Everything about this New York Times editorial is absolutely right. We should praise the NYT Editorial Board for their brave and clear stance on this issue. The money quotes:
A Mixed Verdict on Manning
Lurking just behind a military court’s conviction of Pfc. Bradley Manning, on charges that included multiple violations of the Espionage Act, is a national-security apparatus that has metastasized into a vast and largely unchecked exercise of government secrecy, and the overzealous prosecution of those who breach it….
When he entered his guilty plea, Private Manning said he was trying to shed light on the “day-to-day reality” of American war efforts. He hoped the information “could spark a debate about foreign policy in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan.” These are not the words of a man intent on bringing down the government. To the contrary, Private Manning continues to express his devotion to his country, despite being held without trial for three years, nine months of which amounted to punitive and abusive solitary confinement.
Private Manning still faces the equivalent of several life sentences on the espionage counts regarding disclosure of classified information. The government should satisfy itself with a more moderate sentence and then do something about its addiction to secrecy.
Also be sure to read the NYT’s Public Editor’s piece on the decade-long government persecution of their own reporter, and how an appeals court recently decided that reporters do not have a First Amendment right to protect the sources.
A Blow for the Press, and for Democracy
The chilling ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said that even though a journalist has promised confidentiality to a source, “there is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in.” National security necessitates that those who illegally leak classified information be brought to justice, the court said. It added that it saw no clear legal justification for treating a reporter differently than any other citizen, and that “other than Sterling himself, Risen is the only witness who can identify Sterling as a source (or not) of the illegal leak.”….
The case has real-world consequences not only for journalists but for all Americans. It is part of a troubling trend that includes unprecedented numbers of criminal investigationsinvolving leaked information; the obtaining of reporters’ phone records; and even one government claim that a journalist “aided and abetted” a leak.
We’re living in strange times. And until we start speaking out and letting these issues actually affect how we vote, I fear nothing will change.
What do you think? Do you think things need to change? Why or why not? What do you think is the most effective right to producing change?
[Part 2 of 2] In my previous post, I referenced a series of articles a wrote a couple years ago concerning the relationships between the Church and State. I talked about one article where I pointed out that “the Apostle Paul advocates for Christians to support the government and seek to change individuals rather than institutions by being the Church to the broken world around them (which will in turn shape institutions)”. I then showed how Paul stayed politically neutral most of the time, except when the government was acting in a way that kept him from living as a faithful member of the Church of Christ.
I then concluded that “political views are generally theologically-neutral and are up to the individual Christian’s conscience except when the State hinders the Church from freely being the Church to the world around it. At that point Christians are called, I feel, to engage in whatever means necessary to remain independent and able to do that which they are called to do: preach, gather, serve, give, and love.” Continue reading
Update: Part 2 of this article is up.
A while ago, I wrote up a defense of Wikileaks, cataloguing several of the prevailing myths surrounding this event. I have been in nearly unqualified support of Wikileaks, but it has given me much pause to hear the nearly unified voice with which people in America have been opposing them.
But in the end, I can’t help but feel that I and the little corner of pro-Wikileaks columnists and writers around me are standing on the outside of a greater narrative of secrecy, propaganda, and historical analogy that is bewildering to see the American people fall for in such droves.
For the first time in my life, I’m actually scared of my government.
But, there’s the added reality that I am a Christian; a source of meaning and interpretation far deeper than politics, but equally impacting on my thought as a political being. And so, I’m forced to ask myself (and the reader) how, if at all, should my theology impact how I view this issue I have become so passionate about?
Here’s a quote from the bill, already voted upon and passed by Congress (the excerpt is shortened for readability, emphasis mine):
Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled…That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States…or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing or executing his trust or duty;…whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor….
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States,…then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.
I have been watching, reading, and pouring over the events surrounding Wikileaks, wanting to write some sort of thoughtful commentary. But, as The Atlantic points out, this event has brought about some of the best journalism, political analysis, and writing we’ve seen in years and I find it difficult to try and say something newer or more insightful than those that are more knowledgeable of the past and have more time and acquaintance with the primary sources in question. With more of these leaked diplomatic cables being released every day, this coverage is literally non-stop. My productivity at worked has suffered because of the tangled web of links one can get caught in going from one story to the next to the next; I have at least a couple dozen quotes and links saved in my Evernote notetaking app in order to use in some future writing (or present).
But nevertheless, even among my friends who care about this situation, there appears to be some common misconceptions about this whole situation, leading them to direct their frustrations, diatribes, and anger in the wrong direction. I wish to clarify some of those here today. First, I must say on the outset that I am absolutely, entirely in favor of most all that Wikileaks has done and is doing. I think they are serving America’s longterm interest and the well-being of its citizenry far more than even our own federal government is doing. Do I think they have done everything perfectly and responsibly? No, but no four-year old media organization can be said to have done so. Wikileaks has (and will) make mistakes–its founder has even admitted that–but so will/has our federal government in its own “attempts” at serving the greater good. The only question remains: who do you think does more damage when they make those inevitable mistakes (the government or Wikileaks?), and therefore, who requires more scrutiny, responsibility, accountability, and fear of being out of control? I (as well as Glenn Greenwald and The Economist) wholeheartedly fear the results of a government out of control more than a Wikileaks out of control. But, in fact (as we move on to the misconceptions) ….