Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Week They Broke the Constitution

The National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland.

I don't know, maybe it's been over the course of two weeks that the true nature of our federal government has been "leaked." But wrap your head around this: We now understand our government better because we were told about it, told something we weren't supposed to know.

And the government is furious. From its perspective our knowing what they're up to is a crime. That's what has to sink in. To say that it's horrifying is not an overstatement. Think of this:
  • The federal government, through a number of agencies but most notably the NSA, gets to know a lot about us that we're not allowed to know they know.
  • As far at the government is concerned, letting American citizens know what they didn't know but probably should have known is a crime punishable by life in prison or execution.
  • As far as the government is concerned, it owns the Internet and all its data. It also owns all telecommunications data. Why? Because a terrorist act might happen.
  • Bradley Manning is a criminal who deserves life behind bars because he revealed a war crime that was never prosecuted, even though another, not so crazy interpretation of his actions might make him out to be a hero.
  • Glenn Greenwald is getting classified information from somewhere. Without a doubt, the DOJ is right now looking very hard for whoever is providing Glenn Greenwald with the "leaked" information. What is that information? Troop movements? No. How to destroy our entire nuclear arsenal? No. Our secret plans to invade Moscow? No. Glenn Greewald let the American people know that, starting with the Bush administration and continuing unabated in the Obama administration, the federal government is shredding our Constitution into little pieces, and it's a crime to know that they're doing it.
  What really rich is that we're not supposed to care about this because Congress has complete oversight over all of this data harvesting. Only thing is, they can't tell us what they're overseeing. That would be a crime. They can't even tell us what they can't tell us. They can't tell us that they're horrified by government practices they believe are illegal because telling us that would be illegal. But they can tell us, don't worry, it's cool.

Can you hear me now?

What's also really rich is that the Republicans, who have been shouting from the rooftops how freaking unconstitutional Barack Obama is with his Obamacare, and his individual mandate, and free birth control, yes, those Republicans, are now saying go ahead, read my emails, check my phone records, analyze my Google searches, have at it! Why? So we can be safe!

If I read two chilling things this week, they would be two statements made by Daniel Ellsberg in an interview with Wonkblog's Timothy B. Lee. First, this one, when Lee asks Ellsberg if government surveillance of journalists was more alarming than prosecution of leakers:
Absolutely, but the two go together a little more than might be obvious. First of all, there’s no question that President Obama is conducting an unprecedented campaign against unauthorized disclosure. The government had used the Espionage Act against leaks only three times before his administration. He’s used it six times. He’s doing his best to assure that sources in the government will have reason to fear heavy prison sentences for informing the American public in ways he doesn’t want.
In other words, he’s working very hard to make it a government where he controls all the information. There will be plenty of leaks of classified information, but it will be by his officials in pursuit of his policies. We will not be getting information that the government doesn’t want out, that [reveals government actions that are] embarrassing or criminal or reckless, as we saw in Vietnam and Iraq.
I think the newspapers really need to address the fact that they’re going to be put in the position of printing nothing more than government handouts. There will be in effect a state press, as in so many other countries that lack freedom of the press. I don’t think they have really awakened to that change. There would be a lot of newspaper people who would be comfortable with that. But there are a lot who would not.
That last graph is the killer. "[Newspapers are] going to be put in the position of printing nothing more than government handouts." Freedom of the press? In the most surreptitious way, press freedom has been smothered. By what? Government secrecy and its prerogative to maintain it by terrorizing the press.

Daniel Ellsberg wasn't tried for leaking the Pentagon Papers because of Nixon's "dirty tricks."

The other quote from the Ellsberg interview gets to the heart of the government's brutal campaign against Bradley Manning:
Specifically, they’re charging Bradley with the video. [A video of a 2007 helicopter strike in Baghdad released by WikiLeaks under the title "Collateral Murder."] That was not in fact classified. But whether it was or not, it was wrongly withheld from Reuters who twice made Freedom of Information Act requests knowing it existed. David Finkel at The Washington Post quoted from the video. Bradley Manning was aware that Reuters had made that request and had been denied and that The Washington Post had access to the video and he believed that they had the video. I don’t think it’s ever been established whether the Washington Post reporter had the video.
That video depicts a war crime, an unarmed, injured civilian being deliberately killed. A squad was going to be in the area in minutes. They also shot at people who were trying to help the victims, including a father and two children.
Manning sees this, knows it’s a crime, knows the evidence has been refused to Reuters. He knows there’s no way for the American public to see that except to put it out. By any standard that’s what he should have done. For them to charge him with that shows an outrageous sensibility. Going after the man who exposes the war crime instead of any of the ones who actually did it, none of whom were indicted or investigated.
There's so much more to be said about the week they broke the Constitution. But just this much is enough to make your skin crawl, don't you think?

Imagine, then, what a journalist might think.

Bradley Manning is being tried even after horrid, brutal treatment because times change?

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