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.