatim, that David Finkel was quoting the Apache air crew. And so at that point he knew that David Finkel had a copy of the video. And when he decided to release this information, he believed that this information showed how [little] we valued human life in Iraq. He was troubled by that. And he believed that if the American public saw it, they too would be troubled and maybe things would change.”

 

“He was 22 years old,” Coombs said last Monday as he stood near the bench, speaking softly to the judge at the close of his opening statement. “He was young. He was a little naive in believing that the information that he selected could actually make a difference. But he was good-intentioned in that he was selecting information that he hoped would make a difference.”

“He wasn’t selecting information because it was wanted by WikiLeaks,” Coombs concluded. “He wasn’t selecting information because of some 2009 most wanted list. He was selecting information because he believed that this information needed to be public. At the time that he released the information he was concentrating on what the American public would think about that information, not whether or not the enemy would get access to it, and he had absolutely no actual knowledge of whether the enemy would gain access to it. Young, naive, but good-intentioned.”

The moral order is inverted. The criminal class is in power. We are the prey. Manning, in a just society, would be a prosecution witness against war criminals. Those who committed these crimes should be facing prison. But we do not live in a just society.

The Afghans, the Iraqis, the Yemenis, the Pakistanis and the Somalis know what American military forces do. They do not need to read WikiLeaks. They have seen the bodies, including the bodies of their children, left behind by drone strikes and other attacks from the air. They have buried the corpses of those gunned down by coalition forces. With fury, they hear our government tell lies, accounts that are discredited by the reality they endure. Our wanton violence and hypocrisy make us hated and despised, fueling the rage of jihadists and amassing legions of new enemies against the United States. Manning, by providing a window into the truth, opened up the possibility of redemption. He offered hope for a new relationship with the Muslim world, one based on compassion and honesty, on the rule of law, rather than the cold brutality of industrial warfare. But by refusing to heed the truth that Manning laid before us, by ignoring the crimes committed daily in our name, we not only continue to swell the ranks of our enemies but put the lives of our citizens in greater and greater danger. Manning did not endanger us. He sought to thwart the peril that is daily exacerbated by our political and military elite.

Manning showed us through the documents he released that Iraqis have endured hundreds of rapes and murders, along with systematic torture by the military and police of the puppet government we installed. He let us know that none of these atrocities were investigated. He provided the data that showed us that between 2004 and 2009 there were at least 109,032 “violent deaths” in Iraq, including those of 66,081 civilians, and that coalition troops were responsible for at least 195 civilian deaths in unreported events. He allowed us to see in the video “Collateral Murder” the helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad. It was because of Manning that we could listen to the callous banter between pilots as the Americans nonchalantly fired on civilian rescuers. Manning let us see a U.S. Army tank crush one of the wounded lying on the street after the helicopter attack. The actions of the U.S. military in this one video alone, as law professor Marjorie Cohn has pointed out, violate Article 85 of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits the targeting of civilians, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which requires that wounded be treated, and Article 17 of the First Protocol, which permits civilians to rescue and care for wounded without being harmed. We know of this war crime and many others because of Manning. And the decision to punish the soldier who reported these war crimes rather than the soldiers responsible for these crimes mocks our pretense of being a nation ruled by law.

 

“I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this, it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Manning said Feb. 28 when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges. He said he hoped the release of the information to WikiLeaks “might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counterterrorism while ignoring the situation of the people we engaged with every day.”

But it has not. Our mechanical drones still circle the skies delivering death. Our attack jets still blast civilians. Our soldiers and Marines still pump bullets into mud-walled villages. Our artillery and missiles still raze homes. Our torturers still torture. Our politicians and generals still lie. And the man who tried to stop it all is still in prison.
Trial transcripts used for this report came from the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation, which, because the government refused to make transcripts publicly available, is raising money to have its own stenographer at the trial. Transcripts from the pretrial hearing came from journalist Alexa O’Brien.

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| How the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism!

How the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism ~ NEWS SOURCES, War in Context.

The Los Angeles Times reports: The FBI obtained a sealed search warrant to read a Fox News reporter’s personal emails from two days in 2010 after arguing there was probable cause he had violated espionage laws by soliciting classified information from a government official, court papers show.

In an affidavit, an FBI agent told a federal magistrate that the reporter had committed a crime when he asked a State Department security contractor, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, to share secret material about North Korea in June 2009.

The affidavit did not name the reporter, but Fox News identified him as its chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen. He was not charged, but Kim was indicted on espionage charges in August 2010 and is awaiting trial. He has denied leaking classified information.

The case marks the first time the government has gone to court to portray news gathering as espionage, and Fox News officials and 1st Amendment advocates reacted angrily Monday after the secret warrant was reported by the Washington Post.

“We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter,” said Michael Clemente, Fox News executive vice president of news. “In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.” [Continue reading…]

Eugene Robinson writes: In both instances [with the AP and Fox News], prosecutors were trying to build criminal cases under the 1917 Espionage Act against federal employees suspected of leaking classified information. Before President Obama took office, the Espionage Act had been used to prosecute leakers a grand total of three times, including the 1971 case of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Obama’s Justice Department has used the act six times. And counting.

Obviously, the government has a duty to protect genuine secrets. But the problem is that every administration, without exception, tends to misuse the “top secret” stamp — sometimes from an overabundance of caution, sometimes to keep inconvenient or embarrassing information from coming to light.

That’s where journalists come in. Our job, simply, is to find out what the government doesn’t want you to know. [Continue reading…]

Glenn Greenwald writes: Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ — that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for “soliciting” the disclosure of classified information — is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself. These latest revelations show that this is not just a theory but one put into practice, as the Obama DOJ submitted court documents accusing a journalist of committing crimes by doing this.

That same “solicitation” theory, as the New York Times reported back in 2011, is the one the Obama DOJ has been using to justify its ongoing criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange: that because Assange solicited or encouraged Manning to leak classified information, the US government can “charge [Assange] as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.” When that theory was first disclosed, I wrote that it would enable the criminalization of investigative journalism generally:

“Very rarely do investigative journalists merely act as passive recipients of classified information; secret government programs aren’t typically reported because leaks just suddenly show up one day in the email box of a passive reporter. Journalists virtually always take affirmative steps to encourage its dissemination. They try to cajole leakers to turn over documents to verify their claims and consent to their publication. They call other sources to obtain confirmation and elaboration in the form of further leaks and documents. Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau described how they granted anonymity to ‘nearly a dozen current and former officials’ to induce them to reveal information about Bush’s NSA eavesdropping program. Dana Priest contacted numerous ‘U.S. and foreign officials’ to reveal the details of the CIA’s ‘black site’ program. Both stories won Pulitzer Prizes and entailed numerous, active steps to cajole sources to reveal classified information for publication.

“In sum, investigative journalists routinely — really, by definition — do exactly that which the DOJ’s new theory would seek to prove WikiLeaks did. To indict someone as a criminal ‘conspirator’ in a leak on the ground that they took steps to encourage the disclosures would be to criminalize investigative journalism every bit as much as charging Assange with ‘espionage’ for publishing classified information.”

That’s what always made the establishment media’s silence (or even support) in the face of the criminal investigation of WikiLeaks so remarkable: it was so obvious from the start that the theories used there could easily be exploited to criminalize the acts of mainstream journalists. [Continue reading…]

Related Posts…

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| Lamenting an un-free press: WikiLeaks, A Post Postscript!

WikiLeaks, A Post Postscript ~  , NYT.

AS rumors build about the potential financial blockade against the New York Times by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express for hosting U.S. government cables published by WikiLeaks, I find myself in the awkward position of having to defend WikiLeaks.  During the House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on July 11th, several Republicans made it clear they also want New York Times journalists charged under the Espionage Act for their recent stories on President Obama’s ‘Kill List’ and secret US cyber attacks against Iran.

As those of you who have followed my turbulent relationship with WikiLeaks and its Guru-In-Chief Julian Assange know, I am first in line when it comes to distancing myself from his brand of transparency without government checks and balances.  You don’t have to embrace Assange as a kindred spirit to believe that what he did in publishing those cables falls under the protection of the First Amendment.  The backroom pressures by the Obama Administration’s State Department to expand its financial blockade targeting WikiLeaks to include news organizations that host information from their trove of pilfered documents goes too far.

I’ve said repeatedly, in print and in a variety of public forums, that I would regard an attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks’ publication of these documents as an attack on all of us, and I believe the mainstream media should come to his defense. Obama has clearly not lived up to his 2008 campaign promises to protect whistleblowers, rather his policy is more like China’s treatment of dissidents.  In fact the Syrian government has even decided against financial embargos or prosecution of Wikileaks despite their recent email dump.

The ACLU has shown through its government FOIA requests of WikiLeaks published cables, pretending secrets are secret after they are public isn’t easy.  While I am confident that news organizations will not succumb to these Orwellian tactics, this new chapter in the WikiLeaks Saga makes me long for the era when The Times and other mainstream media, were the responsible gatekeepers of information.

One of the most difficult roles of editor-in-chief is deciding when to hold back a story that your investigative journalists are willing to risk going to jail for.  These decisions are never easy.  I was confronted with this dilemma as editor at The Times with the story of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.  As I wrote in my December 16, 2005 statement justifying my decision to hold publication of the NSA story for a year, I came to the conclusion that the Bush Administration’s arguments to suppress outweighed the public’s right to know:

“Officials also assured senior editors of The Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions. As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time.”

Had The Times had exclusive access to the WikiLeaks cables, we could have pursued a similar government-review-before-publication policy, thus safeguarding national security from legal and public scrutiny.  Though I must say I have yet to hear of any actual harm or consequences from the nearly 260,000 cables released in 2010.

Although PayPal’s courageous refusal to participate in the expanded blockade against The New York Times strikes me as a slightly disingenuous given that The Times doesn’t accept subscription payment through PayPal, their position is nonetheless admirable and should be applauded.  How it will impact their original defense of the WikiLeaks blockade remains to be seen.  However we may need their services should a blockade be imposed by the major credit card companies.

Even after Wikileaks’s first victory against Visa in Iceland, I still must urge Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to take a similar stand against the use of financial embargos to prohibit supporters from contributing or subscribing to media organizations protected by the First Amendment and free speech laws.  Even though journalism should work in unison with government, I fear the calls for limited free speech rights by upstart radical groups like Block The New York Times and Accuracy in Media.

I wish these were my final words on the existential drama that is WikiLeaks, but don’t get your hopes up.  With an ongoing grand jury, extradition ruling, and Bradley Manning’s court martial, the WikiLeaks Postscript has only just begun.  I fear I am condemned to a life in Sartre’s No Exit (or is it Kafka’s The Trial?).