Jan 24, 2011

Starchild: Proposed resolution of Libertarian support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

Starchild comments on a previous press release by the Libertarian Party supporting Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks:

What paulie said — anti-TSA and pro-WikiLeaks! Both of these issues represent key tests of government power against civil liberties, one related to the First Amendment protections of freedom and speech and of the press, the other related to the Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable search and seizure. These protections should belong to all people in the world.

I recently wrote a proposed resolution for the Libertarian Party of San Francisco on the WikiLeaks issue, and sent it to members of the Libertarian National Committee and other email lists, offering it as sample wording others could use in crafting resolutions for their own bodies to pass on the topic:

* * *

WHEREAS WikiLeaks has provided an invaluable service to the cause of free speech and to helping keep governments and other institutions accountable to the people of the world; and

WHEREAS numerous politicians and other public figures in the U.S. have called WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen Julian Assange a a traitor (treason being punishable by the death penalty in the U.S.) and even in some cases for him to be assassinated; and

WHEREAS it is possible that if Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden, he could be extradited from there to the United States; and

WHEREAS the sex charges for which Julian Assange is wanted by Swedish authorities appear to be baseless, yet have been pursued in an unusually urgent and forceful manner by said authorities, in what can only be a result of Assange’s role in WikiLeaks;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Libertarian Party of San Francisco calls on the British authorities who have arrested Julian Assange and currently have not released him in Britain despite bail being granted and posted, to immediately stop all judicial proceedings against him, and refuse to extradite him to Sweden, the United States, or any other country.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Libertarian Party of San Francisco thanks Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, as well as their sources including U.S. Army private first class Bradley Manning, for exposing what congressman Ron Paul called “the delusional foreign policy” of the U.S. government, and revealing government secrets wrongfully withheld from the American people.

* * *

Not sure whether this had anything to do with Mark Hinkle’s press release — he wrote me to ask whether the WikiLeaks protest I mentioned happening in San Francisco was still happening given that he’d heard Assange was out on bail.

I heard nothing back from any other LNC members except for alternates Carl Vassar (who enthusiastically endorsed it in a “reply all” to the LNC members I had written) and Andy Wolf, who inquired how I thought such a resolution would be received by the national membership and adding, “I will reserve judgment on whether to thank Assange until I better understand why he is releasing this information. It is unfortunate that so many people are focusing on him, whether as a martyr or a pariah, while the discussion should be about the substance of the information. I think it plays into the hands of the establishment — they want to distract us because it reduces their accountability. And unless someone can explain to me the crime that Assange or WikiLeaks committed and that a US court has jurisdiction over him or his company, extradition makes no sense; I agree with Mr. Hinkle’s statement that publishing documents provided by a government agent and embarrassing public officials are not crimes. Liberty should no know borders.”

I believe the WikiLeaks issue as clear-cut a libertarian issue as any facing us.

I don’t feel I need to know the WikiLeaks founder’s motives in order to appreciate the pro-freedom impact of his actions. Just about the only scenario I can think of under which I would not be grateful were if WikiLeaks turned out to be simply a massive disinformation campaign, with the leaks being generally false information released at the direction of government authorities themselves. Given the responses of those authorities to date however, I think we can pretty much rule that possibility out!

I told Andy I would welcome additional scrutiny of the leaked data’s content, and that I thought this would make a good subject for another LP press release.

But I’m not unhappy with the way most of the media has recently been covering the story by focusing on Assange. WikiLeaks was known to me many months before I ever heard of Julian Assange, and I think the focus only started shifting from the content of the leaks to him personally when it became clear that he and his organization could be in jeopardy.

At that point, it seems to me that paying attention to him was a right and proper journalistic decision, because government attempts to go after the head of an important media outlet and put that outlet out of business for leaking their secrets and embarrassing them are not only extremely newsworthy, but arguably no less embarrassing to government than the original leaks. Having your crimes revealed is one thing; trying to cover them up, and silence those who exposed you, takes it to another level. That’s what got Nixon removed from office.

The full text of the Libertarian Party's press release:

WASHINGTON - While Democratic and Republican politicians outdo each other with calls for the prosecution and even execution of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for providing information to various news media, Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle says that free speech and freedom of the press must be supported unconditionally. Hinkle released the following statement today:

"In 1787, as the U.S. Constitution was being written, Thomas Jefferson wrote, 'Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.' His recognition of the critical need for a free press led him and others to demand a Bill of Rights, where freedom of speech and freedom of the press were listed in the very first amendment to the Constitution.

"In 2010, Democratic and Republican politicians alike are trying to destroy this precious liberty. The Obama Administration, which has already invoked the 'state secrets' claim in court more than any administration in history, has arrested Army Private Bradley Manning, alleging that he copied and leaked various documents, and is holding him in solitary confinement pending a military trial. Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopefuls are falling over themselves seeing who can sound the toughest. Mike Huckabee says that anything less than execution of the leaker is too kind. Newt Gingrich wants Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, declared an 'enemy combatant' so that he can be denied all due process. And Sarah Palin wants Assange hunted down like Osama bin Laden (perhaps missing the irony that bin Laden has not been caught).

"Even more ominously, companies which provided various services to WikiLeaks suddenly decided to end their relationship after receiving pressure from Washington. Amazon, PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard all suddenly felt that the activities of WikiLeaks, well-known to them for years, were illegal, absent any actual charges being filed for the violation of any law. When government officials start pressuring businesses in order to silence critics, tyranny isn't far off.

"Publishing documents provided by a government agent is not a crime. Embarrassing public officials is not a crime. Regardless of the degree to which the released documents are helpful or harmful, Assange and WikiLeaks are exercising their rights, and American politicians and government agents should stop threatening and harassing them.

"Freedom of the press is not a luxury, and the prospect of a government able to silence dissent and prevent the press from communicating unfavorable information about the behavior of government employees should frighten anyone who loves liberty. It is understandable that government officials who are lying to the public and covering up misdeeds want to keep their actions secret, just as a criminal doesn't want the police to find out about his crime. As Steven Greenhut of the Pacific Research Institute notes, 'If it weren't for anonymous sources and leaked information, the journalism business would serve as a press-release service for officialdom.'

"Private Manning deserves the presumption of innocence, due process, a speedy and fair trial, and decent treatment while in prison. If Manning revealed information which did not damage national security or result in harm to others, but instead revealed evidence of incompetence, corruption, or other illegal activities, then he should be able to raise that as a defense at any trial. Just as when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and had his subsequent prosecution dismissed by the courts, an important principle is that information which is being kept secret to protect wrongdoing is not in fact legally and properly classified. A jury should be able to judge both the facts and the law, and to acquit Manning if the jury finds his actions to be justified.

"Two years ago, candidate Barack Obama praised the long tradition of information leaks by defending those who revealed Bush-era covert actions. 'We only know these crimes took place because insiders blew the whistle at great personal risk.... Government whistle-blowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.' Obama appears to have forgotten this statement, just as he has forgotten many other statements and promises he made while campaigning.

"Only a month ago, we were told by the Transportation Safety Administration that they should have the power to strip or grope us if we want to exercise our right of travel. In my view, any government official too embarrassed to handle a full-body scan of their words and actions should resign."

The Libertarian Party platform includes the following:

1.1 Expression and Communication. We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology.

1.5 Crime and Justice. Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to them selves. We support restitution of the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer. We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused. The rights of due process, a speedy trial, legal counsel, trial by jury, and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must not be denied. We assert the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law.

Numerous other parties have also expressed support for WikiLeaks, including the Socialist Party USA, Green Party, Pirate Party, Ralph Nader, and the Peace and Freedom Party, among others. In a recent interview with Forbes Magazine, Assange said:

It’s not correct to put me in any one philosophical or economic camp, because I’ve learned from many. But one is American libertarianism, market libertarianism. So as far as markets are concerned I’m a libertarian, but I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.

WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical.

No comments: