Sunday, August 27, 2017

Pompeo Seeking License to Murder Assange...,

theintercept |  To legendary First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who told The Intercept that he’s “quite critical” of WikiLeaks” behavior,” the “factual issue about just what WikiLeaks has done, what contacts it has and has had with adversaries of this country, and the like” should be separate from an official government designation:
The broader issue is whether our government should be designating any entity as a non-state hostile intelligence agency. I’m not sure of the intended consequences of such a designation but I’m pretty sure it could open WikiLeaks to threats and perhaps even violence. It has the sound of some official finding, which it is not, with some legal meaning to it, which it is not. So while I wouldn’t object to high ranking intelligence officials harshly criticizing WikiLeaks, I’d stay away from faux official designations.
Trevor Timm, Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told The Intercept that “Ron Wyden is right that the WikiLeaks provision is unprecedented, vague, and potentially very dangerous”:
Regardless of whether you like or hate WikiLeaks, Congress singling out a publisher of information using a undefined and made up term like “non-state hostile intelligence service” to potentially stifle First Amendment rights and opening the door to more surveillance of sources should concern all journalists. It’s a shame more members of Congress do not see this obvious danger.
(Freedom of the Press Foundation receives funds from The Intercept’s parent company.)

In short, even if you think Julian Assange is a sleaze, or a liar, or a Putinist, and even if he were indeed all of those bad things, he’s also a publisher of authentic information he wasn’t supposed to have. A politically motivated publisher is still a publisher, and to deem one of them an enemy of the state would endanger any outlets working with or interested in materials and information they aren’t supposed to have–which in 2017 is almost all of them. From the Department of Justice to the White House to Congress, the anti-leaker sentiment is feverish, and the openly threatening language used against those who would publish true information unprecedented. WikiLeaks makes a tempting target for defenders of state secrecy because the website’s reputation is mostly in the mud once you get outside of Trumpland–but consider the consequences.

“Non-state hostile intelligence service” has no technical meaning–what would stop an outlet like the New York Times (or all of its peers and competitors) from being deemed the same based on its reporting of the same hacked emails?

What exactly is the legal status of a “non-state hostile intelligence service”? Would donating to WikiLeaks be considered providing material aid to an enemy?

What of the many reputable journalists who’ve worked with WikiLeaks in the past, from the New York Times to Der Spiegel? Are they now guilty of having collaborated with a “non-state hostile intelligence service”?

Were WikiLeaks to publish another truly groundbreaking and valuable release along the line of Manning’s, what then? Would journalists be free to glean stories from this enemy spy agency?
There aren’t any answers to these questions, making the language all risk with little upshot of reforming or changing Assange or WikiLeaks in any meaningful way. The much more likely outcome would be Assange treating the designation as a vindication, proof that he’s a victim of U.S. governmental persecution. It would not, however, do much to persuade him that Le Pen boosterism and bogus “spirit cooking” conspiracy theories aren’t in the public interest, but could do much to chill those around the world doing real work. Don’t give Assange, or Pompeo, the satisfaction.