Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Squashing Free Speech

It seems our government, while promoting free speech around the world including praising the efforts of the Egyptians to use Twitter and other on-line social networking tools, is squashing it here. It involves the Wikileaks case. I won't hide the fact that Wikileaks is no more guilty of publishing all those documents than the Washington Post and New York Times were when they published the Pentagon Papers.

The act of publishing government documents, secret or not, is not a crime, so long as that's all you do and you were not involved in the actual theft of the documents. And we know Wikileaks wasn't involved. We don't know that Bradley Manning, currently in custody for the crime, but note not charged yet, may have been. It seems the FBI can't connect the dots and probably won't connect the dots between Manning and Wikileaks.

That's because once outside the US, the dots the FBI wants to connect runs into the jurisdiction of other nations and the rights of those citizens. But that hasn't stopped the FBI as they handed Twitter a silent search warrant for the personal information of several people, only two of whom are US citizens. The others are citizens and residents of other countries, and not the US.

And today it was reported the judge ruled in favor of Twitter to unseal the search warrants which identifies the names and informaiton the FBI is seeking, and which shows how extensive and intrusive the FBI will go in an investigatin which will never see a court room, at least prosecuting anyone associated with Wikileaks, including Julian Assange.

While I will support the FBI when it comes to investigations into legimate criminal and terrorism activities, I won't support the FBI doing what they've been using the Patriot Act for needlessly, targetting and investigating activities of people not involved in crimes or terrorism. It's been noted by the government none of the documents Wikileaks has published were classified, only private or confidential for government use, but not officially classified.

And that's the issue, our government stretching the definition of criminal and terrorism activities to be whatever it wants for political purposes. Everyone on the right wants Wikileaks' head on a platter, just like they wanted the Washington Post and NY Times. But they're not guilty or the guilty ones.

And we saw the political pressure when a number of financial institutions used by Wikileaks froze their accounts, without an apparent warrant or a need, simply because it made them look good, or so we see but don't that know a few phone calls between the government and those financial institutions may have helped?

And then the FBI decided to investigate the activists who initiated the Denial of Service (DOS) attacks on those financial institutions. Talk about protecting corporations. All of the attackes came from overseas sources, outside US jurisdiction. It didn't matter Wikileaks or anyone with Wikileaks hasn't been charged with a crime, hasn't violated any international or national financial laws, or done anything else illegal.

It's the power the institutions have outside the law, in the terms of your agreement with them for the use of the card and with the account. The same applies to Wikileaks as applies to you and me with our accounts. It seems too coincidental that all their accounts were blocked within a day, and without warrants, or any that anyone has admitted to issuing or receiving.

What people have lost sight of is that it's the government who's guilty for the content of those documents. You don't shoot the messenger when you don't like the message. But that's what the right is doing. Secretary of State Clinton and other senior government officials, including the President, have said all the documents Wikileaks published, although embarrassing, were not classified.

But then the President has to be responsible for authorizing the investigation. He's trying to do both, appear supportive of the First Amendment rights for the publication while pandering to the right to appear tough on terrorism and national secrets. Except it's so transparent to anyone who has anything of a brain to understand both can't be supported in this case.

At least Nixon was obvious in his view. President Obama is trying to do both and he succeeding at doing both obviously badly. And those on the left easily see he's being two-faced and dishonest. But that's Obama's style now on almost every issue, except he hasn't noticed we already see it and see through it.

We know also know he won't stop the investigation and stand up for the First Amendment. He won't stand up to push the Department of Justiice and Department of Defense to handle Bradley Manning as any criminal, where he's currently in isolation in a military prison, kept locked in his cell without communications for 23 hours a day.

It's a clear violation of his rights, especially since he hasn't been charged with any crime yet, because the Army wants to hold him until they can and will gather enough evidence to convict him with then with a speedy trial sentence him to life in prison. Gee, better than his current situation. He deserves his day in court and fair treatment under the law. That's what this country is about.

In the end, or so far at least, it's clear where there may be a case against Bradley Manning, there is no case against foreign citizens who use Twitter, or other now international social networking tools, and there is no case against Wikileaks. It's a waste of government money. But I don't see the right opposing that in the name of political rhetoric of government waste.

To them anything terrorism, however wrong, is sufficient to warrant any amout of government money. And the FBI gets to spend it for political purposes. Gee, like that's new or news with them? And we can't keep promoting free speech, especially with Twitter, and privacy elsewhere but not here. But then hypocrisy has never stopped the government either.

No comments: