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In 2000, Congress created and passed a broad anti-leak measure without holding public hearings. President Clinton vetoed the bill because, although the bill was well-intentioned, it would

. . . chill legitimate activities that are at the heart of a democracy.
The difference between 2000, when Clinton vetoed the bill, and now, when the Obama administration has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers and Congress is again considering creating anti-leak legislation, is the 9/11 attacks. But just because 9/11 happened does not change the relevancy and power of Clinton's warning against broad anti-leak measures. We have already given away too much of our freedom because of 9/11.  

Don't miss this excellent op-ed in today's New York Times by my Yale Law School professor, Bruce Ackerman, which beautifully strikes to the heart of the dangers of criminalizing whistleblowing:

Telling Americans about secret presidential actions that threaten our fundamental law should never be considered violations of the Espionage Act. Such leaks don’t endanger our national security. They promote it, by preserving our constitutional integrity.

Back in 2000:  

Both conservatives and liberals condemned the [anti-leaks] bill.

Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) said the provision amounted to an "official secrets act" that would "silence whistle-blowers." Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Congress was "foolish to give a blank check to the executive branch" that would allow it to punish its internal critics.

Considering some of the rhetoric surrounding Congress' understandable indignation at the Obama administration's hypocrisy of prosecuting low and mid-level officials while feeding the media pro-government information that the administration continues to claim is classified, Congress is in danger of making the same mistake it did in 2000.

I've been saying from the beginning that the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers is a back door way of creating an Official Secrets Act, something this country has managed to go without for over 200 years.

I'll be discussing these issues on Democracy Now! tomorrow.

The recent outrage from both sides of the aisle over "leaks" is understandable, and we may want to react with relief that finally Congress recognizes the hypocrisy of the Obama administration criminally prosecuting low and mid-level officials under the Espionage Act while simultaneously slipping pro-government information to the press.

However, we must be mindful of the long-term implications of this latest "leak" hysteria, which could lead us down the dangerous path of chilling more speech under the guise of protecting national security.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The point to be made here, IMHO, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gerrilea, Sandino, joe shikspack

    is that our representatives in the legislative bodies, on both the state and national level, have shown little hesitancy about using the law to restrict individual human rights.  And, I would argue, it's not a mistake.  When government by the people appeared on the horizon (in 1971 when universal suffrage was achieved), it suddenly occurred to people who had been acting "in loco parentis," that their authority was liable to being restricted.  So, to preclude that, they embarked on an agenda that ostensibly minimized their own duties (via privatization) and expanded their ability to extort subservience from citizens and corporations alike.  Indeed, when looked at objectively, much of the "regulation" that's been effected to "protect" the environment and the whole nation has been employed to selectively restrict whoever posed a threat to their longevity in office.  Longevity being the key to power.

    Using the law to subordinate, rather than promote justice, has a long history, going all the way back to our founding in legalized slavery.

    "In the name of the nation, and of the dollar and of the rule of law, you and your children shall sacrifice for the good of all." Rmoney prayer

    by hannah on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 06:22:51 AM PDT

  •  This pretty much sums it up for me... (15+ / 0-)
    ...We have already given away too much of our freedom because of 9/11...

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 06:23:07 AM PDT

  •  Jesselyn, its happening around the world... (16+ / 0-)

    The UK gov't has a bill right now going through that would do similar things: Prevent the truth from coming out.

    The takeaway quote:

    "They've revealed secrets the rich and powerful never wanted us to know."

    -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

    by gerrilea on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 06:23:28 AM PDT

  •  The hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle... (6+ / 0-)

    regarding leaks is absolutely stunning.

    While there's no concrete proof that any high official in the administration (outside of the CIA) leaked this stuff, the White House is certainly guilty of prosecuting leaks that cast them in a negative light. That said, the author of the book that disclosed the information in question, David Sanger, said it didn't come from the White House. And in reality, some of this stuff that was leaked sure didn't help Obama with his base, and that includes me.

    Holder did do the right thing by appointing those two federal prosecutors though. I guess we'll have to wait and see how their investigation pans out in the long run.

    But what is certain is that the accusations by John McCain, Lindsey Graham and others take hypocrisy to a whole new level. Where was the outrage when the Bush regime methodically leaked classified information, including the outing of Valerie Plame?

    Myself, I think the Republicans are just trying to distract Holder from his crackdown on voter suppression efforts.

    Thanks for the diary.

    "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." ~ Aldous Huxley

    by markthshark on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 06:37:27 AM PDT

  •  Real Risk (9+ / 0-)

    that some virulent form of anti-leaks legislation could easily emerge out of the hysteria and will simply serve to further protect the national security regime by eviscerating the 1st Amendment.

    Would mean that only approved government messages are authorized for release to the public through official mouthpieces and talking heads - pure propaganda.

    And means that the only leaks worth knowing are put behind bars - both figuratively and literally.

    "Truth is treason in the empire of lies." - George Orwell

    by Thomas Drake on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 07:06:28 AM PDT

    •  Some of the greatest scandals of my generation, (10+ / 0-)

      such as torture and warrantless surveillance, have been exposed by whistleblowers. If the public is only allowed "authorized" talking points, government can cover-up wrongdoing.

      My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

      by Jesselyn Radack on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 07:15:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They are trying this already, aren't they??? (6+ / 0-)

      Congressmen seek to ‘legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences’

      The proposal would “give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public.”
      Wouldn't this justify, retroactively, the crimes the Bush Administration perpetrated when they created "news briefs" and spent millions creating "fake news clips"?

      "In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of TV news segments in the past four years," the Times reported, noting that the practice has long been common among major corporations.


      "I think they learned all the tricks of the previous administrations, Democrat and Republican, and have taken it to a new level,"

      -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

      by gerrilea on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 07:31:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Wouldn't this justify, retroactively, the crimes the Bush Administration perpetrated when they created "news briefs" and spent millions creating "fake news clips"?

        Domestically, yes, although clearly we can see from what has been kept "off the table" for the past 3.5 years that the justification is already there, whether it's written into law or not.

        Internationally, however, this would have no impact on the international provisions set forth in the Nuremberg Tribunal, section VI(a):

        (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
        (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
        Unfortunately for the U.S., the StuxNet and Flame viruses can be argued to violate this provision as well.

        The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

        by chipmo on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 06:20:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The spinning is making me dizzy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Do we know about drone attacks because some brave anonymous whistleblowers leaked what was being done in our name? Or is it because the WH orchestrated 'leaks' as a propaganda tool to make themselves look good?

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 08:22:54 AM PDT

    •  Spinning drone stories can go a couple ways: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, aliasalias

      Whistleblower story: Drones kill wedding party and relatives, 20% of village, and a few foreign journalists. Locals very upset, grief-stricken and demand payments on behalf of their killed neighbors, relatives, livestock, and destroyed wells, buildings, crops and farmlands.  US officials deny having knowledge that armed US drones are operating in this region.  Although, off the record, some US officials put suspicions of illegal drone activity on an Iranian or North Korean attempt to discredit US foreign policy.  Some Republican sources express fears the Russians, Chinese and French are selling drone tech to insurgents.

      Propaganda story: Drones kill newly formed terrorist cell, existing cells and their evil spawn, and known collaborators, before they carry out heinous plot to blow up another school and publish more misinformation attempting to frame US military for illegal war crimes.  Hard drive found with data detailing planned expansion of their cells and operations into new territories. Plot to electronically hijack US drones using Iranian stolen technology thwarted (again!).  The extreme threat and global cancer of terrorism is being eliminated by determined US vigilance and surgically precise technological domination!  Stern warnings given to Iran! Neighbors urged to keep even closer vigil over Iran.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 09:13:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It depends on which version makes the (0+ / 0-)

      President look worse.

      “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you...” - Maya Angelou

      by stellaluna on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 10:21:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  AaAaahhhhhhhh Pelosi. What a long way she has (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    come. From speaking out in favor of whistle blowers to protecting the Bush-Cheney war criminal junta ("impeachment is off the table").  Progress !

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 03:40:53 PM PDT

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