Government-Created Climate of Fear

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One of the
more eye-opening events for me of 2010 occurred in March, when I
first wrote
about WikiLeaks and the war the Pentagon was waging on it
evidenced by its classified 2008 report branding the website an
enemy and planning
how to destroy it
). At the time, few had heard of the group
– it was before it had released the video of the Apache helicopter
attack – but I nonetheless believed it could perform vitally
important functions and thus encouraged readers to donate to it
and otherwise support it. In response, there were numerous people
– via email, comments, and other means – who expressed
a serious fear of doing so: they were worried that donating money
to a group so disliked by the government would cause them to be
placed on various lists or, worse, incur criminal liability for
materially supporting a Terrorist organization.

At the time,
I dismissed those concerns as both ill-founded and even slightly
paranoid. From a strictly legal standpoint, those concerns were
and are ill-founded: WikiLeaks has never even been charged with,
let alone convicted of, any crime
, nor does it do anything different
than what major newspapers around the world routinely do, nor has
it been formally designated a Terrorist organization, nor –
I believed at the time – could it ever be so designated. There
is not – and cannot remotely be – anything illegal about
donating to it. Any efforts to retroactively criminalize such donations
would be a classic case of an "ex post facto" law unquestionably
barred by the Constitution
. But from a political perspective,
the crux of the fear was probably more prescient than paranoid:
within a matter of months, leading right-wing figures were equating
WikiLeaks to Al Qaeda, while the Vice President of the U.S. went
on Meet the Press and disgustingly called Julian Assange
a "terrorist."

the rest of the article

11, 2011

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