WikiLeaks: Assange Delivers On Obama’s Promise Of Transparency
A bit more than two years ago, America and most of the world were infatuated by the new President-elect. Barack Obama was promising “integrity, transparency and accountability in government, politics and the law”. Pointing out that the Bush administration had been “one of the most secretive in US history”, President-elect Obama vowed to drastically increase government openness to citizens with a never seen before new level of transparency and accountability.
“The Bush administration has been one of the most secretive closed administration in America’s history. An Obama presidency will use cutting-edge technologies to reverse this dynamic, creating a new level of transparency, accountability and participation for America’s citizens,” said the site set up by the President-elect.
On the site, one of the ambitious and unfulfilled many promises of the new administration on ethics and government was to “conduct regulatory agency business in public”.
“Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch department and rule making agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see these debates in person or watch them on the internet.”
An additional quote is even more damaging for the Obama administration “truth meter” standard, especially if it is put in the context of the key source of WikiLeaks: Private Bradley Manning. Manning is currently in military jail, and could face a sentence of up to 52-years. As matter of fact, President-elect Obama, back in November 2008, was pledging to “protect whistleblowers”.
“Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud and abuse of power in government,” said President-elect Obama on Change.gov
However, two years later, not only President Obama is not talking about “protecting whistle-blowers” any longer, but instead his administration is actively trying to prosecute WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange under an obscure law, dating from 1917, called the Espionage Act. The Obama administration thinks they have a case against Assange, under the Espionage Act, for publishing classified government documents. So not only President Obama doesn’t advocate transparency any more, but he has become an enemy of freedom of information and free speech. In effect, prosecuting WikiLeaks would have some very serious and damaging First Amendment implications, and doesn’t seem to be constitutional.
“We are deeply skeptical that prosecuting WikiLeaks would be constitutional. The courts have made clear that the First Amendment protects independent third parties who publish classified information. Prosecuting Wikileaks would be no different from prosecuting the media outlets that also published classified documents. If newspapers could be held criminally liable for publishing leaked information about government practices, we might never have found out about the CIA’s secret prisons or the government spying on innocent Americans,” said Hina Shamsi from the ACLU.