I happened to hear some of the House Judiciary hearing on the Espionage Act and the Legal and Constitutional Issues Raised by WikiLeaks. WikiLeak’s dump of diplomatic cables has inspired frothy outbursts around the world, with calls here for Julian Assange to be prosecuted for treason. (Assange is Australian.) Bill O’Reilly says Assange should be executed after his trial. Sarah Palin and William Kristol suggest that the President might issue findings to authorize intelligence services or the military to “use all necessary means” to neutralize WikiLeaks. Leave it to the Congress to pile on.
Texans on the Committee have been comparatively low key, maybe saving the crazy for the home crowd.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, slammed WikiLeaks and media sites that posted the cables, including The New York Times, saying the continued flow of classified information would be "naïve and dangerous." He disputed the notion that the release of the information is promoting increased government transparency. "The real motivation is self-promotion and increased circulation to a large extent," he said. "They claim to be in pursuit of uncovering government wrongdoing but dismissed any criticism that their actions may be wrong or damaging to the country."
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) called for the government to find the leaker and hold him or her accountable. He likened the leaker to "a Texas pawn shop dealer who deals in stolen merchandise.”
Rep. Ron Paul talking to Faux News, showed that he can’t be wrong all the time: “In a free society we're supposed to know the truth,” Paul said. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”
Meanwhile Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada introduced a bill to amend the U.S. Espionage Act that would give prosecutors more flexibility to pursue a criminal case against Assange and his organization. I guess all this has him too busy to introduce legislation to prevent philandering senators from Nevada from giving jobs and money to the spouses of staffers they’re screwing.
The Espionage Act is the law that was used to imprison Eugene V. Debs for telling workers to resist the draft in World War I. It was the ‘Patriot Act’ of 1917.
Daniel Ellsberg, whose leak of the Pentagon Papers helped turn public opinion against the Viet Nam War defended Assange and Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking thousands of documents. "I think they provided a very valuable service," Ellsberg said, "To call them terrorists is not only mistaken, it's absurd."
Democratic Congressman John Conyers said, "Prosecuting WikiLeaks would raise the most fundamental questions about free speech, about who is a journalist and what citizens can know about their government." "The problem today is not too little secrecy but too much secrecy."
I got to hear Anthony Weiner, lefty Democrat from Long Island go to town. He cited Jefferson and Madison, calling information the ‘currency of democracy.’ He asked why we never get to see officials prosecuted for suppressing information, saying that more people are certainly harmed by secrecy and disinformation than have been hurt by any Wiki disclosures, that several wars could have been prevented if people had access to the facts. He’s right: I can’t imagine the Tonkin Gulf Resolution being passed by a congress informed by the Pentagon Papers.
Then Weiner said something scary. Assange has said that the next data dump will be documents leaked from banks and corporations. This raises the likelihood that big business and government officials will co-operate to turn public opinion and the law against WikiLeaks, to intimidate whistleblowers, restrict the internet and generally threaten free speech.
Gets my goat!