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The past 72 hours has held one of the strangest disharmonic convergence of free speech events I have ever seen.

(1) On Tuesday, President Obama flourished his pretty rhetoric on free speech to the United Nations (UN):

Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents.
(2) A day later, the Sydney Morning Herald published U.S. Air Force documents classifying Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange as "enemies of the state," an action in sharp contrast to Obama's rhetoric about the importance of protecting dissent in a democracy.
Declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents, released under US freedom-of-information laws, reveal that military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters may be at risk of being charged with "communicating with the enemy", a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death.
(3) The day after Obama's UN address, Assange addressed the UN from the Ecuadorian embassy where - fearing extradition to the U.S. - he has been granted asylum. Read FireDogLake's Kevin Gosztola for the highlights, including an understandable demand (especially in light of the fact that the U.S. government declared Assange the "enemy") that Obama live up to the free speech ideals Obama himself so eloquently presented to the UN:
   President Obama spoke out strongly in favour of the freedom of expression. Those in power, he said, have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent.

    There are times for words and there are times for action. The time for words has run out. It is time for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, to cease its persecution of our people and it cease its persecution of our alleged sources.

    It is time for President Obama to do the right thing and join the forces of change: not in fine words but in fine deeds.

I discussed Assange's speech on RT last night, but what was clear from Assange's moving description of accused Wikileaks source Bradley Manning is that critics who claim Assange is only out for himself are sorely mistaken. Not only has Assange spoken powerfully about Manning, but he has spoken passionately about freedoms of speech and the press, and spoken out against the criminal prosecution of American whistleblowers (and my clients) John Kiriakou and Thomas Drake under the Espionage Act.

Fourth free speech free fall after the jump.

(4) WaPo reported yesterday that 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. According to WaPo, the memo instructed that 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. The Defense Department memo is the third example in as many days of the government's actions directly conflicting with the Obama's rhetoric on free speech.

Assange's speech to the UN should be a wake-up to the Obama administration that the man Vice President Biden called a "high-tech terrorist" and the Air Force declared an "enemy of the state" articulated the same principles of free speech and press that Obama himself endorsed a day earlier. Considering there is so much common ground in their rhetoric to the U.N., Obama owes the public an explanation for his crackdown on dissent here at home.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the diary. I have some opposing views (4+ / 0-)

    that I'd be interested to hear your commentary on.

    1. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, so I don't think he falls under "dissident" the same way that we talk about the Iranians in their Green Revolution, etc (for example). There is also nothing more than speculation and future-telling that the US would attempt to have him extradited and charge him.

    2. Does Julian Assange have different spellings of his name or is there an oops on the RT banner in the screen capture?

    3. Bradley Manning spilled TONS of classified information, at least some of which directly related to militarily-sensitive information. He "knew" some bad stuff was in there that hadn't been outed, but he didn't just release that...he dumped it all.

    4. What is the problem with telling defense department employees not to discuss elements in the NED book with others who do not have equal or greater security clearance? Should any DoD person be out there saying "oh yeah that's true" or speculating on those things?

    The "stored container" POTENTIAL rule is a little silly for sure since that book has clearly been distributed electronically all over the world already; I'll give you that one.

    •  My commentary (22+ / 0-)

      (1) It is far more than "speculation." US senators have called for Assange's prosecution under the Espionage Act, Biden called Assange a "high-tech terrorist," the Justice Department has indicated it is continuing to investigate Wikileaks, the Air Force declared Assange an "enemy," e-mails from a private intelligence corporation indicate that a grand jury has returned a sealed indictment on Assange, and both the British and Swedish governments refused to promise that Assange will not be extradited to the U.S.

      (2) Looks like a typo.

      (3) Manning did not "dump it all." He had access to far more classified information that what he is alleged to have given to Wikileaks.

      (4) The Defense Department refuses to advise employees as to what - if any - information in the book is actually classified. Any restrictions prohibiting employees from disclosing classified information does not - and should not - encompass discussing a published, publicly-available book the government says might contain classified information. Such a rule interferes with employees' free speech rights, not to mention it is selectively applied to No Easy Day when there are plenty of books that might contain classified information, such as Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars or Jose Rodriguez's pro-torture anthem.

      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 Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 06:05:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Selective enforcement is the most damning... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aliasalias, JesseCW, gerrilea, divineorder

        of all the charges against this government. It shows with quite some clarity that national security is simply a political tool to supress inconvenient information. Otherwise, why isn't the Times being prosecuted for writing article after article about the supposedly classified drone war and the decision making process behind it?

        •  Go back and start with the folks (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          That released information about active Intelligence assets in the field during the last administration. I am sure Ms. Plame's associates will be comforted, if they haven't been discovered.

          Or is there a line back in time we won't cross, that looks too far back?

          We need to stop cloaking our actions behind secrecy.

          This wouldn't have been an issue if so much everyday stuff hadn't been classified.

          That we need to use secrecy at all against our own people is the issue.

          Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. Kurt Vonnegut

          by ToKnowWhy on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 06:37:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Isn't Wikileaks the vehicle used to present (15+ / 0-)

      to the public information, whether it be "classified" or not?

      Assange is immaterial here is he not?  Everyone knows where the information came from, no "protected sources", right?

      Why is Wikileaks and its founder being treated differently than the NY Times, etc???

      Have they been deemed "enemies of the state" for their reporting of news worthy materials?

      Or is it just those that aren't government lapdogs?
      Yemen strike against "kill list" member Anwar al-Awlaki also killed his teenage son and an alleged al-Qaida propagandist

      Anwar al-Awlaki's crimes, I'm still searching for them.

      Oh, he did publish criticisms of the US, he preached his faith and he was killed for it.

      I'd ask you this: IN your theories about DoD policies, do they include contractors? Say I'm a painter and I overhear a conversation that X, Y or Z is going to happen, would I be bound by some arbitrary standard not to talk to my husband or friends or even the media?

      Do our armed forces not have the same rights as the rest of us?  Oh, that's right, I keep forgetting they aren't protected by the words in the constitution...The UCMJ...I still find this mind boggling.  We tell our gov't it can't do x, y, or z and they say they can.

      Since when did buying books become a criminal act? Is this not part of Naomi Wolf's "Ten Steps To Close Down an Open Society"

      I'm finding your position here:

      There is also nothing more than speculation and future-telling that the US would attempt to have him extradited and charge him.
      Insulting and offensive.  Are we now to ignore the calls for his execution by sitting Senators? Are we now to ignore the VP calling him a terrorist? And are we to NOW ignore the labeling of him as an "Enemy Of The State"?

      You do know that under International Law, he can now be targeted and killed WITHOUT charges, trial or jury, right?

      Publishing information that was obtained lawfully IS NOT A CRIME!!!!!!!!!!!!

      And Bradley Manning is a hero for having the courage to inform us of our governments crimes against humanity.

      -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 06:51:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  TONS? no, only a video of the reality of the US (0+ / 0-)

      occupation of Iraq. It shouldn't have been classified since it is showing how the military treated Iraqis. I'm sure that was no secret to the Iraqis or any of the insurgents because they already knew about the brutality of the US Military. I mean they had enough funerals to prove it.

      There was nothing in the video to come under "giving information to the enemy" unless by "enemy" it means the American people and the rest of the world who watched the video.

      ❧To thine ownself be true

      by Agathena on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 11:17:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What we say vs. What we do (19+ / 0-)

    Given the lack of jobs, the attack on free speech and other actions like arrests of OWS demonstrators, puts a chill on dissent.

    This is not what the founding fathers fought for. They fought for free speech and the ability to challenge power.

    We hide what is actually going on under the banner of the words from out past, which now, are what we used to be, not what we are.

    The collapse of the environment calls for politics and economics at a whole new level to attempt to save civilization. And even to save the human species.

    (See David W. Orr "Down To the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse."

    The 1% with their money and military and corporate media are fighting a last ditch effort to preserve the estimated 21 trillion dollars of wealth held in off shore accounts.

    Democracy is not about freedom, it is about power. The powerful have aligned with government to

    •  Good comment, Don (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gerrilea, aliasalias, downsouth

      when I heard Obama say that about dissent, I about threw up. Total hypocrisy.
      Also his comment on killing of innocent civilians was also said with a straight face.  I guess he forgot that his drone programs has killed thousands of innocent civilians.
      Or the fact that his drones have invaded Sovereign lands. Isn't that an act of war?
      IF Bush were doing the things Obama was doing, this site would attack him. Why are they giving Obama a pass.
      I love JR's diaries.
      Yet so many here will disagree with her because Obama is doing it.
      HEY, all of you. You are aware that Obama signed the NDAA? He was the one that pushed for being able to LOCK UP US citizens?

      If the Fetus you Saved was GAY, would you still fight for it's RIGHT'S?

      by snoopydawg on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 09:54:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama's Hypocriticism did the same to me (0+ / 0-)

      How dare he get up there and talk that shite, while indefinite detentions, drone killings and who knows what other actions are being done in our name...back about 40 years ago, it would have been "our good name"

      I am not an Obama hater, but I am holding my tongue until November. Then we really need to amp up the discourse on this and foreign action v. Diplomacy.

      Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. Kurt Vonnegut

      by ToKnowWhy on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 06:46:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What is (8+ / 0-)

    "sensitive unclassified information"?

    Wow, we have not only entered Orwellian territory, we've gone beyond it.

    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 07:29:16 AM PDT

  •  #5 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fuzzyguy, gerrilea, aliasalias

    A report that an Air Force analyst was investigated for potentially "communicating with the enemy" in regard to accessing Wikileaks information and expressing support for Bradley Manning. The documents released give the impression that the military is trying to categorize the analyst as a mental case for having a conscience.

    Speak the truth, but ride a fast horse.

    by Deep Harm on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 08:20:16 AM PDT

  •  Speaking of chilling speech... (5+ / 0-)

    Every time I read one of these diaries that defend WikiLeaks and/or Assange, several possible comments immediately come to mind.  Sometimes, I even write those comments out...and then hit 'cancel'.  The reason for that is simple...I do not want to be targeted by some whackjob hacker calling himself "anonymous'.  That is what happens to those who too ardently criticize WikiLeaks or Assange.  Put simply, I simply don't feel "free" to respond to the parts of your diary dealing with Assange or WikiLeaks.  At all.  And that is "chilling speech", and it was accomplished not by Barack Obama (of whom, as most know, I'm no fan), but by a cabal of nerds with a computer, too much time, and a desire to feel the power felt by the bully that stole their lunch money.

    As to the President's speech, I was sickened by the duplicity of it all.  When he began talking of "freedom of expression" and the right of free speech, my thoughts immediately turned to Anwar al-Awlaki, the US citizen murdered in cold blood by his direct order, and Awlaki's young son, also murdered in a separate incident.  Awlaki's crime? Exercising his right of free speech.  And I thought of his actions against your clients, too.  And I thought of something else...the two times I have been hauled into the FBI field office for "questioning" during Obama's term.  That is exactly two more times than I was questioned during Bush's eight years in office.  This "questioning" in both cases had to do with things I wrote on the internet, both here and elsewhere, and people I talked to or had on my contact list...which Google readily provided them.  That action has also had the effect of "chilling" my's why I no longer write diaries here or mention politics in Islamic forums.

    Terror has no religion.
    لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الل

    by downsouth on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 08:21:01 AM PDT

    •  Until I got to the bottom (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      downsouth, gerrilea, 2020adam, aliasalias

      of your comment, I was hoping you would diary your experiences.
      It is pretty sad, isn't it? That this site has given Obama a pass for all the things he has done to us.
      Taken away even more of our Freedoms then Bush.
      Killed more people with Drones then Bush?
      List all the things he has done that is worse then Bush, and you either get HR"D or, BUT ROMNEY!

      If the Fetus you Saved was GAY, would you still fight for it's RIGHT'S?

      by snoopydawg on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 09:57:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very sad indeed. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snoopydawg, gerrilea, 2020adam, aliasalias

        When you step back and really look at the cult of personality built up around Barack Obama it is truly frightening.  If a Republican had done half the things this President has done, this site would be calling for his head.  Instead we get endless lists of "accomplishments", as if the good cancels out the bad somehow.

        I wonder sometimes what ever happened to that nation in which I was born.  It seems to no longer exist, except on paper.

        Terror has no religion.
        لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الل

        by downsouth on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 10:16:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  read Zinn's (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gerrilea, 2020adam, aliasalias, downsouth

          The history of America.
          The country you think you do not recognize has always been like this.
          We murdered the original inhabitants, kidnapped people from Africa and made them work this country.
          Have invaded countless countries, murdered more then 10 million people with those invasions.
          Have done countless coups for the corporations, installing brutal dictators. Then sat back and watched them torture their people. But when they changed the rules, went in and removed them.
          Just ask the Shaw of Iran,  Saddam, Qaddafi, and the many others dictators we put in place only to remove them. Or wait, you can't ask them cuz they are dead.
          Invaded 8 or more countries with Drones since 2009.
          The education I received in school was wrong.
          And this country is no longer the Land of the Free or Home of the Brave.
          We have lost most of our Freedoms. Habeous Corpus? Gone.
          1st, 4th, 5th? Gone.
          Free speech?
          Safe from unwarranted Search and Seizure? TSA? Stop and Frisk?
          Yep, read his book.
          I agree with your statement. :When you step back and really look at the cult of personality built up around Barack Obama it is truly frightening.:

          If the Fetus you Saved was GAY, would you still fight for it's RIGHT'S?

          by snoopydawg on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 11:01:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  says the one who HR'd the comment below w/o (0+ / 0-)


  •  Up next: Assange Schools Obama On (2+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    lcj98, GoGoGoEverton
    Hidden by:

    "She had it coming."

    Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

    by TooFolkGR on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 09:13:24 AM PDT

  •  One who exercises their right to speak (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gerrilea, aliasalias, ToKnowWhy

    unpleasant truths today is certain to be informed of their right to remain silent soon after.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 10:39:40 AM PDT

  •  Kudos for harping on US doublethink on 1st Amend- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    I've been arguing the US has been classifying critics/whistleblowers as "enemies of the state" since 2007, and warning about the repression of scientists & academics since 2004. It keeps getting worse.

    See, "Scandal Congress & Media Missed: How Obama's New "Legal" Authoritarian Powers, War on Whistleblowers Threatens US Security & Democracy Much More Than Even Critics Suspect"

  •  LOL! "Cool book! Great cover!" (0+ / 0-)

    that's all the review that's permitted by DOD?

    I was thinking about buying it on audiofile but now I am convinced, it must be a good book. Not because of the above review, ha! but because the DOD is afraid of it.

    Thank you Jesselyn Radack for another good one.

    ❧To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 11:09:19 AM PDT

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