Whatever your opinion of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he was right when he called for an end to the war on whistleblowers in his speech outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London yesterday:
The U.S. administration's war on whistleblowers must end. Thomas Drake, William Binney, John Kiriakou, and other heroic whistleblowers must be pardoned or compensated for the hardships they have endured as servants of the public record.While my clients' stories differ greatly from Assange's, the Obama administration has threatened to criminally prosecute all of them with the same draconian Espionage Act, a law meant to go after spies not whistleblowers. And the effect of the Obama administration's policy--if not the goal--is the same for my clients and Assange: to silence dissent.
Despite that Assange is often attacked for only looking out for himself (who could blame him, considering London police were poised to storm the Embassy last week?), he took time in his minutes-long speech to reach out to others who have been (or are) criminal targets and defendants. He also correctly identified the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers as a war on journalists and the media, a connection made by myself, Glenn Greewald, and the U.S. mainstream media itself.
The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.There must be no foolish talk about prosecuting any media organisations, be it Wikileaks or the New York Times.
Assange's call for an end to the U.S.'s "witch hunt" against Wikileaks called to mind Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:
Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women.Now the government fears truth and prosecutes whistleblowers, including the three clients of mine Assange saw fit to mention yesterday:
--Thomas Drake is the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who became the fourth person in U.S. history charged under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information. The government's case against him collapsed in spectacular fashion days before trial in June 2011, and evidence made public since the collapse revealed that the charges were built on sand.
--NSA whistleblower William Binney, with Drake, former NSA officials J. Kirk Wiebe, Edward Loomis, and former congressional staffer Diane Roark, complained through proper internal channels about massive waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality at NSA and was subsequently criminally investigated, threatened with prosecution, and subjected to an armed FBI raid. He eventually obtained a letter of immunity.
--Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou blew the whistle on waterboarding and helped expose the CIA's torture program, which he refused to participate in. Kiriakou was also charged under the Espionage Act, and is set to stand trial in November 2012. To help support Kiriakou go here or "like" the Defend John K Facebook page.
Assange is no doubt a controversial figure, but whatever you think of the messenger, Assange's message deserves attention from anyone valuing the freedoms of speech and the press.