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June 21 2017

As the Espionage Act Turns 100, We Condemn Threats Against Wikileaks

The federal law that is commonly used to prosecute leakers marks its 100th birthday on June 15,2017.

Signed into law on June 15, 1917, the Espionage Act 18 U.S.C. § 792 et seq., was Congress’s response to a fear that public criticism of U.S. participation in World War I would impede the conscript of soldiers to support the war effort and concerns about U.S. citizens undermining the war effort by spying for foreign governments. Although some parts of the law were repealed, many remain in effect 100 years later.

Most pertinent today, the law criminalizes both the disclosure and receipt of certain national security information. As a result, the Espionage Act remains the most common grounds upon which leakers of U.S. governmental information are prosecuted. Indeed, the recent charges against the alleged source of the NSA Russian Election Systems Phishing documents are based on the Espionage Act.

To date, however, the United States has never sought to prosecute a journalistic entity under the Espionage Act for either receiving secret government documents from a source or further disseminating the documents themselves or information from them in the course of reporting. There is nothing in the language of the law that prevents its use against a news organization, but it has been unofficially accepted that it should not apply to the press.

So it is alarming that the Justice Department is reportedly taking a serious look at bringing criminal charges against Wikileaks and Julian Assange for disclosing classified information . In so doing, the Trump administration is threatening to step over a never-crossed line – applying the secret documents provisions of the Espionage Act to journalistic practices. The threat is greatly concerning in the context of prosecuting whistleblowers, and, more broadly, preserving a free press.

The threat is greatly concerning in the context of prosecuting whistleblowers, and, more broadly, preserving a free press.

Leaks are a vital part of the free flow of information that is essential to our democracy. And reporting on leaked materials, including reporting on classified information, is an essential role of American journalism. The US Supreme Court, in Bartnicki v. Vopper, recognized that those who lawfully obtain information pertaining to a matter of public interest have a near absolute right to publish it even if their source illegally obtained the information. Prosecuting Wikileaks for its role in this fundamental democratic process will undermine these vital protections.

In sections 793(d), (e) and 798 the Espionage Act criminalizes the unauthorized communication of both certain classified information and information “connected with the national defense.” Section 793(c) also prohibits merely obtaining national defense documents “with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Whether the principle of Bartnicki v. Vopper would bar a successful prosecution against a news organization under these provisions has never been tested.

A strong defense of Wikileaks is not simply an anti-Trump position. As current events indicate, leaks are non-partisan: those on both sides of the aisle typically embrace leaks that are politically useful and condemn leaks that are politically damaging. President Donald Trump famously praised Wikileaks when disclosures of DNC emails benefitted him. He now threatens to bring the strong arm of the law down on it.

It can be difficult to separate rhetoric from a planned course of action with this administration. But there are strong signs this White House intends to follow through on its bluster.

First, CIA Director Mike Pompeo labeled Wikileaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” at an April 13, 2017 speech at the Center for Strategic And International Studies. The director then followed up by asserting his “philosophical understanding,” as opposed to a legal conclusion, that Wikileaks and Assange are not exercising First Amendment rights.

About a week later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained that his department was “stepping up its efforts” “on all leaks” with the goal being to “put some people in jail.”

President Trump also reportedly urged then-FBI director James Comey to prosecute and imprison journalists who published classified information. Comey’s failure to prioritize this has been cited as the one of the reasons for his firing.

Moreover, the president’s reported initial first choice for FBI director, former Senator Joseph Lieberman, has a history of belligerence against both the news media broadly and Wikileaks in particular. In 2010, Lieberman called for an investigation of the New York Times and other news media for publishing Wikileaks documents, proposed an “anti-Wikileaks Law” that would have criminalized the disclosure of intelligence source names, and pressured Amazon and credit card processors to choke off funding for Wikileaks.

Many of the other threats the president and those speaking on his behalf have made against the news media both during the election and since he took office require legislative action by either Congress or the states. Unlike his threat to “open up the libel laws”—which would require action by 50 state legislatures or otherwise be subject to Congressional oversight—the executive branch can initiate a federal criminal prosecution on its own.

We condemn the threats of prosecution of Wikileaks and call for all to speak out against the them.

One hundred years is long enough to let the threat of prosecution under the Espionage Act cast a shadow over our free speech and press freedom protections. Sign our petition, and tell U.S. lawmakers to reform this outdated and overbroad law.

Take Action


Read more about how the Espionage Act came to be and the law's murky legal history.

Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01 viawikileaks wikileaks

May 20 2017

RT: You’re a whistleblower yourself. What can you tell us about your personal experience? Is it a tough job?

AM [Annie Machon, former MI5 intelligence officer] : Yes, I am a whistleblower from the old school from the 1990s, the analog-era effectively. But I worked for MI5 for six years as an intelligence officer, and it was there that I met my former partner and colleague, a man called David Shayler. We saw so many things going wrong at that time - only within six years - that we decided to resign and to go public. We tried to raise our concerns on the inside, and we were just told to ‘follow orders.’ So they had no will to reform or will to correct mistakes that were committing crimes in secret.

So we went public. And under the laws of the UK, we also faced automatic arrest and imprisonment for speaking out about the crimes of the spies. So we fled the country, we went on the run for a month around Europe; we went and lived in hiding for a year in France, and we lived in exile for another two years. I was arrested; many of our friends, family, supporters, and journalists involved in the case were arrested. Shayler himself went to prison twice. First of all, when the British failed to extradite him from France in 1998 to stand trial under the Official Secrets Act of 1989, and then after he returned voluntarily to face trial in 2000. Of course, he was convicted, because there was no legal defense under the Official Secrets Act, and he went to prison again. So we both paid a very high price… to expose the crimes of the spies.
'Chelsea Manning's example of courage paved the way for Snowden & Assange' (RT Op-Edge, May 17 2017)
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May 13 2015


US: jail sentence on Jeffrey Sterling

  • 'Guilty of Embarrassing Government': CIA Whistleblower Gets 42-Month Sentence (Common Dreams, May 11 2015)

    “Following the announcement on Monday, advocates held that even the lesser sentence revealed the inequalities of the U.S. justice system with dangerous implications for government accountability. Further, the conviction marks the longest sentence delivered to a convicted leaker in a civilian court during Obama's tenure.

    ‘Sterling is the latest casualty in the administration’s war on national security whistleblowers,’ said attorney Jesselyn Radack, who serves as the national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project. ‘Like the other whistleblowers prosecuted under the Espionage Act, Sterling is guilty of embarrassing the government. This case lays bare the government’s rank hypocrisy in the prosecution of leaks. If you’re loyal to the truth rather than the national security establishment you’ll be bludgeoned.’

    In an emailed statement from the Alexandria courthouse, Norman Solomon, coordinator of whistleblower advocacy organization ExposeFacts.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told Common Dreams: ‘The only fair trial would have been no trial at all. The only fair sentence would have been no sentence at all. Whistleblowing is a public service, and the government's continuing efforts to criminalize that public service is a double-barreled assault on both journalism and the democracy that it vitally seeks to nurture.’

    Prior to revealing his concerns about the covert CIA operation, Sterling, a black man, had filed a discrimination lawsuit against the agency. Supporters say he was unfairly targeted because of those claims.

    ExposeFacts.org has compiled a history of information about Sterling's trial.”

  • CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Gets 42 Month Jail Sentence (teleSUR English, May 12 2015)

    “The 42 month sentence was a far cry from the federal sentencing guidelines that called for a minimum 19 year prison term.

    Yet the outcome was also harsher than that imposed on former CIA director David Petraeus in April. Petraeus was slapped with two years probation for leaking classified information to his biographer.

    While the defense argued Sterling's sentence should be similar to that faced by Petraeus, U.S. district judge Leonie Brinkema stated Sterling should face a higher penalty for failing to plead guilty.

    However, during sentencing Brinkema conceded the federal guidelines ‘are too high.’

    Despite falling short of the guidelines, the sentence remains one of the highest penalties meted out under the Obama administration's spree of prosecutions targeting intelligence leakers under the Espionage Act of 1917. Since President Barack Obama took office, the Act has been used seven times to prosecute leakers – more than all previous administrations combined.

    The administration has argued it is not specifically targeting whistleblowers, but critics have accused the government of trying to suppress embarrassing leaks. ”

  • In First Interview, CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Says Congressional Staffer Urged Him to Flee (Firedoglake, May 12 2015)

    “Sterling, who worked as an African American case officer, was found guilty by a jury of committing multiple Espionage Act offenses when he exposed information about ‘Operation Merlin,’ which involved passing flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran in order to get the country to work on building a nuclear weapon that would never function.

    He left the CIA in 2002 and brought a claim against the CIA alleging racial discrimination. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court in 2005. However, the government successfully had the case thrown out by invoking the “state secrets” privilege. The government has maintained that he leaked details about Operation Merlin in revenge for his discrimination lawsuit being dismissed.

    Sterling was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on May 11. It is the longest sentence issued by a federal court during President Barack Obama’s administration.

    Expose Facts, an advocacy organization that has mobilized support for Sterling, conducted an interview with Sterling, which aired on ‘Democracy Now!’.

    Sterling recalls receiving information that there was a ‘possible leak of information’ and ‘everyone’ was ‘pointing a finger’ at him. He needed to find some help.

    He went to a local congressman, Clay, and one of his staff members looked at him and told him he should ‘just leave the country.’ That hurt Sterling because the staff member was a black man working for a black representative and they were telling him not to stand up for his civil rights.

    ‘You don’t run away. You stand up for yourself,’ Sterling declares. ”

April 01 2015

A protest in support of whistleblowers will take place on April 4 at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
— from @wikileaks (Mar. 29 2015)

February 04 2015

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was released today after being sentenced to 30 months in prison on 25 January 2013.
— from @wikileaks (Feb. 3 2015)
Reposted byin-god-we-trust in-god-we-trust

November 11 2014


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Reposted fromelpollodiablo elpollodiablo viawonko wonko

December 15 2013


October 04 2013


Statement of Edward Snowden, read by GAP’s Jesselyn Radack before EP Committee

from Government Accountability Project (Sep. 30 2013):

I thank the European Parliament and the LIBE Committee for taking up the challenge of mass surveillance. The surveillance of whole populations, rather than individuals, threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time. The success of economies in developed nations relies increasingly on their creative output, and if that success is to continue, we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy.

A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people, but only by the people after full, informed, and fearless debate. Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge, and in my country, the cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile. If we are to enjoy such debates in the future, we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government, but independent representatives of the public outside of government.

When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world. Today we see legislative bodies forming new committees, calling for investigations, and proposing new solutions for modern problems. We see emboldened courts that are no longer afraid to consider critical questions of national security. We see brave executives remembering that if a public is prevented from knowing how they are being governed, the necessary result is that they are no longer self-governing. And we see the public reclaiming an equal seat at the table of government. The work of a generation is beginning here, with your hearings, and you have the full measure of my gratitude and support.

July 30 2013

whistleblower tortured and convicted for heroic acts. Welcome to United Stasi of America.
— Aaron Huslage (via Twitter)
Reposted byriceball riceball

July 22 2013


Ex-CIA chief: What Edward Snowden did - CNN.com

from whistleblower.org (Jul. 19 2013):

In this editorial, former head of the NSA and CIA Michael Hayden lambasts Snowden and nearly every national security whistleblower. Hayden says “Snowden is in a class by himself,” when it comes to national security cases that have harmed the US government’s interests, comparing him to notorious Revolutionary War-era turncoat Benedict Arnold. The former director slammed not only Snowden but Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, saying he is “far more deserving of the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox’s James Rosen ever was.”

GAP maintains that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower who acted in the public interest when he disclosed that the NSA was spying on hundreds of millions of Americans. GAP President Louis Clark responded to the editorial with the following statement:

"As GAP has experienced with nearly every whistleblower case, the first reaction by those accused of wrongdoing, lax oversight, or negligence, is usually to attack the messenger and find whatever flaws they can identify in their histories, statements or disclosures to discredit them. Given the necessary elements of treason clearly set forth in the Constitution, Hayden’s comments provide further proof that he has lost touch with the Constitution."

July 12 2013

reliable factual information about serious human rights violations by an intelligence agency is most likely to come from within the agency itself. In these cases, the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure. Such whistleblowers should firstly be protected from legal reprisals and disciplinary action when disclosing unauthorized information.
— Martin Scheinin, former UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights (via United Nations News Centre)

July 08 2013


Daniel Ellsberg: NSA leaker Snowden made the right call - The Washington Post

... for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

July 06 2013


【Twitter】 “He kept his promise”

  • @JasonLeopold: Whenever I need a good laugh, I read the 2009 executive order in which Obama promised to usher in a new era of transparency & open govt.

  • @jonletman: [in reply to @JasonLeopold] He kept his promise: all your private info & files are TRANSPARENT & everything you do is OPEN to surveillance by the govt.

  • @khanflicted: [in reply to @JasonLeopold] LOL, yeah. Also, don't forget the Whistleblower Protection Act he signed last year... bigstory.ap.org/article/presid… Worth a chuckle.


Why European nations must protect Edward Snowden - Reporters Without Borders

An Op-Ed in Le Monde, co-signed on Jul. 3 2013 by the general secretary of Reporters Without Borders Christophe Deloire, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

By what right is the United States exempt from principles that it demands be applied elsewhere?

In January, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a historic speech in which she defined freedom of expression as a cornerstone of American diplomacy. She reiterated that position in February, 2011, in another speech in which she said that “on the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness.”

Eloquent words. They may have brought encouragement to dissidents in Tehran, Beijing, Havana, Asmara, Ashgabat, Moscow and so many other capitals. But how disappointing to find that the skyscrapers of American surveillance have reached a size to match China’s technological Great Wall.

The White House and State Department message of democracy and defence of human rights has lost considerable credibility. One sign of widespread concern – Amazon has reported a 6,000% increase in sales of the George Orwell classic, 1984.

Now, with Big Brother watching us from a Washington suburb, the key institutions of American democracy must play their assigned roles of counterweight to the executive branch and its abuses. The system of checks and balances is more than a slogan for avid readers of Tocqueville and Montesquieu.

American leaders should realize the glaring contradiction between their soaring odes to freedom and the realities of official actions, which damage the image of their country.

July 05 2013


Edward Snowden's digital 'misuse' has created problems, says Ban Ki-moon | World news | guardian.co.uk

Speaking to a gathering of the foreign affairs committee of the Icelandic parliament in Reykjavik on Tuesday, Ban said that in his personal opinion "the Snowden case is something I consider to be misuse." The UN chief added that the opening up of digital communications should not be "misused in such a way as Snowden did".

Ban's remarks, recorded in notes taken by two people present at the meeting and confirmed by a third, provoked expressions of surprise from committee members. His depiction of Snowden as someone who had misused access to information came just hours after the NSA whistleblower made a formal request for asylum to the Icelandic government.

In interviews with the Guardian, Snowden identified Iceland as one of his top choices as a possible safe haven.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the committee who was present at the meeting, asked Ban to clarify his comments on whistleblowers. He replied: "Access can be for the greater good, but sometimes it creates bigger problems through misuse by individuals."

Jónsdóttir, who participated with WikiLeaks in 2010 at the time it published US state secrets leaked by the intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, said she was alarmed by Ban's intervention in the Snowden controversy. "I see it as wrong for the secretary general of the United Nations to condemn Snowden personally in front of our foreign affairs committee. He seemed entirely unconcerned about the invasion of privacy by governments around the world, and only concerned about how whistleblowers are misusing the system."

  • “@UN SG remarks regarding Snowden. We urgently need a new leadership to reboot UN System.” — @avilarenata

July 04 2013

6901 f0bd 500

“Imprisoned former CIA officer John Kiriakou has written a letter supporting Snowden’s decision to leak information about the massive surveillance apparatus employed by the US. Kiriakou was the first CIA officer to publicly acknowledge that torture treated as legal under former president George W. Bush. He was convicted in October 2012 of disclosing the name of an officer who worked in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program to a reporter and sentenced to thirty months behind bars earlier this year.

Kiriakou, in his second note published by Firedog Lake, advised Snowden to ‘find the best national security attorneys money can buy,’ while recommending the American Civil Liberties Union and Government Accountability Project as two potential leads.

‘You’re going to need the support of prominent Americans and groups who can explain to the public why what you did is so important,’ Kiriakou wrote, while adding that the ‘most important advice’ he can offer is to ‘not, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI.’”

NSA leak fallout: LIVE UPDATES

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