December 2, 2010

More on Cablegate

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (C) arrives to hold a press conference at Park Plaza Hotel on October 23, 2010 in London, England. A series of new leaks of American military documents, nearly 400,000 in total, have been released by the whistleblowing website, Wikileaks. The files detail how the torture and the abuse of detainees by Iraqi police, was ignored by US forces. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A few quick items today.

First of all, Amazon.com is run by reprehensible statist creeps.  Don't buy from them this Christmas.  Or ever again. From MSNBC:

Amazon.com forced WikiLeaks to stop using the U.S. company's computers to distribute embarrassing State Department communications and other documents, WikiLeaks said Wednesday.

The ouster came after congressional staff questioned Amazon about its relationship with WikiLeaks, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut.
Second, Glenn Greenwald further explains why Julian Assange is a hero and why WikiLeaks is so important:

It is a "scandal" when the Government conceals things it is doing without any legitimate basis for that secrecy.  Each and every document that is revealed by WikiLeaks which has been improperly classified -- whether because it's innocuous or because it is designed to hide wrongdoing -- is itself an improper act, a serious abuse of government secrecy powers.  Because we're supposed to have an open government -- a democracy --  everything the Government does is presumptively public, and can be legitimately concealed only with compelling justifications.   That's not just some lofty, abstract theory; it's central to having anything resembling "consent of the governed."

But we have completely abandoned that principle; we've reversed it.  Now, everything the Government does is presumptively secret; only the most ceremonial and empty gestures are made public.  That abuse of secrecy powers is vast, deliberate, pervasive, dangerous and destructive.  That's the abuse that WikiLeaks is devoted to destroying, and which its harshest critics -- whether intended or not -- are helping to preserve.  There are people who eagerly want that secrecy regime to continue:  namely, (a) Washington politicians, Permanent State functionaries, and media figures whose status, power and sense of self-importance are established by their access and devotion to that world of secrecy, and (b) those who actually believe that -- despite (or because of) all the above acts -- the U.S. Government somehow uses this extreme secrecy for the Good.  Having surveyed the vast suffering and violence they have wreaked behind that wall, those are exactly the people whom WikiLeaks is devoted to undermining.

Third, Juan Cole writes about the Top Ten Middle East Wikileaks Revelations so Far. I found the following particularly interesting:

In an explosive WikiLeaks revelation, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the head of the Political Military Bureau of Israel's Ministry of Defense, while discussing Israeli requests for U.S. military aid, "acknowledged the sometimes difficult position the U.S. finds itself in given its global interests, and conceded that Israel's security focus is so narrow that its QME [Qualitative Military Edge] concerns often clash with broader American security interests in the region," according to the State Department.
Gilad's "typically frank" remarks lend credence to the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus, then CENTCOM Commander, before the Senate Armed Service Committee in March. Petraeus articulated several reasons why U.S. and Israeli interests did not necessarily coincide. The Arab-Israeli conflict, according to Petraeus, "present[s] distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests," and "foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel." Petraeus went on to describe how Israel's ongoing conflicts spurred recruitment efforts for al-Qaeda and increased Iranian influence in the region.
 Finally, Trevor Timm, editor of the New York Law School Law Review, explains that Wikileaks Has Committed No Crime:

[I]n the United States, generally publishing classified information is not a crime. The sort of information that a news organization can be prosecuted for publishing is limited to: nuclear secrets (Atomic Energy Act), the identities of covert agents (Intelligence Identities Protection Act), and certain forms of communications intelligence (Section 798 of the Espionage Act).

Perhaps lamenting that the U.S. does not have an Official Secrets Act like the United Kingdom, right wing columnists have consistently misinterpreted these Acts, or have cited other provisions of our espionage laws which almost surely do not apply to Wikileaks.

The most commonly cited statute by those who advocate prosecuting Wikileaks is Section 793(e) of the Espionage Act. In August, former Bush speechwriter Marc Theissen linked to this section in an article for the Washington Post when he wrote that Wikileaks is “a criminal enterprise” whose founder, Julian Assange, should be arrested by U.S. forces on foreign soil, international law be damned.

But this provision does not apply to those who publish information.

Section 793(e)reads “Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document…relating to the national defense…willfully communicates… the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it…[s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

As made clear in the Pentagon Papers case, the word “communicates” was never meant “to encompass publication” or to affect the press. Congress included the word “publish” in three other sections of the Act but intentionally left it out of 793. As the legislative history of this provision states, “Nothing in this Act shall…in any way to limit or infringe upon freedom of the press or of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

Justice Douglas referenced the legislative history in his concurring opinion, when he wrote of Section 793, “it is apparent that Congress was capable of, and did, distinguish between publishing and communication in the various sections of the Espionage Act.”

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