The Ballad of Julian Assange

Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been holed in up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for about two months now. The British government is trying to have him arrested and have him extradited to Sweden to face rape allegations. Well, the Ecuadorian government has granted him political asylum, but the British government has made it very clear that they will not allow him safe passage to Ecuador and have surrounded the embassy with armed policemen. This is an issue where there is a lot of passion, especially among Assange’s defenders who see him as a crusader against the imperialism and the war crimes of the Western world and particularly the United States. In this passion, there have been been a lot of confusion about the facts involved in this case. I will do my best in this piece to shed some light on what this case is all about.

Irresponsible US Intelligence Practices Destroy Real Lives

Thomas McGarvey, who submitted this to UL, is a writer living in East Africa.

As an American expat living in East Africa, I have been amazed at how actively involved the US Drug Enforcement Administration is in these parts. I never imagined that a sub-saharan country like Kenya would be seen as warranting its own DEA office, but it does.

The amount of illegal drugs being routed to the United States via Africa is extremely small. Most drugs on the continent are routed through Western African countries, and most of these drugs are destined for European markets. So it is safe to say that the amount of illegal drugs entering the US through the East African Community is probably less than 1/100th of 1 percent. Yet, the DEA is here. Why?

The most obvious reason can be attributed to law-enforcement support the US regularly provides to allies like Kenya in enforcing its own laws and also in dealing with challenges like the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization strongly present in Somalia— Kenya’s troubled neighbor to the north.

Through this support network, the US government has established an elaborate, well-funded, and intricate web of “busy-bodies” that stretches around the globe. And this intelligence community scoops up any information that is thought to be of interest to itself or its allies. The problem arises when this information is wrong and is publicized (either by accident or design). When this happens, the lives and reputations of innocent people can be harmed or destroyed.

Recently, I met one victim, whose story is a tragic example of Big Brother’s overzealous and sometimes irresponsible intelligence-gathering and sharing practices.

US Department of D’oh!

Personally, I wouldn’t trust government officials to lock a barn door (unless the horses already got out, that is.) There’s a good reason for that. From the Washington Times front page:

Federal authorities responsible for granting security clearances to government employees and contractors are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating the investigators.

Government inspectors say they have undertaken a broader campaign in recent years to root out fraud in background checks as more national security clearances are being sought than ever before.

Overall, court records reviewed by The Washington Times show at least 170 confirmed falsifications of interviews or record checks and more than 1,000 others that couldn’t be verified. The background investigators, whose work helps determine who gets top-secret security clearance, were submitting forms saying they conducted interviews or verified official documents when they never did.

“The monetary loss sustained by the government does not, nor cannot, represent the cost associated with potential compromise of our nation’s security and the trust of the American people in its government’s workforce,” Kathy L. Dillaman, associate director in charge of investigations at the Office of Personnel Management, wrote in a victim-impact statement for a recent court case involving a convicted investigator.

Closing out 2010, looking forward to 2011

We’re about to close the book on another year. 2010 was hard fought as we were unsuccessful in beating back ObamaCare. Thankfully, court challenges to the constitutionality of the health care reform law could pose a threat. In just the last month Judge Roger Vinson struck down the law on the basis that the federal government could not use the Commerce Clause to force individuals to purchase health insurance. It also looks like Judge Henry Hudson is prepared to do the same in Florida. And with another annual budget deficit well over $1 trillion, spending remains out of control thanks to single-party control in the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

But we did have some victories for liberty as the Second Amendment finally incorporated to the states in McDonald v. Chicago, outdated “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed and WikiLeaks released another round of documents that helped shine light on what the federal govermment is doing in our names.

Wikileaks: Criminal Enterprise or Useful Check On Government?

With the recent release of information likely to embarrass ambassadors and diplomats, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have become targets for the government’s latest arrows in the “War on Terror.” Even the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), has called for the Justice Department to aggressively investigate and prosecute the site and its founder, an Australian, for the releases that many government officials have cited as “putting lives at risk.”

While I haven’t read every word released by Wikileaks, I find it hard to believe that leaked information about the American government and their actions will endanger lives. In fact, I like the “new normal” in terms of government transparency. I hardly think that accepting and publishing information given qualifies one, as King asserts that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should declare, as “a foreign terrorist organization.”

The investigation into Assange’s involvement in a suspected rape in Sweden aside, the work being done by his organization opened many eyes about the Federal Government’s actions in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their publication of government information on the Iraq War in October provided a valuable release of information to the public with statistics, documentation, and accounts of war activities that the U.S. Government feels is too dangerous for us to know. In fact, Time Magazine stated that Wikileaks “Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

Today in Liberty: Mississippi Senate race heads to a runoff, fellow soldier says Bowe Bergdahl wanted to talk to the Taliban

“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone.” — Frederic Bastiat

— Mississippi Senate race headed to a runoff: The race literally came down to the wire, but neither Chris McDaniel, whom we interviewed in April, fell just short of the 50 percent he needed to avoid a runoff with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS). At the end of the night, McDaniel had a 2,128 vote lead, taking 49.6 percent of the vote over Cochran’s 48.9 percent. A third Republican candidate, Thomas Carey, took 1.6 percent. “This is a historic moment in this state’s history. And because of your hard work, because of your dedication, we sit here tonight leading a 42-year incumbent. But our fight is not over,” McDaniel told enthusiastic supporters. “We’ll probably know tomorrow, but one way or the other I promise you this: whether it’s tomorrow or whether it’s three weeks from tonight, we will stand victorious in this race.” Cochran didn’t speak to supporters, but his campaign tweeted, “Dead heat! Less than 500 votes separate the two candidates. New campaign starts tomorrow. Three weeks to victory!” The dynamics of the June 24 runoff favor McDaniel. His voters are going to show up, while Cochran’s will be more likely to stay at home. Either way, if the end of the primary is any indication, the next three weeks in Mississippi are going to be brutal.

Obama heckled by protestor during speech

Obama heckled

During the unveiling of his new college unaffordability policies yesterday in Syracuse, President Barack Obama was heckled by a protester upset about the prosecution and conviction of Pfc. Bradley Manning and briefly lost control of the situation.

You can watch the video below. You can’t hear the protester very well at all, but President Obama got frustrated as he tried to calm down the audience.

“No, no, no, that’s fine. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Obama told the crowd amid a chorus of very loud boos.

“We’re okay. We’re okay. That’s okay. Hold on a second. Hold on. Hold on. Hello, everybody, hello.  Hold on. Hold on a minute,” Obama said loudly as he struggled to regain control. “Hold on a minute. Hold on. So, now — hold on a second. “

“Can I just say that as hecklers go, that young lady was very polite,” he added as the crowd started to pay attention again. “She was. And she brought up an issue of importance, and that’s part of what America is all about.”

NBC’s David Gregory once again shows his bias

David Gregory and Glenn Greenwald

The big news Sunday morning was that Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked information about National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of Americans, had left Hong Kong and would be seeking asylum in Ecuador.

As this news was developing, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the story about the NSA’s spying program at The Guardian, joined David Gregory on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday to discuss Snowden and his decision to leave Hong Kong with the help of WikiLeaks, an activist organization that advocates transparency in world governments. They also discussed the PATRIOT Act and NSA spying program, which Greenwald contends is a violation of the Fourth Amendment and, therefore, is unconstitutional.

However, details of the NSA ostensibly treating every American as if they are criminals isn’t what made headlines yesterday. Instead, it was Gregory, whose reporting and questioning of guests frequently takes a line in favor of the Obama Administration, and his perceived belief that investigative journalism should be frowned upon that became the news.

“Final question for you,” said Gregory, “[t]o the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”

Greenwald immediately slammed Gregory and dismissed the entire premise of the question, noting that the theory apparently embraced by the Meet the Press host is contributing to the decline in investigative journalism.

Your Secrets Are Not Safe with the Government

government secrets

During a recent show, Chris Hayes, host of All In with Chris Hayes, made some very important points worthy of sharing here about government secrecy and the government’s inability to keep secrets:

As of the end of 2011, there were 1.4 million people with top secret security clearance […] just one of the 1.4 million people is on trial for leaking a heck of a lot of secrets. Bradley Manning is the 25-year-old soldier accused of turning over files to Wikileaks including reports from Afghanistan and air strikes to killed civilians. His trial got under way and he faces prison. He is viewed as a hero and others see him as a villain and a traitor. What he is is proof that the government cannot keep secrets. If 1.4 million people had access, that access is not a secret in any real way.

Liberty Links: Morning Reads for Tuesday, February 8th

Below is a collection of several links that we didn’t get around to writing about, but still wanted to post for readers to examine. The stories typically range from news about prominent figures in the liberty movement, national politics, the nanny state, foreign policy and free markets.

The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.