US’ plugging up of WikiLeaks axes free press

27 March, 2012

Washington’s relentless pursuit of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and alleged whistle-blower Bradley Manning, is no secret. But the fate of the two men has got US journalists worried, that they too could soon find themselves behind bars.

Julian Assange’s life resembles a game of chess. He is an Australian citizen in the custody of Britain fighting extradition to Sweden. But no one wants the king of WikiLeaks more than America. Washington has had secret plans for Assange since at least January 2011.

Ironically, the secret was uncovered earlier this month after five million confidential emails from the global intelligence company Stratfor were published by WikiLeaks.

“It’s done frequently when a defendant is outside the US. They’ll get an indictment, which is secret. They’ll seal the charging document of the indictment. They will ask for an arrest warrant and that will also be sealed. That way, the US stands behind a big large boulder, if you will, and then jumps out from that boulder and arrests someone,” says Douglas McNabb, federal criminal defense attorney and extradition expert.

Under house arrest for more than a year, Assange has not been charged with any crime in any country, though Sweden wants to question him over sex-related allegations. The US meanwhile, is determined to punish the forty-year old.

Apparently, it is payback for exposing confidential cables repeatedly shaming America by shining a spotlight on illegalities in overseas military operations and on some embarrassing tactics and opinions from the State Department. Continue reading

Bradley Manning Hearing: Government Foiled By Its Own Policies

by Jesselyn Radack on March 16, 2012 ( The Whistleblogger / 2012 )

Bradley Manning’s attorney (David Coombs) requested that charges against Manning be dismissed because the prosecution had so badly bungled discovery obligations.

Josh Gerstein of Politico reported in detail:

At a hearing last month, prosecutors in the case against Pfc. Bradley Manning noted that they didn’t receive the messages but could not explain why. Chief prosecutor Capt. Ashden Fein said at a hearing Thursday that the messages had been “blocked by a spam filter for security.” However, it fell to defense attorney David Coombs to explain precisely why the e-mails about evidence issues in the Manning case never made it.

“Apparently, they were blocked because the word ‘WikiLeaks’ was somewhere in the e-mail,” Coombs said.

The government’s own WikiLeaks policies are now hampering the prosecution’s work in the case against Manning. Yesterday’s Manning hearing also revealed that the U.S. claims that Manning aided al-Qaeda by allegedly giving documents to WikiLeaks. What about the New York Times, which also posted the WikiLeaks documents? Neo-con Gabe Schoenfeld, who suggested using the Espionage Act to target news sources, which the Obama administration had done in record numbers, also believes that news organizations should be held criminally liable for alleged leaks of classified information.

Speaking of absurd WikiLeaks policies, I blogged yesterday about the State Department’s attempt to fire whistleblower and author Peter Van Buren based on his linking – NOT leaking – to a Wikileaks document on his personal blog. Van Buren was on Democracy Now! this morning: Continue reading

United States – Domestic reality does not match bold words on Internet free expression

02 Nov 2011 16:05

Source: Content partner // Reporters Without Borders

The US government has reiterated its commitment to online free speech several times since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in particular, affirmed US support for freedom of expression and opinion very clearly in a speech in Washington on January 21st, 2010.

Urging American companies to take a “principled stand” against online censorship, Clinton said defense of the Internet should be one of the cornerstones of US diplomacy. As the “birthplace” of so many online technologies, the United States had a “responsibility” to protect the Internet as a tool for economic and social development and promoting democracy, as well as a place for the free exchange of ideas. “We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas,” Clinton added.

Since then, the United States has developed many tools that support online free expression such as “Shadow Internet” and parallel mobile phone systems that cyber-dissidents can use in countries to escape the censorship of authoritarian regimes. The US plans to invest 70 million dollars for this kind of project in 2011.

Nonetheless, although the US government has defended Iranian bloggers, Chinese activists and Arab Spring netizens, it has also been responsible for initiatives that have harmed online free speech and has displayed a hostile attitude to online activities. Reporters Without Borders has followed several cases that run counter to the US government’s professed commitment to fundamental Internet freedoms.

US free speech violations, targeting WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks and free flow of information

The leak of classified US diplomatic cables prompted many free speech violations in the United States at the federal government’s bidding. WikiLeaks announced on October 24th that it was suspending its activities for lack of funding, as a result of the refusal by Visa and MasterCard to process donations to WikiLeaks in what is a form of economic censorship.

The White House issued a directive on December 3rd, 2010 forbidding unauthorized federal employees from accessing classified documents available on WikiLeaks. The Library of Congress and State Department responded a few hours later by blocking access to WikiLeaks from their computers. As well as WikiLeaks the US Air Force blocked access to the websites of the five newspapers that had worked closely with WikiLeaks – The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Pais – and around 20 other media and blogs that had been publishing the cables. Continue reading