Joe Lieberman Freedom Fighter

Freedom Fighter

by digby

And by that, I don't mean he's fighting for it:
Joe Lieberman, the chair of the Senate homeland security committee, told Fox News: "To me the New York Times has committed at least an act of, at best, bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime is a matter of discussion for the justice department."

Lieberman also said that the department of justice should indict Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, under the 1917 Espionage Act and try to extradite him from the UK.

Asked why this had not happened, Lieberman admitted there was probably an argument going on over how to charge Assange.

"I think this is the most serious violation of the Espionage Act in our history," Lieberman said, adding: "It sure looks to me that Assange and WikiLeaks have violated the Espionage Act."

At the daily state department briefing in Washington, DC, Philip Crowley, the department's press spokesman, said: "What WikiLeaks has done is a crime under US law."

I don't know why Wikileaks would be guilty of espionage but all other newspapers which have possession of all 260,000 documents aren't. Not to mention all the "bad citizens" all over the country and the world which have published them and written about them. Wikileaks didn't "leak" the documents --- they published them on the internet in conjunction with these other newspapers, which also published them. The "leakers" are those who leaked the documents to Wikileaks and its partners. It's no different than the New York Times publishing the Pentagon Papers (and 15 other papers re-publishing in solidarity.) Ellsberg was the leaker and was tried in a separate case --- the paper was the publisher.

And when the government tried to stop them from publishing, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the paper. As Perlstein wrote in Nixonland:

Justice Brennan's decision argued that press reports that embarrass the government were precisely the reason the First Amendment was invented. Justice Black concurred. "Every moment's continuance of the injunctions against these newspapers amounts to a flagrant, indefensible, and continuing violation of the First Amendment... [F]or the first time in the 182 years since the founding of the Republic, the federal courts are asked to hold that the First Amendment does not mean what it says."
I have my doubts that the NY Times is going to be a brave defender of the First Amendment this time. They seem to only be concerned with it these days when one of their reporters is called to task for being a willing propaganda conduit. (That's their current definition of freedom of the press --- to be free to print government lies without interference.) The fact that they kept one degree of separation from Wikileaks by partnering with the Guardian rather than Wikileaks itself, leads me to believe they may have anticipated this Lieberman move already.

Lieberman and his fellows seem to have the quaint idea that if only they can punish Julian Assange nobody will ever put secrets on the internet again, so they will try to do this differently. But the principles are the same. And the papers are all publishing these cables on the internet too. This is becoming a farce.

Update: Fergawdsake. The stupid surrounding this issue is overwhelming:

ANCHOR: What do you think of the Justice Department’s actions so far to not charge Julian Assange with treason?

LIEBERMAN: I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened yet. We can go back to the earlier dump of classified documents mostly related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that occured in July, and to me that was a violation of espionage as well.
I'm sure he doesn't understand why that hasn't happened because from his perspective the United States is an empire and all other countries are its colonies. Therefore, the fact that Julian Assange isn't an American is irrelevant as to whether or not he committed treason. Anyone who does something he perceives to be against the interests of the US, whether American or not, has committed treason. We're kind of "exceptional" that way.

* If they'd like to arrest Dana Milbank and friends I wouldn't complain ...