Sunday, January 9, 2011

Criminalizing Whistleblowers: Wikileaks and America’s SHIELD Legislation

By Rady Ananda
Global Research

On Dec. 2nd, Senators John Ensign (R-NV), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA) introduced a bill entitled the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD), effectively criminalizing whistleblowers. Yet over 1,200 websites now mirror WikiLeaks in what is clearly public support of such disclosures.

The next day, the Library of Congress confirmed that it blocked Wikileaks from its database, bluntly denying access by the Congressional Research Service. Not only is the public being prevented from viewing whatever Wikileaks has to say, but so are government researchers who advise Congress.

Writing for the Federation of American Scientists, Steven Aftergood said, “if CRS is ‘Congress’s brain,’ then the new access restrictions could mean a partial lobotomy.”

Most of the suspicion over WikiLeaks results from how mainstream media used the latest data dump. But is it fair to hold the whistleblower accountable for how corporate media uses his information? Is the gun maker responsible for murder by a gun owner? The fact that the U.S. diplomatic cables were only sent to powerful mainstream news sources also raises suspicion, as well as all the attention founder Julian Assange has been given by them (in several interviews).

Upon reflection, the website, Signs of the Times, contends that we should defend Wikileaks and its flawed founder on the principle of defending the exposure of truth, no matter the source. In The Baby and the Bathwater – WikiLeaks and the Principle of Truth, SOTT warns that whether we like it or not:

“Assange is the spokesperson for an idea whose time has come, but the leaked material he is representing is not worth dying for. In short, Assange and the propaganda within the leaks are the bathwater, the public right to expose government corruption is the baby.”

A cited Guardian editorial raises an interesting notion: “[Wikileaks] represents the first really sustained confrontation between the established order and the culture of the internet. There have been skirmishes before, but this is the real thing.” In other words, WikiLeaks expands the dichotomy to a triad, allowing for a third point of view, from a source that uses tactics not limited to the internet. Is this not something a free press should defend?

Another Guardian piece in defense of WikiLeaks reminds us that:

“Disclosure is messy and tests moral and legal boundaries. It is often irresponsible and usually embarrassing. But it is all that is left when regulation does nothing, politicians are cowed, lawyers fall silent and audit is polluted. Accountability can only default to disclosure.”

Certainly no one with integrity would describe the US government as accountable — it holds itself above the law and beyond moral stricture, while committing heinous acts of kidnapping and torture, wars of aggression, genocide and looting of pubic coffers. Those within such power centers who do possess integrity have no recourse but to leak information. The quality of information (more on this below) released is less relevant than the effort to expose a psychopathic government.

In a recent interview, investigative journalist and filmmaker John Pilger noted, “Secrecy in government has become a plague…. They read our emails, why shouldn’t we read theirs?”

Another sticking point for many is Assange’s view that 911 truth is “nonsense.” SOTT responds with “we don’t agree that Assange should be required to be a 9-11 Truther to be an activist for Truth and Transparency in government.” Again, this allows for a third, alternative point of view — something all advocates of a free press should defend. How fundamentalist are we to demand that all must accept our take on 911 or be denied membership in the truth-telling club?

Admittedly, we should remain wary of anyone who buys the government version of what happened on 911, which defies the laws of physics according to independent experts. But can we agree that one does not have to be a 911 truther to be a truthteller in other realms? The chauvinistic notion that to expose 911 truth will expose all other truths strains logic. Just a few years ago, leaders in the election integrity movement urged everyone to go after Diebold, assuring us that once the giant was brought down all the other electronic voting companies would fall. What happened is that Diebold went down and all the other e-voting companies picked up that business. We still have unverifiable e-voting today. There is no single keystone in an empire with a myriad of bridges.

Read More at Practical Populism

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