The U.S. Government’s Extra-Judicial Attack On WikiLeaks Is Wrong
I am conflicted about the right balance between the visibility required for counter-democracy and the need for private speech among international actors. Here’s what I’m not conflicted about: When authorities can’t get what they want by working within the law, the right answer is not to work outside the law. The right answer is that they can’t get what they want.
The Unites States is — or should be — subject to the rule of law, which makes the extra-judicial pursuit of Wikileaks especially nauseating. (Calls for Julian’s assassination are even more nauseating.) It may be that what Julian has done is a crime. (I know him casually, but not well enough to vouch for his motivations, nor am I a lawyer.) In that case, the right answer is to bring the case to a trial.
In the US, however, the government has a “heavy burden” for engaging in prior restraint of even secret documents, an established principle since New York Times Co. vs. The United States*, when the Times published the Pentagon Papers. If we want a different answer for Wikileaks, we need a different legal framework first.
The key, though, is that democracies have a process for creating such restrictions, and as a citizen it sickens me to see the US trying to take shortcuts. The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us “You went after Wikileaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.”via shirky.com
When I wrote about this last week, my belief was that if we could shift the dialog from recrimination about the leak to the substantive issues found in the cables that I believed transparency would trump secrecy.
What I did not imagine at the time was the actions of the intervening week: Amazon, Paypal, Swiss bank accounts, DNS, Denial of Service. Nor was I aware at the time of the extent of MSM hyperbole (hand-in-glove with the government on this framing) regarding the Swedish sex charges.
It should be no real surprise, then, that I am thoroughly sick to my stomach at the rhetoric coming from the mouths of U.S. politicians of both D and R stripes and of the extra-judicial machinations of my government that Clay has outlined. Funny, they remind me of Germany and Yemen as evidenced in the cables.
Not In My Name.