Monday, April 15, 2019

Truest statement of the week

The documents WikiLeaks published, obtained by Chelsea Manning, revealed evidence of serious criminal wrongdoing by the United States armed forces. They shined a crucial light on some of our government’s ugliest actions abroad. Because the US government does not like to have its secrets exposed, and needs to send a message to anyone who undermines its authority, it needs to prove that its security state has global reach and that even people outside the US will be seized.
This prosecution is about silencing dissent rather than enforcing the law. The accusation against Assange is that nearly 10 years ago he tried unsuccessfully to assist in breaking a government password. How often does doing this result in a years-long federal investigation and an extradition request? Or US senators declaring a foreign national the “property” of this country? The Obama administration fished for years to find a charge that would stick to Assange, but ultimately couldn’t find a way of going after him that wouldn’t also criminalize ordinary acts of journalism. Donald Trump’s government is less scrupulous.

Some have argued that Assange isn’t under attack for “journalism”, but for “activism”. Frida Ghitis of CNN wrote that Assange “is not a journalist and therefore not entitled to the protections that the law – and democracy – demand for legitimate journalists”. This is a dangerous position. Generally, the law doesn’t actually distinguish between “journalists” and “non-journalists”, giving everyone the same protections. This is for good reason: if such a distinction becomes legally relevant, it means the government is empowered to decide who the True Journalists are.

-- Nathan Robinson, "Many Democrats and liberals are cheering Assange's arrest. That's foolish" (GUARDIAN).

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