CommunityThe Bullpen

Government Acknowledges Continued Breaches of Domestic Spying Laws, While Going After Wikileaks for Privacy Invasion

The press is seemingly relishing the attacks on Wikileaks, for publishing information that major news organizations publish every day. I’ve seen plenty of headlines similar to “the noose is tightening around Julian Assange.”

As you may know, the US domain host EveryDNS dropped Wikileaks, claiming that their other websites were threatened because of multiple denial of service attacks on the site (do we know where these DoS attacks are coming from? US or foreign intelligence agencies?). This forced Wikileaks to move to a Swiss domain name, That’s still live, but the French government, which is where the Swiss domain names are hosted, is trying to ban the site from French servers. There’s also a German host. Ancillary providers like Tableau Software, which simply hosted a data visualization of the Wikileaks State Department cables, pulled its images after Joe Lieberman’s staff requested they do so.

There have been death threats on Assange personally, and it is expected that British police will arrest him in the next week in connection with a rape case in Sweden that suddenly popped up after a separate leak release months ago.

(UPDATE: Wow. I’ve been reading the wrong media, which is to say “the media.”)

At least his mother is proud of him.

“I’m proud of Jules,” Christine Assange, who runs a puppet theater in Queensland, Australia, said. “The whole issue is whether what he is doing is good or not and if the information is relevant, which it is.”

She also said that instead of religion, she taught her son ethics as a child.

Aha! Atheist!

It’s beyond amusing that politicians are trying to come up with a way to prosecute Assange for distributing information that he obtained and someone else leaked, and that they’re going to the extent of pressuring multiple Web hosts of censoring the information, when at the same time the government is admitting spying on its own citizens. It’s OK to collect confidential information, but only if you’re the government.

The federal government has repeatedly violated legal limits governing the surveillance of U.S. citizens, according to previously secret internal documents obtained through a court battle by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In releasing 900 pages of documents, U.S. government agencies refused to say how many Americans’ telephone, e-mail or other communications have been intercepted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – or FISA – Amendments Act of 2008, or to discuss any specific abuses, the ACLU said. Most of the documents were heavily redacted.

However, semiannual internal oversight reports by the offices of the attorney general and director of national intelligence identify ongoing breaches of legal requirements that limit when Americans are targeted and minimize the amount of data collected.

The government has simply no right to whine about invasions to their privacy. They routinely invade the privacy of their citizens on an ongoing basis. But if anyone tried to go after the government with the fervor that world governments have gone after Julian Assange, they’d be quite unsuccessful.

I hate to be the one to quote former Bush official Matthew Dowd, but he’s right here:

As I was sitting with my three grown sons over the post-Thanksgiving weekend watching football at their place (where they have lived together for nearly a year without a major fight, the place burning down, or the police showing up), my oldest son, who served in the Army for five years and was deployed in Iraq for nearly a year and half, turned to me and asked, “When as a country did we become a place where the government gets upset when its secrets are revealed but has no problem knowing all our secrets and invading our privacy?”

Hmm, interesting question.

In Washington’s polarized political environment, Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on a few things: That the government, in the name of fighting terrorism, has the right to listen in on all of our phone conversations and read our e-mails, even if it has no compelling reason for doing so. That the government can use machines at the airport that basically conduct the equivalent of strip searches of every passenger. That the government, for as long as it wants, can withhold any information from the public that it decides is in the national interest and is classified. And that when someone reveals this information, they are reviled on all sides, with the press corps staying silent.

Since when did Matthew Dowd become such a truth-teller?

But look, this is clearly true. It’s about as absurd as Washington shrieking about cutting the deficit while passing an extension of tax cuts for millionaires. The only secrets privileged in the United States are the government’s. Your secrets deserve to be stolen and distributed.

Previous post

David Brooks Has Some Problems with the Republican Party

Next post

Weekly Mulch: If Cancun Climate Talks Falter, Blame the U.S.

David Dayen

David Dayen