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WE the PEOPLE are Bradley Manning


WE the PEOPLE are Bradley Manning

After three years of incarceration by the United States Government, Bradley Manning is being tried for 22 crimes against our country and “Aiding the Enemy” this week.  In 2010, the young soldier was arrested for leaking documents to the now infamous organization WikiLeaks whose founder, Julian Assange currently resides in political refuge himself via the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.  This landmark case puts whistle-blowing and freedom of information on trial.  Freedom of Speech is one of the pillars of American life, written and set forth by the Founding Fathers.  Organizations like WikiLeaks exist to expose the public eye and provide the transparency and freedom of information which are supposed to be available to facilitate an open Government.  Today, more whistleblowers and informants have come forward to expose the truth of such things as the wars in the Middle East than ever before in history.  Likewise, more American citizens have been put on trial and prosecuted for such actions than ever before.

via DREGstudios! The Artwork of Brandt Hardin: WE the PEOPLE are Bradley Manning.

A Conspiracy To Commit Journalism: The Justice Dept’s Dangerous New Argument Threatens Basic Reporting


Last night, the Washington Post reported on a little known leak case involving former State Department official Stephen Kim. In an alarming new extreme, the Justice Department and FBI argue there’s “probable cause to believe” Fox News reporter James Rosen “has committed or is committing a violation of [the Espionage Act], as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” by soliciting information from Kim for a story.

While Rosen remains unindicted, the consequences of this argument are breathtaking.

As secrecy expert Steven Aftergood wrote, the government’s argument “all but eliminates the traditional distinction in classified leak investigations between sources, who are bound by a non-disclosure agreement, and reporters, who are protected by the First Amendment as long as they do not commit a crime.” Aftergood continued, “What makes this alarming is that ‘soliciting’ and ‘encouraging’ the disclosure of classified information are routine, daily activities in national security reporting.”

Nothing Rosen did is out of the ordinary for good reporters, as New Yorker‘sRyan Lizza pointed out when referencing the alleged ways Rosen communicated with his source: “If James Rosen’s ‘clandestine communications plan’ were illegal, every journalist in Washington would be locked up. Unreal.”

While these new revalations are certainly disturbing, contrary to popular belief, they are not unprecedented. First, as Glenn Greenwald documented today (and has been documenting for years), this is the same argument the Justice Department has been using in their attempt to indict WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

This is why it’s always been so important for journalists to aggressively stand up for WikiLeaks’ rights. A WikiLeaks conviction would mean that the next ‘co-conspirator’—a.k.a. ‘journalist with a scoop’—may very well face indictment.

But the most starking parallel to this case comes in a new book by former New York Times chief counsel James Goodale, which details how the Nixon administration once convened a secret grand jury to indict New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan and his wife, New Yorker staff writer Susan Sheehan, for obtaining and copying the Pentagon Papers from Dan Ellsberg.

Goodale recounted the near miss in the Daily Beast in 2011:

In 1971, after Nixon had lost the Pentagon Papers case in the Supreme Court, he desperately wanted to bring criminal charges against the Times. Attorney General John Mitchell first went to U.S. Attorney Whitney North Seymour Jr. in New York and asked him to indict the Times. When Seymour refused, a grand jury was convened in Boston, where the prosecutors eventually dragged virtually every journalist and anti-war academic in the Cambridge area to court using subpoenas. The Justice Department wanted to know exactly who knew of the Pentagon Papers before they were released and how they ended up at the New York Times

The scope of the investigation was extraordinarily broad, yet this episode, besides in Goodale’s new book and 2011 article, has largely been lost in the history books, despite the many well-known names that were dragged into court to testify (though almost all of them refused):

A Who’s Who of Boston-based reporters and anti-war activists were then forced to testify, including New York Times reporter David Halberstam, anti-war activists Noam ChomskyHoward Zinn, and two senatorial aides to Mike Gravel and Ted Kennedy. Harvard Professor Samuel Popkin would even serve a week in jail for refusing to testify as to his sources, citing the First Amendment right to keep them confidential.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this story, recounted in much more detail in Goodale’s book, is that the Times was so sure that Sheehan would be indicted for ‘conspiracy to commit espionage’ that New York Times publisher drew up a statement condemning the indictment that never appeared. The statement, published in full for the first time in Goodale’s book, reads in part:

“The indictment of Neil Sheehan for doing his job as a reporter strikes not just at one man and one newspaper but at the whole institution of the press of the United States. In deciding to seek Mr. Sheehan’s indictment, the administration in effect has challenged the right of free newspapers to search out and publish essential information without harassment and intimidation.”

Those words ring true today whether we’re talking about Fox News’ James Rosen, WikiLeaks, or any of the other media organizations now at risk because of this draconian and out-of-control war on leaks.

As Goodale put it, “conspiracy to commit espionage” can more accurately be characterized as “conspiracy to commit journalism.” You can buy Goodale’s book here.

UPDATE: Fox News just released a statement defending its reporter James Rosen and it bears a striking resemblance to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger’s unpublished statement above from 43 years ago. It reads:

“We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. 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.”

NAMA may not be included in forthcoming extension of Freedom of Information legislation


NAMA may not be included in forthcoming extension of Freedom of Information legislation

 

Democracy is more than the ballot box without information democracy becomes a farce

What are they hiding?

Although An Taoiseach committed to reforming the Freedom of Information legislation by the end of 2012, and although that is another timed-commitment missed – like the Seanad referendum – commitment, it seems that in 2013, there will at least be a new Bill, though it’s by no means certain that the new legislation will extend as far as NAMA.

Yesterday, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin appeared before the Oireachtas Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform committee and discussed the extension of Freedom of Information legislation to several new organizations including An Garda Siochana and the Department of Defence. Of primary interest on here is NAMA, but it remains uncertain if NAMA will be included in the new Bill, and if so, to what extent its activities will open to scrutiny.

Minister Howlin stressed that NAMA’s commercial remit may make some requests unacceptable.

This concern is really a diversion on the Minister’s part, because there are existing exclusions under our FoI legislation to protect the necessary commercial sensitivity of transactions undertaken on our behalf by the State. The assessment on here, over the past three years, is NAMA is intrinsically opposed to transparency. We saw this with the extraordinary resistance to the determination by the Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly that NAMA be subject to environment requests – that resistance is still being played out in the High Court.

The resistance is understandable. NAMA is a new Agency with colossal power and money, and is under constant pressure from those wishing to take a bite out of that power and money. NAMA is not excessively resourced compared to its competitors and dealing with FoI requests can take considerable time. And NAMA will not want mistakes, which it like any large organization will inevitably commit at some point, brought to light where they can undermine the morale and effectiveness of the Agency.

When are we likely to see the new Freedom of Information legislation? The changes will be published in the forthcoming session, says Minister Howlin, which means by the end of March 2013. Will NAMA definitely be included? Not “definitely”, although Minister Howlin was emphatic on “Tonight with Vincent Browne” on 10th October 2011 when he said “we will introduce FOI to NAMA”. Will Freedom of Information which excludes requests which might be deemed commercially sensitive, be of any use? Oh yes indeed, I for one would like to see the independent valuation report which NAMA claims it had before selling a property in Lucan to Enda Farrell, okay, the figures might be redacted but it would put to bed once and for all the doubt over whether NAMA did get an independent valuation.

[Juno McEnroe in the Irish Examiner today has a detailed report on yesterday’s Oireachtas committee proceedings, the transcript of which won’t be available for a few days]

via NAMA Wine Lake.

via NAMA Wine Lake.

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