In recent weeks, the disclosure of classified material by non-profit media group Wikileaks has been the subject of much discussion. So just a quick re-cap here to start off, for those that may not be familiar with the story. Wikileaks has published hundred of classified and sensitive documents, diplomatic cables, that give a revealing look inside America's international political and war strategies. Wikileaks claims to now have hundreds of thousands of such documents, which they promise to publish over time. The U.S. military claims these documents were leaked to Wikileaks by an Army Private whom they have kept in solitary confinement for the last seven months.
As a sort of sideshow now to this whole affair, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been detained in England on a warrant by Swedish authorities who want to question him over charges of sexual misconduct. Swedish officials claim that there is no political motivation behind these charges, and that the charges are unrelated to the goings-on at Wikileaks, despite the fact that he was already detained and questioned while in Sweden this past summer on these same charges. With the release of new material came this renewed effort to arrest Assange once again. The timing of all of this is certainly coincidental at the very least.
But now to the topic at hand, as it most directly pertains to the freedom of speech. In the United States, free speech is protected under the Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” -First Amendment
Free speech is also recognized internationally under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Nevertheless, debate has raged as to whether or not Wikileaks is guilty of high crimes for publishing the classified material. The debate centers on whether or not free-speech protections extend to the publication of classified government documents and if Wikileaks did in fact break any laws that are already in place. Assange and Wikileaks were no doubt confident that they were breaking no laws, as numerous U.S.-based publications have printed sensitive material in the past without facing the threat of prosecution, and no pertinent laws have been put on the books since the First World War. (Not to mention the fact that Assange is not an American citizen, Wikileaks is not an American organization, and any such "crime" did not take place on American soil.) So it would seem that opponents of Wikileaks are really more concerned with how damaging the material is, rather than the fact that classified material is being published.
Speaking from a supporter's home in England where he is staying under house arrest, Julian Assange stated today that he fears an imminent indictment by U.S. Authorities against either himself or Wikileaks by a secret grand-jury. An msnbc.com legal panel also predicts that there will be an indictment.
A report of the panel's discussion can be found at this link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40653249/ns/us_news-wikileaks_in_security/
The implications for free speech, and freedom of the press would be profound if such an indictment were handed down, and certainly if a conviction were secured it would completely undermine the very foundations of a free press in America. At stake here is one of, if not the most cherished and fundamental liberties that define us as a nation. More alarmingly, let us have a look at what effect this is having already on the American press. There is a virtual media blackout on the contents of the information published by Wikileaks, as the U.S. media runs spinelessly in full retreat of what has already been reported publicly, not only by Wikileaks themselves but by other news organizations in Europe and elsewhere. As Dr. Ron Paul points out in the audio recording here below, the main-stream corporate media are completely focused on the leak, rather than the content.
Also, U.S. Based servers have dropped or blocked access to the Wikileaks website, and an American must now access servers on foreign soil to read the content at all. So exactly what does it mean to be an American today, when we must travel to foreign soil, even digitally, in order to practice our Constitutionally protected rights? With corporate media already dominating the mindset of the masses with biased and incomplete reporting, outright blackouts of news, and then cramming their content with tabloid “junk-food news,” the last bastion of hope for free speech now is the internet. And that folks, is why there is a war on now to censor the internet. There is a war on to control what Americans think, and what Americans can and cannot see. You can read more about that here in one of our previous articles...
Some might say that American companies and press outlets have good reason to avoid Wikileaks like the plague right now, at least until the chips do fall where they may. Spineless as it may be to not defend the core principals by which a press organization operates in the first place, their fears are not without some merit. It does however show a lack of integrity, and boldly hints that profits are more important than the actual reporting of news. It also goes to show how oppressive our government actually is, that in this supposedly free country, the press will run and hide from anything that might upset the government, before any case has even been made. Now it appears that this hint of trouble has already undermined our ability as a people of a so-called free and open society to get the story, the full story, the true story. And now it has spilled over into general reporting, beyond news that has anything to do with the Wikileaks story.
Take the news that is being reported today for example, by the Associated Press, as it appeared on Yahoo. The story is about the CIA station-chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, being recalled from his post in the wake of his cover being blown in a Pakistani lawsuit accusing him, and others named in the suit, of killing civilians there with missile strikes. Threats have been made against him, and his name is being openly reported overseas, in Pakistan especially. Yet here in America, we are barred from knowing his name because, as the AP claims, “...he remains undercover and his name is classified.” So while the enemies of America now know full well the identity of the CIA station-chief, we here at home are still barred from this information. For what purpose?
CIA station-chief pulled from Islamabad
CIA station-chief pulled from Islamabad
Clearly, material that was once considered classified, is no longer in fact classified once it is leaked to non-classified persons, regardless of the circumstances or the sensitivity of the information.
classified clas·si·fied [klas-uh-fahyd]adj.1. Arranged in classes or categories.2. Available to authorized persons only, as for reasons of national security: a classified document.
This fact not only shows that the AP is being shamefully cautious and “white-gloved” when dealing with information that the U.S. government may object to being reported, but goes right to the heart of the matter as it pertains to the Wikileaks dissemination of formerly classified material. Once the material is leaked to non-classified personnel, it is no longer classified by the very definition of the word.
How much other material is being censored by the AP, or other news sources, which the American government may find objectionable? Are we to tolerate wholesale censorship and the destruction of our fundamental liberties, simply because the government might be offended by the reporting of fact, truth, or opinion? And when did this government for the people and by the people, suddenly become the masters of the people, dictating what is and is not allowed, in direct opposition the ideals put down as inalienable rights of the people in the founding document of this nation?
Some have argued that this whole matter with Wikileaks has been a “false-flag” operation all along, an “internet 9/11” as some conspiracy theorists have termed it, in order for the American government to seize control of the internet. Whether or not Assange and Wikileaks are actually a CIA asset is debatable, even if not likely, but one thing is clear; the American government is poised to exploit this matter in a way that stands in stark contradiction to the ideal this nation once held most dear.The days of freedom of speech and freedom of press in America, as we have known them for hundreds of years, are at an end.
We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights. ~Felix Frankfurter
We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. ~Edward R. Murrow
I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. ~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788
Nations grown corrupt
Love bondage more than liberty;
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty.
(Special thanks to Ahkronn for contributing to this article)