— William Saletan, Slate. Truth Is Treason: Prosecuting Bradley Manning for “aiding the enemy” was preposterous and totalitarian.
Posts tagged with ‘wikileaks’
Via the New Republic:
Though the Washington Post published one scoop based on [Edward] Snowden’s leak, it is the Guardian, through its new digital only U.S. website, that has provided a structured timeline of exposés and promises more. This is getting to be something of a habit. Three years ago, along with the New York Times, the Guardian was also the main news agency to systematically publish (and redact) excerpts from over 250,000 classified State Department cables. Though Julian Assange’s Wikileaks had been trickling out stories from February 2010, the real impact of the disclosures came with the publication of edited and contextualised material in the mainstream press. In its 2011 annual report, Amnesty International specifically cited the paper’s coverage as a catalyst for a series of risings against repressive regimes, with revelations about the corruption of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, leading to his overthrow. Foreign Policy magazine concluded that the ‘Wikileaks Revolution’ was a catalyst for the Arab Spring.
How did the Guardian—a formerly Manchester-based, 192-year-old left-of-center paper with a print readership of less than 200,000 a day—manage to insert itself into 2013’s biggest news story? In many ways, it’s a classic example of a news organization wringing new scoops out of readers who were impressed by previous ones — in this case on both ideological and operational grounds. According to Snowden, his choice of publisher was determined by the Guardian’s track record in handling both vulnerable intelligence and whistleblowers. “Harming people isn’t my goal,” he told the Guardian. ”Transparency is.”
The Wikileaks publication worked similarly. For transparency’s sake, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t Assange who orchestrated the release of the cables, but rather an American-born freelance investigative journalist, Heather Brooke, who acquired encrypted data and passwords from another activist and took them to the Guardian. Why the Guardian? “They had a track record in dealing with stories concerned with national security and power,” she told me: “And a proper understanding of how to protect sources.”
FJP: Important to note, as the New Republic does, is that despite its US operations, The Guardian operates more or less as an outsider among the Washington press corp. This allows it to go after adversarial stories without worrying about the inevitable “exclusion from briefings, refusal[s] to confirm or deny stories, or provide interviews from senior politicians and staff.”
Laurence Tribe, professor, Harvard Law School, to The Guardian. Bradley Manning trial ‘dangerous’ for civil liberties – experts.
The News: The trial of Bradley Manning begins today. The US soldier leaked hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks in 2009 and 2010, and has plead guilty to ten of the 22 charges brought against him.
The most serious charge though is that Manning knowingly aided the enemy. If found guilty, he faces life in military prison.
Henry Kissinger, in a 1975 conversation at the Foreign Minister’s Office in Ankara, Turkey. WikiLeaks, Cable 0860114-1573.
Background, via Slate:
Wikileaks released a searchable database of over 1.7 million diplomatic cables from the years 1973 to 1976 today. Because so many of them — over 200,000 — are connected to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the collection is being informally dubbed the “Kissinger Cables.” But unlike previous Wikileaks document collections, this release isn’t a whistleblower leak. Instead, it’s the result of an effort to obtain and organize public documents obtained from the National Archives and Record Administration.
So, what’s in them? The findings, so far, are more interesting than they are damning. In that light, the “Kissinger Cables,” officially called “PlusD,” seem most notable as a well-organized, historical archive of the scope, tone, and depth of U.S. diplomacy around the world.
FJP: Pesky FOIA.
Via the Foundation:
Today, Freedom of the Press Foundation is publishing the full, previously unreleased audio recording of Private First Class Bradley Manning’s speech to the military court in Ft. Meade about his motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. In addition, we have published highlights from Manning’s statement to the court.
While unofficial transcripts of this statement are available, this marks the first time the American public has heard the actual voice of Manning.
He explains to the military court in his own cadence and words how and why he gave the Apache helicopter video, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars Logs, and the State Department Diplomatic Cables to WikiLeaks. Manning explains his motives, noting how he believed the documents showed deep wrongdoing by the government and how he hoped that the release would “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.” In conjunction with the statement, Private First Class Manning also pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him.
Via Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor, New York Times.
Imagine if American citizens never learned about the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Imagine not knowing about the brutal treatment of terror suspects at United States government “black sites.” Or about the drone program that is expanding under President Obama, or the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans.
This is a world without leaks.
And a world without leaks — the secret government information slipped to the press — may be the direction we’re headed in. Since 9/11, leakers and whistle-blowers have become an increasingly endangered species. Some, like the former C.I.A. official John Kiriakou, have gone to jail. Another, Pfc. Bradley Manning, is charged with “aiding the enemy” for the masses of classified information he gave to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. He could face life in prison…
…Declan Walsh, a reporter who wrote many WikiLeaks-based stories for The Guardian before coming to The Times, calls leaks “the unfiltered lifeblood of investigative journalism.” He wrote in an e-mail from his post in Pakistan: “They may come from difficult, even compromised sources, be ridden with impurities and require careful handling to produce an accurate story. None of that reduces their importance to journalism.”…
…Whatever one’s view, one fact is clear: Leakers are being prosecuted and punished like never before. Consider that the federal Espionage Act, passed in 1917, was used only three times in its first 92 years to prosecute government officials for press leaks. But the Obama administration, in the president’s first term alone, used it six times to go after leakers. Now some of them have gone to jail.
The crackdown sends a loud message. Scott Shane, who covers national security for The Times, says that message is being heard — and heeded.
“There’s definitely a chilling effect,” he told me. “Government officials who might otherwise discuss sensitive topics will refer to these cases in rebuffing a request for background information.”
Margaret Sullivan, New York Times. The Danger of Suppressing Leaks.
Harvard Law professor Yochai Benkler begins a recent New Republic article like so:
After 1,000 days in pretrial detention, Private Bradley Manning yesterday offered a modified guilty plea for passing classified materials to WikiLeaks. But his case is far from over—not for Manning, and not for the rest of the country. To understand what is still at stake, consider an exchange that took place in a military courtroom in Maryland in January.
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, asked the prosecutors a brief but revealing question: Would you have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to WikiLeaks but directly to the New York Times?
The prosecutor’s answer was simple: “Yes Ma’am.”
This last line, the simple, “Yes, Ma’am,” is important.
It’s not that Manning leaked to WikiLeaks the government is saying. It’s that he leaked at all. More specifically, in the government’s view, the act of leaking is “aiding the enemy,” and it is those charges — a capital offense, although the prosecution says they will not seek the death penalty — that it looks like they are going to pursue.
As GigaOm’s Matthew Ingram points out:
[I]f Manning is found guilty of “aiding the enemy” for releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks, it could change the nature of both journalism and free speech forever.
Why? Because as Benkler points out, the charge for which Manning is being court-martialed could just as easily be applied to someone who leaks similar documents to virtually any media outlet, including the New York Times or the Washington Post. In other words, if the U.S. government has seen fit to go after Manning and WikiLeaks, what is to stop them from pursuing anyone who leaks documents, and any media entity that publishes them?
And, as Benkler, who’s an expert witness on the case, further explains:
[T]hat “Yes Ma’am” does something else: It makes the Manning prosecution a clear and present danger to journalism in the national security arena. The guilty plea Manning offered could subject him to twenty years in prison—more than enough to deter future whistleblowers. But the prosecutors seem bent on using this case to push a novel and aggressive interpretation of the law that would arm the government with a much bigger stick to prosecute vaguely-defined national security leaks, a big stick that could threaten not just members of the military, but civilians too…
…The prosecution case seems designed, quite simply, to terrorize future national security whistleblowers. The charges against Manning are different from those that have been brought against other whistleblowers. “Aiding the enemy” is punishable by death. And although the prosecutors in this case are not seeking the death penalty against Manning, the precedent they are seeking to establish does not depend on the penalty. It establishes the act as a capital offense, regardless of whether prosecutors in their discretion decide to seek the death penalty in any particular case.
Chilling, indeed. As Ingram sums up:
Benkler’s warning shouldn’t be taken lightly: if Manning is guilty of aiding the enemy for simply leaking documents, then anyone who communicates with a newspaper could be guilty of something similar. And if the leaker is guilty, then the publisher could be as well — and that could cause a chilling effect on the media that would change the nature of public journalism forever.
Yochai Benkler, The New Republic. The Dangerous Logic of the Bradley Manning Case.
Mathew Ingram, paidContent. If Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks are guilty, then so is the New York Times.
Late last week Barrett Brown, a former Anonymous spokesman, was indicted over an Anonymous hack of Stratfor, a global intelligence firm. Along with thousands of internal emails that Wikileaks has been publishing, Anonymous released credit card information of both Stratfor employees and its clients.
Brown is facing multiple charges but the very first is very odd: Brown posted a hyperlink to the stolen credit card information that was, by then, publicly available online.
In a press release, the FBI writes:
According to the indictment, Brown transferred a hyperlink from an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel to an IRC channel under his control. That hyperlink provided access to data stolen from the company Stratfor Global Intelligence (Stratfor), which included more than 5,000 credit card account numbers, the card holders’ identification information and the authentication features for the credit cards, known as the Card Verification Values (CVV). By transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online, without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor and the card holders.
Here’s the rub for reporters. From Gawker’s Adrian Chen:
As a journalist who covers hackers and has “transferred and posted” many links to data stolen by hackers—in order to put them in stories about the hacks—this indictment is frightening because it seems to criminalize linking. Does this mean if a hacker posts a list of stolen passwords and usernames to Pastebin, the popular document-sharing site, and I link to them in a story or tweet I could be charged with “trafficking in stolen authentication features,” as Brown has been? (I wouldn’t typically do this, but I’ve seen plenty of other bloggers and journalists who have.) Links to the credit card number list were widely shared on Twitter in the wake of the Stratfor hack—are all the people who tweeted links going to be rounded up and arrested, too?
The question here isn’t whether its ethical to link to such information but whether it’s legal. The indictment against Brown claims no, no it’s not.
Remember, over five million emails were stolen, are now on Wikileaks and are being used by news organizations to report on global intelligence operations. By the indictment’s logic, linking directly to them is a crime.
But Wikileaks is not - or should not be - about Julian Assange alone. The idea behind Wikileaks was to provide the public with information that would otherwise being kept secret by industries and governments. Information we strongly believe the public has a right to know. But this has been pushed more and more into the background, instead we only hear about Julian Assange, like he had dinner last night with Lady Gaga. That’s great for him but not much of our interest. We are more interested in transparent governments and bringing out documents and information they want to hide from the public…
…The conclusion for us is that we cannot support anymore what Wikileaks has become - the One Man Julian Assange show. But we also want to make clear that we still support the original idea behind Wikileaks: Freedom of information and transparent governments. Sadly we realize that Wikileaks does not stand for this idea anymore.
Anonymous, Statement on Wikileaks.
Wikileaks alleges that because of the close connection between the company and the government, “these GI Files releases will shed insight into key U.S. federal election players.” For example, the first release of almost 14,000 files are from 2011 and contain the keywords “republican”, “GOP”, “Romney”, “RNC” and “GOP”.
Further, the files were originally obtained by Anonymous-related groups.
And that set Anonymous off. Or, since it’s a decentralized activist group, it set off those behind @YourAnonNews who wrote to their 640,000 followers, “This, dear friends will lose you all allies you still had. @Wikileaks, please die in a fire, kthxbai.”
Why the WikiLeaks Grand Jury is So Dangerous: Members of Congress Now Want to Prosecute New York Times Journalists Too →
Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
For more than a year now, EFF has encouraged mainstream press publications like the New York Times to aggressively defend WikiLeaks’ First Amendment right to publish classified information in the public interest and denounce the ongoing grand jury investigating WikiLeaks as a threat to press freedom.
Well, we are now seeing why that is so important: at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on July 11th, some members of Congress 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 cyberattacks against Iran. During the hearing, House Republicans “pressed legal experts Wednesday on whether it was possible to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
In addition, the Washingtonian’s Shane Harris reported a month ago that a “senior” Justice Department official “made it clear that reporters who talked to sources about classified information were putting themselves at risk of prosecution.”
Leaks big and small have been happening for decades—even centuries—and the most recent are comparable to several others. No journalist has ever been prosecuted under the Espionage Act and it has generally been accepted, even by Congress’s own research arm, that the publication of government secrets by the press is protected speech under the First Amendment. Yet the government is actively investigating WikiLeaks and now threatening others for just that.
The mainstream media may see little in common with Assange’s digital publication methods or his general demeanor, but what he is accused of is virtually indistinguishable from what other reporters and newspapers do every day: poke, prod, and cajole sources within the government to give up classified information that newspapers then publish to inform the public of the government’s activities.
FJP: All so true. Read on.
Slate has two recent articles that illustrate a growing fear of facts. The first looks at the Republican party generally and Mitt Romney specifically.
It’s tough times for facts in America. First Mitt Romney—interviewing for the position of president—declined to release his tax returns because, as he explained, the Obama team’s opposition research will “pick over it” and “distort and lie about them.” He isn’t actually claiming that his opponents will lie. He’s claiming he’s entitled to hide the truth because it could be used against him. As Jon Stewart put it, “You can’t release your returns, because if you do, the Democrats will be mean to you.” These are tax returns. Factual documents. No different than, say, a birth certificate. But the GOP’s argument that inconvenient facts can be withheld from public scrutiny simply because they can be used for mean purposes is a radical idea in a democracy. It has something of a legal pedigree as well.
Probably not coincidentally, last week Senate Republicans filibustered the DISCLOSE Act—a piece of legislation many of them once supported—again on the grounds that Democrats might someday use ugly facts against conservatives. The principal objection to the law is that nasty Democrats would like to know who big secret donors are in order to harass, boycott, and intimidate them. The law requires that unions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations report campaign-related spending over $10,000 within 24 hours, and to name donors who give more than $10,000 for political purposes. Even though eight of the nine justices considering McCain-Feingold in Citizens United believed that disclosure is integral to a functioning democracy, the idea that facts about donors are dangerous things is about the only argument Senate Republicans can muster. Last week even Justice Antonin Scalia told CNN’s Piers Morgan that “Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better. That’s what the First Amendment is all about. So long as the people know where the speech is coming from.”
That’s a ringing defense of the need for disclosure, which Scalia has always supported.
Not to be outdone, the State Department just won a case about the secrecy behind the diplomatic cables Wikileaks released in 2010 and 2011.
The government, it appears, would like to pretend that never happened even though anyone who cared has taken a look, and their contents have been reported around the world. If you want to double check that they’re out in the public, you can do so here.
Back to Slate:
It sounds like something from Catch-22. A U.S. district court judge on Monday ruled that diplomatic cables published worldwide by WikiLeaks, the New York Times, the Guardian, et al., are actually still secret. Why? Because the government says they are secret…
…The government’s logic, and the judge’s, is—and I do not think I am exaggerating or distorting their arguments here—that just because something is public doesn’t mean it isn’t also secret. In this case, the cables are secret because they contain information that could be harmful if released. Never mind that they’ve already been released by WikiLeaks. They still could be harmful if released by the government.
The ruling seems to uphold a broader U.S. government philosophy that even when everyone knows the government is doing something—conducting drone strikes in Yemen, waterboarding prisoners in Guantanamo—the government can continue to pretend that it is not doing it, and the courts will back it up.
Related: See Glenn Greenwald’s article in today’s Salon about Dianne Fienstein, California Democrat and Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and her continued calls to prosecute those disclosing sensitive government information (eg. drone wars). In it he writes about how government is defining what is a permissible leak and who permissible leakers are (spoiler alert: themselves).
"In sum," Greenwald writes, “leaks of classified information are a heinous crime when done to embarrass or undermine those in power, but are noble and necessary when done to bolster them.”