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December 7, 2010

I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of people suddenly facepalmed and then were silent
Posted by Patrick at 01:56 PM *

Press Statement
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
December 7, 2010
The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press.

The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

Comments on I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of people suddenly facepalmed and then were silent:
#1 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 02:26 PM:

The farce is strong in this one....

#2 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 02:28 PM:

At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals

Including ourselves. But it's OK when corporations do it.1

1. No, really, the US isn't trying to silence Wikileaks; we're getting Visa and MasterCard to do it for us. They're the ones who will be screwed by the next set of leaks about the banking, system after all, so they ought to do our dirty work for us.

#3 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 02:53 PM:

*blink*

Is that from the Assistant Secretary of Irony?

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 02:53 PM:

This is a koan, right? One of those paradoxes that seems completely impossible and faintly idiotic until you attain the flash of enlightenment, and then it suddenly makes sense?

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 02:54 PM:

This isn't from the Onion, is it?

#6 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 02:55 PM:

The hypocrisy, it burnssss!

#7 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:03 PM:

And in related news, the TSA will celebrate the Fourth Amendment.

#8 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:03 PM:

I'd comment about this, but my comment has been censored by the US Government

#9 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:06 PM:

Those wishing to complain about the event will be allowed to make their voices heard in a specially-designed Free Speech Zone.

In other news, chocolate rations have been increased!

#10 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:06 PM:

It is important to arrive early for Press Freedom Day. Long lines are expected as many people will want to help turn the cranks on the presses.

In order to extract the maximum amount of blood from freedom during pressing, the use of crush bags is suggested. Turn the crank only so lang as it turns easily. If blood is no longer flowing and the crank does not turn easily, wait 15 minutes before resuming the pressing. Failure to do so may result freedom pulp oozing out the side of the presses. . . .

#11 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Serge @ 5

At times like this I suspect that Marvin Gaye may have been unexpectedly close to the truth of things.

#12 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:09 PM:

The press can print it ... but don't you read it if you want a job!

#13 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:09 PM:

A day that will live in infamy...

#14 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:15 PM:

praisegod barebones - More likely Gil Scott-Heron.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZvWt29OG0s&feature=fvst

But it is being televised; it's just not the one y'all thought it would be.

#15 ::: Chris Suslowicz ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:19 PM:

This is a pisstake right?

If not, it's a classic piece of doublethink, rather like the British Government approach to department names, such as:

Department of Health - deals with sick people
Department of Work & Pensions - the unemployed/unemployable and those without pensions
Home Office - worries about the number of foreigners in the UK
Borders & Immigration Agency - suspends the visas of foreign visitors so it can force them to leave in order to meet its deportation targets.
Ministry of Justice....

Stop laughing at the back

#16 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:24 PM:

Serge @5: No, the Onion only prints the truth, with no satiric intent: for example, the classic "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over" story of January 2001. What other story of the time better predicted the next eight years?

#17 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:25 PM:

Diplomacy in action?

A ber-Kie / A mun-RUH / F kie-DEN

#18 ::: Kelley Wegeng ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:33 PM:

To be fair, there were probably some Department of State employees who wanted to speak out about the irony. They were likely warned by other State employees that to do so might hinder their ability to obtain future employment.

#19 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 03:34 PM:

And, they have a Facebook page! The comments are, well ... Homeland Security has work to do!

#20 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 04:54 PM:

Jon Meltzer @19: I particularly like the idea that the event should be sponsored by Visa, Mastercard and Paypal.

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 04:55 PM:

Calling Eric Blair, Eric Blair to the white courtesy phone, please...

#22 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 04:57 PM:

And hosted at amazon?

#23 ::: praisegod O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 05:12 PM:

@ Lizzy L.

Sorry, we have no record of an E. Blair in this department house. There's a T. Blair here who seems to be at a bit of a loose end - would he do instead?

@albatross: indeed.

#24 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 05:13 PM:

It's good that they said that.

#25 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 05:23 PM:

Bruce @2: "...we're getting Visa and MasterCard to do it for us. They're the ones who will be screwed by the next set of leaks about the banking, system after all, so they ought to do our dirty work for us."

I'm actually beginning to suspect that the banksters are the ones really pulling the strings this time. To the extent that I'm not sure the U.S. government isn't simply dancing to the tune they're playing rather than conducting the orchestra.

This is what happens when you provide those sorts of people with proof that they're Too Big To Jail.

#26 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 05:47 PM:

...however we are looking for an H. Tuttle. Or perhaps it's H. Buttle: the printout is a bit unclear. Just send both of them to the white courtesy phone by the ducts.

#27 ::: Michael A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 05:56 PM:

I hear that WikiLeaks is a corporate sponsor for the program...

#28 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 06:30 PM:

The comments on the World Press Freedom Day Facebook page have been "moved".

#29 ::: Yogg saron ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 07:07 PM:

This is too much of a joke to say anything funny about this...

#32 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 07:45 PM:

abi @ 4:

What is the sound of one hand giving the finger?

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 07:50 PM:

The irony meter is currently stuck on 11.

#34 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 08:02 PM:

The Facebook page for the World Press Freedom Day 2011, is now returning the error message:

This content is currently unavailable
The page you requested cannot be displayed right now. It may be temporarily unavailable, the link you clicked on may have expired, or you may not have permission to view this page.

#35 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 09:19 PM:

abi @ 4: "This is a koan, right? One of those paradoxes that seems completely impossible and faintly idiotic until you attain the flash of enlightenment, and then it suddenly makes sense?"

That flavor of enlightenment I do not want.

#36 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 09:31 PM:

Lin D #34: The Facebook page for the World Press Freedom Day 2011, is now returning the error message

That's because it's not the main page; this is.

#37 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 09:33 PM:

This URL appears to work:

http://www.connect.connect.facebook.com/WPFD2011

Under the "Discussions" tab, the "Archived Comments" topics appear to consist of very large posts containing the texts of many other posts that have bulk-cut-and-pasted from somewhere else. I'm not really familiar enough with Facebook to engage in forensic analysis.

Whatever happened, I'm sure it was absolutely brimming with Freedom.

#38 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 10:07 PM:

Large organisations often contain a diversity of opinions. Sometimes that diversity is visible to outsiders.

That might explain some (or all) of what's going on here -- part of the State Department might genuinely be in favour of press freedoms and behaving in an above-board manner, and that part might be behind this event. They might be perfectly well aware that this will be embarrassing for other parts of the US government, and even for other parts of the State Department.

#39 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 10:29 PM:

"They might be perfectly well aware that this will be embarrassing for other parts of the US government, and even for other parts of the State Department."

This is supposed to reassure me that the State Department still employs the best and the brightest of our generation?

#40 ::: Adina Adler ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2010, 10:49 PM:

The "Archived Comments" on the Facebook page were probably cut-and-pasted from the page's Wall. I would guess that the page originally allowed anyone to post to the Wall, and people were making their opinions known, and then whoever administers the page realized that their own messages were being overwhelmed.

I give them some credit for copying the messages to the Discussion tab; they could just as easily have simply deleted the messages completely.

#41 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:06 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 39

No, no. Don't you read the news? The best and brightest went to work in the financial industry, as investment manipulators.

Srsly, the best and brightest working for the government is SO last century...

#42 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 04:31 AM:

The best and the brightest are writing weaponized malware.

#43 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 08:05 AM:

The weaponized malware written by the best and brightest is targeted at a several-million-year-old system that's stuffed with poorly-maintained legacy code and has hundreds of known, unpatched bugs.

#44 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 09:18 AM:

j h woodyatt @ #39: This is supposed to reassure me that the State Department still employs the best and the brightest of our generation?

Well, they employ a young relative of mine who certainly fits that description. But it might be asking a bit much of him to overturn the entire structure of the military-industrial complex on his own.

#45 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 09:40 AM:

They're certainly getting the "New Barriers" part going. I wonder what the "New Frontiers" will look like, now that Siberia is settled. Maybe that Arctic station from Logan's Run...

I don't think Visa/MC are so much pulling the strings as exquisitely sensitive to even the hint of regulatory pressure. They can't be making more than a few grand a year in fees from Wikileaks, but even a polite investigation of their willingness to service legally-questionable enterprises (think of all the scammers) would cost them millions.

#46 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 09:47 AM:

Last night my mom asked me, "So what is this whole Wikileaks thing? How are they getting all that information?"
I explained that it was really just journalism. They get material from sources and then publish it. Just like Woodward and Bernstein did with Watergate.
She said, "Oh, so its freedom of the press? That's pretty straightforward. Why doesn't the rest of the press just say that?" ...

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 10:26 AM:

paul @ 45...

"Fish, and plankton. And sea greens, and protein from the sea. It's all here, ready. Fresh as harvest day. Fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea."

#48 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 10:30 AM:

Wow, the secret of comedy really is timing.

#49 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 10:56 AM:

Steve Halter @46:
The number of times I have had almost that exact conversation recently is impressive. Unfortunately, the punchline changes.

Sometimes it's "Watergate? What was that again?"
Other times it's "but they aren't a newspaper".
And my biggest facepalm: "why do they hate their country so much. What do you mean they're not American?"

#50 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 11:14 AM:

15: there's a Yes Minister episode in which the minister is terrified of being put in charge of a new Department of Industrial Harmony. "Industrial harmony? That means strikes!"

#51 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 01:26 PM:

Pentagon Papers, more than Watergate. New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Co._v._United_States

#52 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 01:57 PM:
As part of their attempt to blacken WikiLeaks and Assange, pundit commentary over the weekend has tried to portray Assange's exposure of classified materials as very different from -- and far less laudable than -- what Daniel Ellsberg did in releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg strongly rejects the mantra "Pentagon Papers good; WikiLeaks material bad." He continues: "That's just a cover for people who don't want to admit that they oppose any and all exposure of even the most misguided, secretive foreign policy. The truth is that EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time."

From The Institute for Public Accuracy

Also on Ellsburg's site, but currently not working.

#53 ::: Erf ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 05:15 PM:

Steve Halter @ 46: Because Wikileaks involves the internet.

#54 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 05:31 PM:

The Ellsberg site is still having some trouble, but here's a link to the main page.

#55 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 05:33 PM:

re 52: This gets back to the problem of what really is being released. So far not a lot of the stuff is the revelations of lawbreaking discourse like Ellsberg is implicitly promising, even if/though some is. I can see the diplomats saying, "look, we can't operate with every last thing we say appearing in the newspaper," so I think there is at least room for argument as to whether chasing down potential wrongdoing trumps that.

#56 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 06:23 PM:

Wow. Hearing about the US-funded bacha bazi parties removes all doubt from my mind. Wikileaks WAS justified in doing what they did.

(Of course, finally finding out that they didn't dump these cables to the internet as has been often reported, and have only published the things that have already appeared in the newspapers they did give it to, WITH the redactions those newspapers chose to make, made a big difference to my attitude too.)

I remember that once I was proud to be an American. I can't, however, remember what that felt like.

#57 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 06:27 PM:

C. Wingate at 55: My initial reaction to the diplomats saying, as one would expect them to, "look, we can't operate with every last thing we say appearing in the newspaper," or on the Internet, was sympathy. Of course they can't, blah-blah, blah-blah.

And then I thought, nope, that's not gonna work. There's no way to stuff this particular genie back into his jar. The world has changed, and like it or not, diplomats and the folks who employ them are going to have to find another way of doing business. If they can't manage it, then I predict that every country on earth, with the USA leading the way, will within the next two years pass a set of laws which will make the Official Secrets Act look like rules for a nursery school -- rather like the way China currently operates, only much nastier.

#58 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 07:35 PM:

Regardless of whether it's a good thing to have diplomatic cables leaked (it's not, for the most part), the rhetoric that is circulating about it is pretty much pure propoganda. The fact that our media are running that propoganda with a minimum of apparent critical thinkin says nothing good about them. The pattern of thuggishly trying to silence Wikileaks similarly says nothing good about us.

#59 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 12:10 AM:

Lila @44, okay let me rephrase that... this is supposed to reassure me that the Department of State is still being run by the best and the brightest of their generation?

#60 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 03:58 AM:

Lizzy L @57 - I predict that every country on earth, with the USA leading the way, will within the next two years pass a set of laws which will make the Official Secrets Act look like rules for a nursery school -- rather like the way China currently operates, only much nastier.

There have been calls this week from a police spokesman for the creation of an "Internet minister." I can't find an English version, but the quote from Klaus Jansen that worries me is
- "Internet providers must always be obliged to refuse to publish illegal contents. 'And whoever neglects to filter out illegal data must experience severe civil and criminal consequences,' demanded Jansen."

I don't feel that this particular suggestion by this particular person will be enacted immediately, but there's a definite sense of Something must be done! in Germany. Whenever and whatever internet restrictions are imposed, you can be sure it will be in the name of protecting us from evils like child pron and preserving our privacy.

#61 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 06:31 AM:

Debbie, what would we call the new ministers office?

I suggest "Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung".

#62 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 08:10 AM:

Debbie @ 60

I don't know how things stand under German law. But it seems quite important, under British (and I think) American law to make a distinction between 'illegal content' and 'illegal acts involving certain kinds of content'.

I suppose there are - and should be - some kinds of content which it is illegal to have or make.(Child pr0n0graphy/snuff movies/please name your preferred off-topic derail for discussions of free speech and resolve to ignore it for the purposes of this discussion) But putting the wikileaks material into that category would, if I've correctly followed everything that's ben said, involve substanitve changes in the law.

As several people (and at ML,most recently,
Terry Karney on the last thread) have observed, there is nothing illegal, per se, under US law about publishing classified material: one has to have a clearance. Similarly for the UK: the Official Secrets Act, draconian as it is, only applies to those who have signed it.

#63 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 08:16 AM:

Aargh. Making sure I get my links right - I have a particular tendency to fluff them in discussions involving Terry Karney - messes with my attention to detail on spelling.

Substantive. Substantive.

(Writes it out 100 times after the manner of child being given spelling corrections)/>

#64 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 08:18 AM:

(OK, so how do I mention, as opposed to using a tag? I used to know, back before I ever actually used HTML.)

#65 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 09:36 AM:

On cnn.com there is an article cnn article about various US agencies warning employees that they may lose their jobs by reading the wikileaks material. Then, there is discussion on whether students might be endangering job prospects by reading or discussing wikileaks.
The root of this appears to be Executive Order 13526, specifically section 5.5 Sanctions.
Its a really long document, but on a glance, it does look like a current federal employee could be sanctioned for reading a classified document that hasn't been properly declassified even though that document is viewable by the public.
The student employment portion is much more nebulous.

#66 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 10:17 AM:

Steve Halter @ 65 -

That would seem analogous to firing an employee for reading the Pentagon Papers story in the NYT.

#67 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 10:37 AM:

re 56: News stories about DYNCORP and child exploitation have been bouncing around since at least 2002; the hard part about Googling this was picking out stories about recent outrages. With all the talk about journalistic freedom, the most depressing vision I have is that as far as foreign policy is concerned, it mostly doesn't do any good. All sorts of outrage gets reported, and once the various poses are struck, the end result is "steady as she goes". In the current climate, I could easily see the response to a genuinely Pentagon-Papers-like revelation being "so what?" The crazy-Libertarian urge towards isolationism is looking increasingly attractive.

#68 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 12:41 PM:

Steve C@66: Yes, it would--crazy times.

#69 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 02:23 PM:

praisegod barebones @62 -- at the moment, the emphasis seems to be more on what one does with one's computer*,**. Even the guy I quoted wasn't suggesting making WikiLeaks per se illegal. But he also didn't say what he thought should be illegal, and that is what is most interesting and potentially disturbing.

Niall @61 -- Works for me. "Nursery" also comes to mind.


*A new law is coming into effect on 1 Jan 2011: It "will task anyone operating a .de domain with adding an age certificate to his or her website...Lawyers are expected to start sending out cease and desist letters to websites, telling them they're breaking the law and have to pay a couple of thousand euros."

**In a similar vein, "On May 12, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) pronounced judgment in a copyright case involving an unprotected WiFi connection. It held that the owner could be subject to an injunction - an order to cease and desist - but was not liable in damages. However, he would be liable to pay a maximum of 100 euros as compensation for the costs of a lawyer who had to send him a warning."

#70 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 10:19 PM:

the future is a palm on a face-- forever

#71 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 02:50 PM:

Erik Nelson: That is possibly the best misquote I have ever heard. I will be spreading it around.

#72 ::: Mal ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 04:57 PM:

Classified documents are not protected speech under US law and it's illegal to publish them. Always has been, since the issue first came up.

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 05:16 PM:

Mal @72:

Cite?

#74 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 05:33 PM:

Hello Mal

Nice to meet you. Given a choice between believing Terry Karney, who I've been talking to here for several years, and the source of whose knowledge I've got some idea of, and a random stranger entering the conversation for the first time and making an unbacked up assertion, I'm a lot more likely to believe Terry.

Which is fortunate, as a quick search with Google suggests he's right:

http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/Clinton-Vetoes-Leaks-Bill.htm

There'd have been no need for anyone to propose the bill in question or for Clinton to veto it if what you said was true. But perhaps you have some countervailing evidence?

#75 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 10:14 PM:

It's pointless to get upset when a paid shill says offensive things his masters write for him. But this Op-Ed in the Washington Post makes it clear just what kind of opinion one of the US' top newspapers is interested in putting in their paper.

#76 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 03:02 AM:

C. Wingate@67 - "The crazy-Libertarian urge towards isolationism is looking increasingly attractive."

I won't dispute the "crazy" part; it's a fair cop, guv, or at least often close enough for anti-government work. But "isolationist"? That's rare among libertarians, and mainly a right-wing affliction, with people like Pat Buchanan who give passionate moving speeches about bringing our troops home from wars where we're trying to rule the world, and then spoil them by saying we should redeploy the troops to the Mexican border to keep all the furriners out, and shut down free trade and freedom of travel.

There are some people, more often on the right wing but not uncommon on the center-left, who'll accuse you of being "isolationist" if you're less gung-ho than they are about invading other countries, as if there were no difference between being interacting with people in other countries and ruling them. I've never been sure if they do that to be manipulative or if they really don't understand that there are positions other than interventionism and isolationism.

#77 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 03:57 AM:

@62 - Just in case it matters, from Wikipedia, which is right for once:

"People working with sensitive information are commonly required to sign a statement to the effect that they agree to abide by the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act. This is popularly referred to as "signing the Official Secrets Act." Signing this has no effect on which actions are legal, as the act is a law, not a contract, and individuals are bound by it whether or not they have signed it. Signing it is intended more as a reminder to the person that they are under such obligations. To this end, it is common to sign this statement both before and after a period of employment that involves access to secrets."

#78 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 07:38 AM:

Another interesting feature of the Official Secrets Act is that you can be in breach of it by taking two or more pieces of unclassified information and using those to deduce a conclusion that _is_ classified under the act.

Oops.

Fortunately our version of Section 3 does not have to be signed in blood.

#79 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 08:52 AM:

Here's some of what Jennifer Elsea, legislative attorney for the Library of Congress' Congressional Research service, has to say on the matter of publishing classified information:

"Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship."

"[A]lthough unlawful acquisition of information might be subject to criminal prosecution with few First Amendment implications, the publication of that information remains protected."

These are quotes from Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information, issued just this past week. I listed this report yesterday on my website.

#80 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 09:41 AM:

@77:

It looks as though that information, though true, is slightly misleading (though probably less misleading than what I said). When people talk - or used to talk about 'section 2 of the Official Secrets Act' - they were/are talking about something that was superseded by the Official Secrets Act 1989.

And according to Wikipedia (which may be wrong about this, even if right about Alex's point) most sections of this Act only apply to Crown servants and government contractors.

If I've read things correctly some sections also require you to have been informed that its applicable to you. I'd guess that signing is the standard way of creating a legal record that you have been informed. So even though signing doesn't make things illegal that are otherwise legal it's still legally significant.

The problem in the UK seems to be section 5 of the 1989 Act, which prohibits

further disclosure or publication of information obtained in contravention of other sections of the act. It allows, for example, the prosecution of newspapers or journalists who publish secret information leaked to them by a crown servant in contravention of section 3

While I'm not a lawyer and not an American, I'd be prepared to bet that nothing analogous to section 5 would pass constitutional muster in the USA.

(Not that it matters much in the current context, since - I assume - none of the information which Assange is releasing is information which has been illegally communicated under British law.)

The philosopher in me can't help noting that at least according to the wikipedia summary, section 5 doesn't appear to criminalise the further dissemination of information whose dissemination is made illegal by section 5. In other words, if something gets disclosed to Assange in a way that is illegal under section 1 and Assange communicates it to the Guardian, who then publish it, what Assange does is illegal, but what the Guardian does is not. But this may just mean the Wikipedia summary is misleading.

#81 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 10:58 AM:

on public disclosure of classified information:
A recent example is Scooter Libby, who disclosed (probably at Cheney 'request') top secret information on Valerie Plame Wilson. IOKIYAR.

#82 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 10:05 PM:

Different kinds of rules can legitimately (or illegitimately but practically) apply to different people. Back during the Reagan Years, I worked as a defense contractor, so what I know of the rules is based on my fuzzy memories of that time, with generic DoD rules, which are different from the rules for nukes, spooks, State, NATO, DEA, FBI, Customs, etc., and the rules for contractors are different from the rules for military employees, so Bradley Manning's got to put up with UCMJ and I don't.

Even if the US government followed the Rule of Law, which neither the current nor previous administrations have been inclined to, I'd be really uncomfortable dealing with DoD classified material, especially if it were SECRET or above, even if it had entirely nothing to do with the topics I worked with. I wouldn't be at all bothered by markings about "FOUO" (for Official Use Only) or "NOFORN" or "PRIVATE" or "SENSITIVE", but even CONFIDENTIAL I probably wouldn't want to touch, and I certainly wouldn't want to deal with any nuclear-related classified documents. I might be ok if that were a State Department CONFIDENTIAL marking, and documents from other non-military non-nuclear-related agencies I'd be fine with.

But as an employee of a large company that has some divisions (which I'm not in) that deal with the military, I certainly can't risk even using my work laptop or Internet connection to read classified Wikileaks documents, nor can my company permit me to do that. There are rules about what kinds of computer management and facilities you need to handle classified material, and neither my computer nor my office building are set up to comply with them, and they could end up in worlds of paperwork pain if I downloaded the raw documents, and the kinds of penalties they'd be subject to could include being banned from government contracts for years.

Reading the New York Times online is probably still fine, and document titles indicate what the classification level of a document is, and at least in the DoD world, each paragraph gets marked with classification level in addition to the document as a whole, so it's probably safe, but if I want to look at raw Wikileaks, I'll need to use my own hardware, or go to the Public Library to work.

#83 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 10:53 AM:

38 Doug B: First Read as: "That might explain some (or all) of what's going on here -- part of the State Department might genuinely be in favour of press freedoms and behaving in an above-board manner, and [] part might be behind this event."

Makes sense your way too, of course.

52 Steve D: The difference is that this is happening under "their" purview, so embarrassing "them". The Pentagon Papers was something they read about in School, perpetrated against "bad guys that needed reining in".

The problem I have had with this whole thing in general is that we've fought too long against the government playing the "classified secrets" and the "national security" cards against *everything*, far too much, and getting away with it. I'm quite certain that in many cases the secret intended to remain classified is "we broke the law", or "this is really embarrassing", and that the security being referred to is being able to say "there's no evidence of that" while continuing to do illegal/embarrassing things.

#84 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 08:05 PM:

albatross, #75, if the WashPost is paying that columnist to have their opinions, then why is this editorial different?

#85 ::: Kit ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 06:44 PM:

Regarding how to get Assange: it's easy. They've already got hold of a pretty vulnerable 22-year-old. Just make him "confess" that Assange put him up to it. Case closed.

#86 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 11:04 AM:

Marilee:

Fair enough. I haven't read a fair sampling of Thiesen's op eds, but the relatively small number I have read (always linked to in outrage by someone else, so not at all a fair sampling) has all been advocating pure evil policies and viewpoints.

I'm not sure how to judge a newspaper's choice of op ed pieces. I assume they wouldn't give even an elloquent white nationalist with beautiful writing regular op-eds, and I find the subset of Thiesen's writing I've seen so far about as offensive as I'd find that. But maybe it's better to genuinely look for a wide range of alternative views. (I certainly read stuff online from a far wider range than any newspaper I've ever seen publishes. And I'll definitely read things by people whose views I often find offensive, if they also seem to have something interesting and informative to say. What I've seen from Thiesen is only offensive, not informative, but maybe I'm just reading the wrong things.)

#87 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 07:15 PM:

albatross, #86, I think this will give you all the editorials in the current day. You'll see that there are a lot of varying opinions on the op-ed page.

(To see former editoral pages, click on Today's Paper at the top of the page, then on View Previous Editions (under the head), pick Editorial Pages on the Section drop-down, and the day you want on the Today drop-down.)

#88 ::: Tina Black ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2010, 07:42 PM:

Between the rush to silence Wikileaks and the failure of net neutrality in Congress, the US should be in disgrace instead of pretending to lead the way.

#89 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 05:24 PM:

This CBS news story (I saw it first on Radley Balko's site) seems like a pretty good summary of some reasons why Wikileaks' leaked cables have actually had substantial value in letting us learn important stuff about the world. I note that a number of stories that seemed important to me were not even on the list....

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