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I wrote most of this diary yesterday and won't be live-blogging today - Yom Kippur - but it is worth posting.

President Obama gave an eloquent speech to the UN yesterday. Obama spoke about democracy, freedom on the First Amendment:

Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.

Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views -- even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.

We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because, given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

He encouraged those with power to avoid the temptation to silence dissent:
In other words, true democracy, real freedom is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents.
Obama's words would be more inspiring if the government better practiced what Obama preaches. The Obama administration has presided over the unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to prosecute so-called "leakers," who are usually whistleblowers. The Espionage Act prosecutions, which the Obama campaign has highlighted as "tough national security policy" have an enormous chilling effect on the freedoms of speech and the press, the very freedoms Obama tells the U.N. are "enshrined" in the Constitution.

Because the Obama administration has waged a war on whistleblowers using the heavy-handed, and ill-suited Espionage Act, Obama's words yesterday rang hollow to those of us struggling to understand why a President who preaches free speech so eloquently to other countries fails to protect it here at home.

The Espionage Act prosecutions are not the only evidence of free speech hypocrisy on the government's part.

The State Department instructed all employees to avoid looking at Wikileaks documents on their personal time - certainly a crackdown on the marketplace of ideas.

The Defense Department issued a memo about whether or not employees are permitted to buy, read, and discuss Matt Bissonette's bestselling book (No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden ) on the Osama Bin Laden Raid.

WaPo reported on the Defense Department memo, which mandated the employees:

* “are free to purchase NED [No Easy Day];

        * “are not required to store NED in [secure] containers . . . unless classified statements in the book have been identified;

        * “shall not discuss potentially classified and sensitive unclassified information with persons who do not have an official need to know and an appropriate security clearance;

        * “who possess either firsthand knowledge of, or suspect information within NED to be classified or sensitive, shall not publically speculate or discuss potentially classified or sensitive unclassified information outside official . . .channels. . .;

        * “are prohibited from using unclassified government computer systems to discuss potentially classified or sensitive contents of NED, and [no] online discussions via social networking or media sites” about classified stuff “that may be contained in NED.”

First, it is chilling in and of itself that the Defense Department has any say in what books its employees choose to read on their personal time. Since when does the government need to issue a memo authorizing employees to buy a book?

Moreover, the Defense Department's memo is confusing at best as the government refuses to say what, if any, classified information is actually in Bissonette's book. WaPo writer Al Kamen summed up the conclusion employees are likely to draw from the memo:

  Hard to say what the “potentially” classified stuff is. So, until they tell you what the bad stuff is, it’s safe to buy NED and even to read it but don’t underline it and don’t talk about it — except to say “cool book, great cover,” stuff like that.
The chilling effect on speech is obvious, and no doubt, some employees will stay away from the book altogether to avoid any potential hassle. Perhaps that is precisely the point.

These are not the kinds of free speech-chilling actions Obama encouraged other nations to take during his U.N. speech. Obama's powerful and moving words are right, and it is long past time the government's actions adhere more closely to the ideals the President preaches.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    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 Sep 26, 2012 at 07:59:13 AM PDT

  •  that part of his speech bothered (6+ / 0-)

    me the most.   If it is what we are going to preach at the UN, it is what we ought to be doing at home.   Certainly we are not Syria, but we are not what we should be.

    On the other hand,  if a book contains discussions about an operation for which most information is still classified, reminding employees that the classified information they may be privy too is still classified, even if alluded to in the book, and it may not be publicly discussed, posted on line, etc.    It sets people up to fail if you say nothing then pursue discipline because they broke the rules and there are rules on disseminating classified materials that people sign on to as part of their employment,you have treated them unfairly.  By clearly drawing lines, you let employees explore the public aspects of a popular or controversial book, but avoid stepping over lines that will get them in trouble.

  •  A non-political co-worker once asked me: (9+ / 0-)

    Why this administration, which she knew I voted for, didn't seem to care about what was going on with Occupy or the mounting police brutality.  She knows I am anti-torture, anti-drones, anti-war and asked if I was upset with him.

    Yes, health care is fundamental and that's been a big step....  but truly...  "clean coal"?. Drones?. Manning.  Gitmo' and Whistle blowers...

    Extremely conflicted.  

    All I could tell her was that I will be voting AGAINST Romney.  

    "Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

    by Damnit Janet on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 08:13:02 AM PDT

    •  Yabbut... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gerrilea, Damnit Janet

      ... voting "for" the lesser of two evils is still voting "for evil."

      Since 2000 we have not had any good choices.  It's the Repuke that's bad or the Dem who's acting like a Repuke by accepting all the corporate free $peech money so they will always vote in favor of the corporations.

      Really, I can count on two fingers the Congress Critters worth voting "for" because they actually have ethical standards and they stand for something, and one's leaving (re-zoned out of office), so that leaves just one.  [Even my two Dem senators who had good selling points for which to elect them are almost always voting with the Repukes and I'm really sick of this crap.]

      Then there's all those little extra-constitutional powers Dumbya and Dickie demanded that they put in that little metaphorical cherry wood box that John Nichols spoke about when Bill Moyers interviewed him and Bruce Fein about impeachment in '07.  Well, what they talked about came to pass and none of that unconstitutional power was given up; on the contrary, it's been seized and reinforced and none of the unconstitutional laws have been repealed.  Now what?  No one mentions that, of course.  ["The election is soon; we hafta get the good guys in there."  That's the same story we heard for two years before the '08 election when no one wanted to impeach the lying war criminals.  They're still walking around free as birds..., because no one wants to deal with the past.  "We have to move forward."  Yeah.  Riiiiight.  No resolution and now the Dems are doing the same unconstitutional things.  How is that an improvement?]

      I don't like voting "for evil" - lesser or otherwise.  I want some real choices, some honest legislation that gives us our rights back and unconstitutional wars stopped, and I want some reasonably honest elected officials in Congress and the White House who put the people who actually voted for them ahead of the interests of the fucking corporations, investment brokerages, and Wall Street.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 05:58:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NonnyO, fuzzyguy, Damnit Janet

        for evil...

        So true, that's why I'm not voting for a Presidential Candidate....I've never done this in the 30+yrs of me voting but I can't pull the lever for my own continued enslavement.

        I can't even support the ACA, the mandate is unacceptable and the fines afterwards, even worse.  We were not allowed to even discuss "single payer" and we never will.  Weren't we told, they'll fix it, they'll fix it, just pass it and they'll fix it???

        I'm still waiting.

        -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 Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 07:06:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Precisely.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Damnit Janet, gerrilea

          Last national election I had a write-in candidate planned.  This article in '07 cinched my lack of enthusiasm (the others had already said they didn't support impeachment, and Obama in this article is just as cold about the mere idea of even inquiring into the Bushista war crimes and lies, let alone actually doing anything about them).  Some constitutional expert.

          I am old, so I remember how short a time it took to impeach Clinton.  Those fools could have impeached both Dumbya and Dickie (which is what Fein and Nichols advocated, especially Fein - a Republican, no less) and ended the unconstitutional and illegal wars for oil based on lies - with huge amounts of time to spare before election day instead of putting us all through daily/weekly faux disputes with everyone getting their knickers in a knot over absolutely nothing.  I will never, ever forgive Pelosi for taking impeachment off the table.  Never.

          Aaaaaaaand.... then came the RNC.  Three sentences in to the Tundra Tramp's speech, I knew she was as, or more, stupid as Dumbya and she couldn't be allowed within walking distance of the Oval Office..., so I felt coerced into voting for Obama.

          I really wanted him to succeed..., but between the drone bombings that started less than a week after he took the oath of office, the lack of a single-payer insurance plan run through Medicare (no overhead, it actually functions efficiently, and it all it would take to do the same for everyone else besides disabled and seniors is to hire more staff..., right here in the US..., to handle the increase in paperwork.  I don't give a rip what $COTU$ "decides" (I knew the corporate-experienced new judges would give their ol' buddies in the corporate world some profits), forcing people to pay a fine as an alternative to giving our money to corporate insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations to increase their profit margin is unconstitutional (and mixes corporations with government which is what Mussolini called fascism).  Then there's the matter of the unconstitutional laws that took away our rights without them asking US if we wanted to give up our rights, and the fact that they haven't been repealed....

          And on and on and on and on and on.....

          One disappointment after another.

          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 08:28:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Not voting is just as bad, too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NonnyO

        And I agree with you and guerilla.

        I wish that this administration and the people who supported it could at least have discussions so we could possibly progress.  But we can't even discuss things like single payer or war crimes, drones or torture.

        I did present my post as delicately as I could because in the past I have been "yelled at" and called a few names on here for being honest about my disappointment in Obama.  Actually I feel betrayed by him.  

        I'd vote for Kucinich in a heartbeat.  

        Co-worker who is political and GOTV for Obama last election said that the Democratic Party is the New Conservative Party.   Most that I know who are voting for Obama are doing so due to a "wedge issue".  Gay rights, health care.

        Drones,
        Torture.
        Spying on Americans
        Silence on the Police Brutality.
        Attacking whistle blowers.
        Turning a blind eye to the last admins war crimes...

        As I have said, George Bush was a street fight.  This... this is more like something else -  you don't dare talk to anyone about it or they will squash you.  

        I'll vote because I have a daughter and we have fought these fights before.  I can't allow the Rapepublican party to continue with it's extreme evilness.  

        Thank you so much for the discussion.   The diarist here is one true Patriot.  

        "Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

        by Damnit Janet on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 09:02:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Double standard for them and us (12+ / 0-)

    they should pursue free speech

    we tell people what to read

    another case of double standard

    do Americans care?

    does main stream media point this out?

    it looks like comedy central is the place to find out about these things

    we also prosecute people who are truth tellers

    what will happen after the election? Will it be OK to criticize Obama? Or will it be too late?

  •  We're much freer than the countries we criticize (5+ / 0-)

    Obviously.  The idea that going after whistleblowers, however unjustifiably, wrecks whatever authority we might have to call out other countries for imprisoning or killing dissenters is ridiculous.  And at worst it's a cynical ploy to hold our foreign policy hostage to the desire of a handful of people to make their own decisions on which official secrets they feel like respecting and which ones they don't.  

    Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

    by Rich in PA on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 08:54:46 AM PDT

    •  we're less free than we ised to be... (7+ / 0-)

      and our civil liberties have diminished precipitously in the course of the 2 most recent administrations.  

      if american exceptionalism is going to be useful for anything perhaps we ought to hold ourselves to a higher standard than, well, we're better than a dictatorship.  

      i'm part of the 99% - america's largest minority

      by joe shikspack on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 11:55:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  our freedom is not supposed to be something one (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      George3, NonnyO, gerrilea, fuzzyguy

      person has the power to suspend by ordering indefinite detention, or even a death  sentence based on secret evidence that has NO judicial oversight.
      That's the power wielded in the Countries we criticize like Syria, but not Bahrain or Saudi Arabia because they do what we want, and then there is that other government that uses those anti-Democratic tactics, the one we never stop praising...OURS.

      without the ants the rainforest dies

      by aliasalias on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 01:49:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't see the memo saying that DoD employees (4+ / 0-)

    shouldn't discuss classified information online and with ppl without security clearance as a free speech violation. Yeah, there is a problem with 'potentially classified' stuff. But what is DoD going to do, tell ppl which pages are classified? That would be ridiculous.

    •  Well... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quicklund, George3, priceman, gerrilea

      The reason why you haven't it is because the memo is classified. :-/

      they get ya comin' and goin'...

      However, there is that pesky document you VOLUNTARILY sign at the beginning of your employment that states that if you disclose any classified information you will be fired, arrested, fined and sometimes sued (depending on the employer).  So, yeah...

      The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing online commenters that they have anything to say.-- B.F.

      by lcj98 on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:40:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And what's wrong with that? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Quicklund
        •  The problem is that the government was given (0+ / 0-)

          a draft of the book prior to its publishing and did nothing.

          They wouldn't identify "the classified" stuff.

          As for this:

          However, there is that pesky document you VOLUNTARILY sign at the beginning of your employment
          Funny, really funny.  Our corporate overlords offshored our manufacturing leaving us no jobs.  The only good jobs available are IN government.

          Sad, isn't it?

          -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 Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 07:17:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Really? Maybe I'm wrong here but from what I've (0+ / 0-)

            seen the draft of this book was actually not given to DoD in advance.

            If you have a job that requires security clearance and you leak classified information, you deserve to go to jail for it. If you don't like this, don't get that job.

  •  No one could have seen this coming (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, TheLizardKing, lcj98
  •  It's typical Orwellian "doublethink" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    George3, gerrilea, cslewis, fuzzyguy

    that allows for this common leaders/citizens to hold contradictory things in ones mind/speech, and forget the contradiction so that the leader/party always appears to be in the right.

    Some other illustrations: "Where's the Free Press"

    Also, on US love of whistleblowers, pussy riot, free speech & human rights: home vs. abroad

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