Posts Tagged ‘patriot act’

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Why Americans Shouldn’t Fear Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

12.20.10

Before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” saga took over the headlines this past week, the whole WikiLeaks and Julian Assange drama dominated the news streams, with some labeling him a hero and others branding him a terrorist.  I have yet to write on this complex situation, but I will be shortly.

Until then, though, I have the honor of introducing friend, writer, blogger, human extraordinaire Sean Brown as the first guest blogger on Agree to Disagree; I couldn’t be more proud.  I could also gush on about his talents but, instead, I’ll let his words speak for themselves.

Take it away, Sean:

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Somewhere along the line we lost track of reality, of the ideals make us a truly great country. While there are many tangible things to point to as success, it is a shared belief, a common intangible faith in our system that sets us apart. Somewhere along the line we, as a nation, and more specifically as those interested and engaged in public policy, got caught up in a wave of hysteria. It didn’t start with the terrorist attacks in New York City, but that was the event that blew the top off the mountain and exposed not only the fear of the unknown too common in the American people, but the exploitation that so often accompanies such fear in America.

Julian Assange is not a terrorist. WikiLeaks is not a terrorist organization. More to the point, WikiLeaks is not the enemy. Wikileaks is a reality in the modern world, and Julian Assange is merely the messenger, introducing to the mainstream this new way of life. WikiLeaks is upsetting the established order, the balance between government’s right to secrecy and a thriving investigative media’s responsibility to inform the citizenry. For good, but more likely for ill, after 9/11 and the resulting Patriot Act (which should be pointed out, was heavily endorsed by both parties) the government has grown increasingly more bold in their intrusion into private citizen’s affairs under the guise of National Security.

Enter Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and WikiLeaks. The United States government got sloppy in its control of delicate communications. If the reports are true, Bradley Manning, for one reason or another, stole a massive amount of these communications and gave them to Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks, for publication. Though the publication of the latest batch of documents has proven to be mildly embarrassing rather than detrimental to national security, Bradley Manning (again, if the allegations are proven true) abused his position with the US Government and the US Army when he stole those communications and passed them on for publication. If the allegations are proven factual, he should receive a punishment fit for his crimes against the state.

But then there is the problem of Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks. Neither being US citizens, nor entities. Merely recipients, and at the very worst solicitors, of secrets from nations and corporations, around the world. Seeking to expose the truth, to poke holes in the propaganda fed to us by governments and corporations alike. When the vast majority of media outlets are owned by only a handful of corporations and individuals, the special relationships between players must be examined. This is not the reality in the United State’s media today. Too often do those who report the news seek to influence opinion, rather than allowing an individual to form his or her own opinion based solely on the facts. Often times does the media trade favorable coverage in exchange for access, and this is a detriment to an informed citizenry. One must question whether the true goal of the mainstream media in today’s America is to inform or persuade. Whether to educate or influence. And to whose advantage.

WikiLeaks, among other independent information organizations, seeks to inform only. To offer firsthand sources of information and to allow those accessing the information to form opinions based on fact, rather than the carefully crafted message that is often presented in its place. This is something that we, as Americans, should celebrate. More information is better. Transparency is a good thing. We lose sight of the fact that We Are The Government, that they work for us. If we blindly accept everything they tell us, we allow ourselves to be manipulated toward desires advantageous to their positions and to not our own. I am happy that WikiLeaks and other independent news organizations have the potential to keep not only the government, but other media outlets honest. We must not blindly accept that WikiLeaks is evil, that their work is detrimental to our state, lest we give up more of the freedoms that make us Americans.

The harm will come not from the secrets exposed, but from the complacent erosion of constitutionally guaranteed rights that follows in the aftermath.

By Sean Brown.
You can read more by Sean Brown at his blog, The Anarchist Project
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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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Miranda Rights Get Conservative Treatment by Supreme Court

08.03.10

The Supreme Court recently altered the Miranda rights requirement that police officers must inform a suspect upon arrest:

The high court has made clear it’s not going to eliminate the requirement that police officers give suspects a Miranda warning, so it is tinkering around the edges, said Jeffrey L. Fisher, co-chair of the amicus committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“It’s death by a thousand cuts,” Fisher said. “For the past 20-25 years, as the court has turned more conservative on law and order issues, it has been whittling away at Miranda and doing everything it can to ease the admissibility of confessions that police wriggle out of suspects.”

The Miranda rights have been tweaked numerous times over the past decade or so, many times with overwhelming if not unanimous support from the justices, which spans liberal and conservative minds.  This latest change requires those taken into custody to break their silence in order to inform the police that they will in fact be remaining silent.  Simply remaining silent will not count as observing one’s right to remain silent. It passed on a 5-4 vote.

I agree with Justice Sonia Sotomayor who said about the ruling:

Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counter intuitively requires them to speak.  At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so.

It’s hard to see how this is a conservative move, though.  Conservative in terms of the current political climate in the GOP and Tea Parties, yes; but, it doesn’t seem so as far as small-c conservatism goes.  This change gives more power to the state, to the authorities, to the police, and while it doesn’t necessarily take away any rights from the individual, it does make those rights more confusing to understand and enact, and, given the lack of civics knowledge amongst the general populace, puts those who are deemed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers at the disadvantage.

For a political movement that champions smaller government and individual freedoms, this move is just the most recent in a long line of bi-polar decisions that undermine personal liberties under the guise of added security to ensure their passing — the Patriot Act, the Arizona immigration bill, etc. — that actually run contrary to the notion of having an empowered citizenry against a limited government.