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Tightening the Grip on Classified Leakers

Posted on Mar 10, 2012
Abode of Chaos (CC-BY)

Only nine people are known to have been indicted under the Espionage Act, the law used to prosecute those who interfere with U.S. military operations, mostly by leaking classified information. Six of those cases have been brought by the Obama administration.

ProPublica details each case in a timeline dating back to Daniel Ellsberg’s indictment in 1971 for disclosing the Pentagon Papers. —ARK


The administration has brought a total of six cases under the Espionage Act, which dates from World War I and criminalizes disclosing information “relating to the national defense.” (The Department of Justice has five criminal cases and the Army has one against alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning.) Prior to the current administration, there had been only three known cases resulting in indictments in which the Espionage Act was used to prosecute government officials for leaks.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice told us the government “does not target whistleblowers.” (Read their full statement below the timeline.) As they point out, government whistleblower protections shield only those who raise their concerns through the proper channels within their agency—not through leaks to the media or other unauthorized persons. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper summed up the government’s approach in a 2010 memo: “people in the intelligence business should be like my grandchildren—seen but not heard.”

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 13, 2012 at 3:20 am Link to this comment

If this effort by the government ends up as they typically do, we will be up to our ears in leakers.

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By gerard, March 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment

At the same time I am sorry that tens of thousands more ordinary people are not politically active (for a number of good reasons) I am very glad they are NOT out in the streets with guns. (Of course that’s not the only alternative—but it is the more or less automatic historical knee-jerk response.)
  We are trying to “cross over” to get to the other side of “kill”—which has been a more or less common verb throughout U.S.  history, all things considered.
  We have hints from nonviolent leaders from the past
to point in the general direction of .... ?  But right now we are working to overcome our fears, to think of new, engaging, humane, practical ways to move into the halls of power, to imagine a abetter way and to avoid being crushed by “business as usual” with its monstrous machinery of sterile and blind power. Give us this day .....

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, March 12, 2012 at 8:47 am Link to this comment


What you have said makes perfect sense in a alternate reality where the problem is the “government” and not the people themselves.

Our Achilles Heel seems to be us! The 1% could not “run rough shot” over us without the constant assistance of 20% to 40% of our own.

One of the greatest dangers to what is left of this republic is the homogenization of the flow of information:

Just as 98% of the Corporate media (that includes cable) are “synchronized” and deliver their information in unison, the net thanks to large corporate monopolies (Google, Comcast) are mimicking the big guys.

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By gerard, March 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment

vector:  Interesting idea:  “... until the left can find a way to translate ....”  Yes!  But I balk at the immediate and habituated tendency to translate “raw” political power as “force”.
  I think that’s exactly where the entire world stands, more or less, and why, though new methods are being tried, nothing has yet become clearly understood, and adequate, understood or “successful.”
  I had hoped when WikiLeaks released the cables, the U.S. government (coming out of a relatively “advanced” culture) would react by appreciating the new (internet) capabilities and using the releases to self-correct.
  Instead, the government so far has only followed the old “force” game, reacting by attempting to shut down information and proceed according to methods which the Internet essentially makes redundant and inadequate to the need.(It is tragic to see that so far the internet is being used to control people, and not to free them.)
  Punishing Manning and Assange (or others) will only delay the increasing necessity for change in information sharing worldwide which internet access enables. At the same time trying to “control” the internet to conform with nationalistic ambitions will retard the possible development of forms of democracy, adapting to various cultures gradually and peaceably by choice.
  I am amazed at the government’s lack of vision. and I fear that our leading the world toward a more inteligent future is almost out of the question, unless viewpoints in Washington change more rapidly.
We need the kind of intelligence that realizes the direction in which technology is moving, which is toward a more human humanity.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, March 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment

“Scooter Libby vs. Bradley Manning”

What this means to me is the “right” can protect their people and the “left” can not!

Obama like every other politician respects and fears power. When AIPAC, or Wall Street calls politicians trip over one another to get to the phone first! When the left seeks their attention, they don’t even pick up. Until the left can find a way to translate all the “marching” and carrying cleaver signs into raw political power we are just “barking at the moon!”

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By gerard, March 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment

For a revealing comparison between the treatment of Bradley Manning in contrast to Scooter Libbey (by Saul Landau) see current issue (Mar 10-11) entitled “Scooter Libby vs. Bradley Manning”

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By Big B, March 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm Link to this comment

Every presidential election year I re-read 2 books. First, fear and loathing on the campaign trail. It shows that the names of the players may change, but the game stays the same. And of course, 1984. for the very same reasons.

War is peace
Freedom is slavery

The only difference is that this stuff used to be done in smoke filled rooms. Now it is arrogantly done in plain site, with the oligharchs and plutocrats middle fingers fully extended.

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Blueokie's avatar

By Blueokie, March 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment

More of Obamafraud’s “Mendacity of Hope”.

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By bpawk, March 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Is this what he meant by ‘change you can believe in’?

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By gerard, March 10, 2012 at 11:45 am Link to this comment

Troublesomely vague, apparently self-protective nuances in the Justice Department’s statement that are of enormous importance in the Wikileaks trials:
  “It is the justice department’s policy that the prosecutorial power of the government should NOT be
used in such a way that it impairs a reporter’s responsibility to cover AS BROADLY AS POSSIBLE con-
troversial PUBLIC ISSUES.” 
  The government is going to have to prove that BOTH ITS OWN EXCESSIVE SECRECY (over-classification compounded by loose availability standards) and THE PROSECUTION itself DO NOT IMPAIR a reporter’s RESPONSIBILITY to cover AS BROADLY AS POSSIBLE controversial public issues.

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By Nick Vasey, March 10, 2012 at 10:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Most people prefer to believe their leaders are just and fair even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen aknowledges that the government under which they live is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of a corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one’s self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice. Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all.”

Michael Rivero

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 10, 2012 at 10:16 am Link to this comment


“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”

George Orwell

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