The United States, uniquely among nations, believes that its writ runs all over the world—and that it has a right to use its courts of law to seek retributive justice even in situations that did not involve American citizens and occurred in a foreign land.
No other country sends its marshals overseas to forcibly detain fugitives from “justice.” If the United States is truly exceptional, it is no doubt due to its hubris in declaring itself to be the final arbiter of what goes on all around the globe, writes Dr. Phillip Giraldi, soon to be seen in The Herland Report TV shows. (Feature photo: Julian Assange. The Norwegian Holberg Prize)
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It seems that nearly every week Congress outdoes itself in passing bills that are intended to pummel one foreign adversary or another. Russia and Iran have become particular favorites with nary a dissenting voice when new sanctions are put in place, together with mechanisms to ensure that a puissant chief executive shall have no ability to mitigate the punishment. And sometimes stealth is employed, inserting a nugget in an otherwise innocuous bit of legislation that will provide authority to go after yet another potential enemy of the state.
The Senate Intelligence Authorization Act (SB 1761), released when few senators were in town, is in the nature of a routine document. It notably calls for “more” in terms of both probing and revealing Russian spying and alleged aggression, but that was to be expected due to the current panic over Moscow and its intentions.
It will nevertheless almost certainly become law even though few members of congress will actually bother to read any part of it. The bill has already been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee and will likely go immediately to a vote in the full Senate when that body reconvenes after the August recess. It will almost certainly be approved unanimously.
That anyone in the alternative media is paying any attention at all to what the bill says is due to the last section in the document, numbered 623. It reads “SENSE OF CONGRESS ON WIKILEAKS: It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”
Senator Ron Wyden was the only committee member who opposed the draft but even he opined that “the damage done by WikiLeaks to the United States is clear.” His concerns were that Section 623, if acted upon, could damage freedom of the press. He explained that “…the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets… The language in the bill suggesting that the U.S. government has some unstated course of action against ‘non-state hostile intelligence services’ is equally troubling.”
It would be interesting to know who exactly inserted Section 623 in the intelligence authorization bill, but that information is unlikely to surface anytime soon.
In reality, the conflation of WikiLeaks with an actual intelligence service is absurd. It does not recruit agents who obtain information for it and instead relies on volunteers, many of whom are apparently whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, to provide it with material. It operates in standard journalistic fashion by publishing the material that it considers to be relevant to illegal or inappropriate activity by the U.S. and other governments, corporations, and even individuals. Critics claim that it is reckless in so doing, but WikiLeaks sees itself as an activist purveyor of global transparency and accountability.
And the assertion that WikiLeaks is acting as the agent of an unfriendly foreign government is also unproven, even though some in the U.S. government have insisted that is the case and an occasional investigative journalist has sought to connect the dots.
Clearly the drafter of the sentence in SB 1761 is implying a Russian relationship, but there is no indisputable evidence that that is true and no hint that anything that WikiLeaks has revealed is propaganda.
Most of the attention on Section 623 has focused on potential damage to the First Amendment to the Constitution, which established freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but I also see something more sinister in the language used. The sentence is nearly identical to a statement made by CIA Director Mike Pompeo on April 13 in which WikiLeaks was described as a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
The Daily Beast reports a comment by one former Senate committee staffer who notes that “It would allow the intelligence community to collect against them the same way they collect against al-Qaeda. If you think you’re helping WikiLeaks to aid a transparency organization, the U.S. government fundamentally disagrees with you and you could find yourself on the other end of NSA scrutiny.”
Nevertheless, the Attorney General’s office has been hard at work preparing criminal charges, presumably relying on the Espionage Act of 1918, which can be construed as criminalizing the receipt of any classified material by an unauthorized party. Given the clearly expressed desire to punish Assange, he would quite likely be arrested and extradited to the U.S. by the British if he should ever attempt to leave the shelter of the Ecuadorean Embassy.
Some journalists are particularly concerned that henceforth any classified information made public by WikiLeaks and used by an American news outlet might also lead to criminal charges for the recipient, again under the Espionage Act. And Washington might even believe that it can to a certain extent enforce its ban on using WikiLeaks material globally by pressuring other governments and by tying up media outlets with lawsuits.
There are already plenty of laws that criminalize the mishandling or theft of classified information, but the government has proven singularly incapable of catching the leakers, so now it will go after the recipients.
I would suspect that employees and managers of WikiLeaks, insofar as they can be identified, will be surveilled, harassed, and even arrested. They will have to be especially careful when they travel.
WikiLeaks servers and systems will be disrupted through insertion of viruses and intensified hacking. Potential whistleblowers will undoubtedly take note and become reluctant to share information with a resource that is under siege.
To unleash the CIA on WikiLeaks the White House will likely have to come up with a “finding” to authorize special action. President Donald Trump will no doubt sign such a document and follow up with a tweet. It is particularly ironic that Trump once was a self-professed great fan of WikiLeaks, stating how he “loved it” while on the campaign trail in October 2016 after Hillary Clinton’s emails were made public. A lot has changed.
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