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View Diary: Senate Staffers Told To Pretend Classified Documents Not Widely Available On The Web (73 comments)

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  •  I understand; it's a spooky time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eXtina

    to be an American.

    This diary by gjohnsit is the first one I've seen that addresses the spookines in a non-hair-on-fire way --

    One of the arguments of the cynics, who think we need to just get over it, is that civil rights abuses are nothing new to America. So why get excited now?
       Besides the offensiveness of suggesting that since you've been screwed before, you should just "relax and enjoy it" this time, the cynics are overlooking the fundamental fact here:
       it affects all of us now.

      This isn't like Driving-While-Brown or Flying-While-Muslim.
    This isn't something that happens to "other people", so you can simply not care if you don't want to.
       Scandals that effect a small minority (or even a large minority) eventually die out because they depend on the news media to keep us aware of them.

        The spying scandal affects each and every one of us.

      There is no half-life on a scandal in which no one is exempt!

      And how often will you think about it? Every single time you access the internet.
      That means every single time you text on your cell phone. Every single time you call a friend. Every single time you surf the web. Every single time you post to DKos.
       It's being recorded every single time.

      Will it be analyzed? Probably not, but that sort of makes it worse because you will never know.

       And do you think that once the news media moves on that people will stop talking about it? This is the stuff of dark comedy. People will be making bitter jokes about this to friends over drinks and over lunch with coworkers.

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    It's quite a good diary.  And he's right: every single time.

    I wrote elsewhere today that there seem to be to kinds of highly polarized responses to this situation.  One is Fear and a sense of Danger that makes some folks go full-tilt to the 'America First' pole.  The other far pole is Fear and sense of Danger that makes people go full-tilt to the Government/Corporations/Obama Evil pole.  I think the only way to keep one's balance is to retain one's sense of the Absurd -- if one is lucky enough to have one.

    And the situation is Kafkesque.  At least the government's 'worst thing ever!' kabuki (a re-make of the drama around WikiLeaks, they just dusted off the same script and sen tout the talking points).

    But I hadn't thought about Kafka until your comment.  And I was seeing in my mind's eye the clerical workers especially those whose job it will be to manage the calls and the self-reporting paperwork.  If the demand for self-reporting is real (not kabuki), then process-management will have to be put in place -- and I'm sure, if they are serious, that some people's hard drives will have to be disinfected.  But that whole scenario (as it plays out in my mind's theater) is, truly, Kafkaesque.

    But I think your fear that --

    everyone who has clicked those links is now potentially subject to being prosecuted by the government whether they have clearances or not.
    -- may be a bit of a bride too far, at least in current reality.  (Who knows, I may be wrong.)  But the fact that you have that fear shows me that (at least at the moment you wrote that) the propaganda value of the prohibition against reading the published news has worked (at least for the moment).  It has made you fear that you live in a truly repressive country that will disappear people for thought-crime.  I'm not going to say 'that can't happen here', but I think that the propagandists have won insofar as people allow themselves to be ruled by fear.  (And I will say, 'I don't think that's going to happen now.'  Didn't happen during WikiLeaks -- at least for small fry, although high-profile activists got some severe hassling -- I just thin it would be too much trouble, in terms of staff time and paperwork.)
    •  I am not talking about fear. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, CroneWit

      The law says that possessing classified documents without clearances is illegal.

      It is super clear.

      I have nothing to fear.  I haven't attempted to obtain those original documents.

      Please reread the Congressional staffer warning and understand that if they are said to be breaking the law by reading or downloading the documents, you will be perceived to be doing so, too - without nearly as strong a safety net or protections as they might be able to draw upon.

      Nothing that I say on this topic is fear-based.  It is reality-based.

      The law is the law.

    •  By the way, while I think that this diarist (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, CroneWit

      is very, very smart and very astute, the reality is that anyone who knows about the rules with regard to classified information knows also that any acknowledgment that the classified information exists, is relevant or otherwise to recognize it even in the most passive of innocent way is to break the law.

      The most troubling things is that the staffers didn't fully grasp how serious their crimes were under current law or how threatening to their liberty the simple act of clinking on an internet link could be under the current law.

      There is nothing ambiguous about those rules in the laws pertaining to classified documents.  

      Doesn't help that the Obama Administration has seen fit to call anyone who has released classified documents that they do not like "traitors" and taken full advantage of the worst interpretation and full power of these laws.

      Again, I'm not afraid - but sure as hell there are a number of people who probably should be now and should be seeking legal counsel before they go talk to that "help desk".

      •  Thanks for our kind words, but (0+ / 0-)

        I think you may be mistaken in this --

        Please reread the Congressional staffer warning and understand that if they are said to be breaking the law by reading or downloading the documents, you will be perceived to be doing so, too - without nearly as strong a safety net or protections as they might be able to draw upon.
        You are correct in saying that if 'they' -- people who have signed contracts/pledges/confidentially statements (I don't know the correct term) because they are in the military or because of their particular employment do have a legal responsibility to to adhere to the terms of their contracts.  These people have made a contractual agreement to limit their First Amendment protections, and will be held accountable to the terms of those contracts.  (This played out in Thomas Drake's case, wherein the multiple severe counts against him were finally plea-bargained down to just one, along the lines of 'Improper Use of a Government Computer'.)

        I, however, am just a citizen -- and I have never signed an agreement to limit my First Amendment rights.  In the regular course of my life, I have neither exposure nor access to classified material.  Any material I read (or save to my computer for my personal use) has already been published, and therefore that material is also protected by the First Amendment.

        I speak with confidience on this, because during the WikiLeaks era I read extensively on First Amendment rights, both as they apply to the individual and to published material, which falls under protection as part of the Freedom of the Press.

        You raise a new question, however, that I don't recollect seeing: that a danger might lie in simply clicking on (and therefore possibly reading) a published, but still classified, document.  If we were actually in an Orwellian or McCarthyite dystopia, and my Internet records were put before me and I was asked about the thousands of clicks I've made during both the WikiLeaks era and the current turning point, my only reply would be that it was legal at the time.  (Followed by a dissertation on the First Amendment that would, I hope, do my father proud.)

        People who have First-Amendment-abrogating contracts for employment may indeed have to submit to intensive scrutiny, in particular in regard to having their computers (and related media) scrubbed of any still-classified documents.

        I do not know what, if any, sanctions would be applied to these First-Amendment-deprived individuals.  Perhaps employment consequences -- which, I agree, could be devastating, but I think Intent would still have to be proved.  (Does anyone know, for example, what happened to the contractor who had multiple classified documents from a number of 3-letter agencies and who let (her?) daughter install a P2P program on her computer?  The 2007 Congressional hearing (which Wesley Clarke attended) at which the panel learned that this one leak alone allowed foreign nations (and anyone else who cared to) to grab all those documents, as well as her Contacts and the entire backbone of the Pentagon system?  Any death squads in evidence?)

        But you may have more knowledge of the current law as it applies to government employees, including Congressional staffers.  Part of your second comment suggest that you do --

        the staffers didn't fully grasp how serious their crimes were under current law or how threatening to their liberty the simple act of clinking on an internet link could be under the current law.

        There is nothing ambiguous about those rules in the laws pertaining to classified documents.

        Perhaps you could provide the community with links to the 'current law' and 'how threatening to their liberty' those laws are.  I've been without Internet access for most of the last two years due to poverty, and it may be that the laws and regs have changed since I did my earlier research on it.  Without links and/or quotes to read, I can't help but find these statements excessive --

        The law says that possessing classified documents without clearances is illegal.
        [but reading published documents is not, and connot be]

        breaking the law by reading or downloading the [published] documents,
        [Can't be, if the First Amendment holds]

         any acknowledgment that the classified information exists, is relevant or otherwise to recognize it even in the most passive of innocent way is to break the law.
        [for those, and only who have limited their First Amendment rights by contract]

        I can understand that what you represent in those statements as 'the law' would apply to those who, by reason of contractual agreement that reduces their First Amendment protections as members of the military or as military employees are constrained by laws governing classified documents and insuring that those documents are securely held.  I would assume that those contracts, and the training those people would receive before receiving their clearances, would spell that out for them.  (Although in a recent development in the Manning case, the agreement he had signed had been destroyed at the time of his arrest, so it is impossible to know what he agreed to.  So I can't really speak to how people are trained, or what the contracts say.)

        But, except for people who have willingly limited their First Amendment rights by signing an employment contract (including military), the full weight and power of the First Amendment applies.  The First Amendment applies to me, as a citizen, and guarantees me to right to read anything that comes before my eyes.  And the First Amendment protects the Free Press, which (per a 1972 Supreme Court decision) means that even 'the lonely pamphleteer' with his mimeographed copies qualifies as a 'publisher'.  

        Either the Constitution undergirds and over-branches each and every law in America, or it does not -- and insofar as a law breaches the Rights acknowledged by (not 'granted by') the Constitution, that law can have no validity.  Supreme Court decisions have been very clear and consistent on these First Amendment issues.

        No law or military regulation can limit my right to read any published material.  It is the legal duty of those charged with keeping classified documents secure to prevent their disclosure.  If they fail to keep those documents secure, and the documents are published, my access to those documents cannot be limited without infringing my First Amendment rights.

        You write --

        Nothing that I say on this topic is fear-based.  It is reality-based.
        I'm afraid I can't accept that statement until you prove to me, by providing links and quotes from 'the law' you reference that I have broken the law by reading published material.  (Please include the sanctions that I would incur under this law.)

        Things have changed during the time I have been offline, but I find it hard to credit that I am now subject to the law that governs the duties of the (relatively) small portion of the populace who are responsible for safeguarding classified documents.  And please, while you're finding this law, please also find some kind of court ruling that made this kind of First-Amendment diminishment (ie restrictions to access of published material) appropriate to impose on anyone, including military or government employees.

        Until you can put these documents before my eyes so I can read them, I will have to maintain my opinion that your statements are fear-based and do not reflect the reality of my First Amendment rights.  

        But fear is understandable.  Robert Gate's DOD made a huge push during WikiLeaks to get this meme implanted in the American consciousness, and he was successful.  Then we've been subject to several years of having that lesson drummed home (particularly us lefties, who read a lot) by the object-lessons of Jessalyn Raddick and her clients, like Thomas Drake.  Lots of examples of careers lost and lives ruined by people who were governed by the laws restricting their First Amendment rights due to their contracts.  (And who made decisions of conscience because, in their hearts and minds, they came to understand that they would have to break the law in order to protect the Constitution.)

        There's an actual, visceral, skin-crawling creepy physical fear that's triggered by this repetition of the 'prohibition' on viewing published material.  And of course it's exacerbated by the knowledge -- which is growing every day -- that yes, They Really Do Gather It All Up, All the Time, and have been doing so for years now.  (I think we're all, as a nation -- and maybe as a world -- having a reaction that's somewhat like realizing that yes, those tiny annoying bites mean that I really do have bed bugs -- in my house -- in my chair -- in my mattress!  And they've been here forever now, and there's no way to get rid of them . . ..)

        But Bob Gates pushing a meme to instill fear and make people self-limit their First Amendment rights does not overwrite the Constitution.  Neither does the NSA's shredding the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments through their worldwide surveillance network destroy those rights which are acknowledged by (not 'granted' by) The Constitution; those Rights belong to us, each one of us, as part of our natural endowment as human beings.

        Okay, I'll stop now.  I don't mean to lay all this on you, and I apologize for doing so.  It's impossible to describe how incessantly I read when these issues come up, and with all my WikiLeaks-era work still in my head, I now have to add all my recent research on the technology of worldwide surveillance.  And when I'm going through one of these phases,  while I'm reading and reading and reading I can barely manage to compose a sentence.  Then a certain point arrives and I begin to write.  You just happened to catch me at the point where I began writing.

        But really.  Look into the law.  Unless things have changed radically (not impossible!) you're applying a law that applies to a limited (relative) few to everyone.

        And thanks, really, for giving me 'Kafka Trial', and the secretaries who implement the paperwork.

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