White House Ramps Up Efforts To Criminalize Wikileaks, As Witnesses Refuse To 'Cooperate'

from the this-is-the-new-transparency? dept

We’ve discussed a few times how, despite all the promises of transparency and protection for whistleblowers from President Obama, the Obama administration has been by far the most aggressive presidential administration in going after leakers and trying to charge them with crimes. So it was little surprise that the feds were putting tremendous pressure on folks like Bradley Manning to admit to a “conspiracy” involving Wikileaks. Manning refused to play along, so now the feds are broadly widening their investigation, issuing all sorts of random subpoenas on people with very, very distant relations to Wikileaks, seeking something (anything!) that can be used to bring charges under the Espionage Act.

Meanwhile, many who are being called as witnesses are refusing to participate, and may face jailtime themselves:

But it also highlights a very important potential controversy: the refusal of numerous witnesses to cooperate in any way with this pernicious investigation. One witness who has appeared before the Grand Jury has already refused to answer any questions beyond the most basic biographical ones (name and address), invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to do so, and other witnesses are highly likely to follow suit.

One option for federal prosecutors when facing a witness who refuses to answer questions on this basis is to offer them immunity, meaning that nothing they say when testifying can be used to prosecute them (they can still be prosecuted, just not with the aid of anything they say while testifying). Such an offer then precludes further invocations of the self-incrimination privilege as a grounds for refusing to answer questions, as it means there is no longer any danger that the witness could incriminate themselves by testifying. In the event the government makes such an offer, the court would almost certainly compel the witness to answer questions. But at least some of those witnesses — ones who have already been subpoenaed or are likely to be — intend to refuse to answer questions anyway, risking an almost-certain finding of contempt of court, which typically carries jail terms as a means of forcing testimony.

One witness or potential witness who is considering that form of civil disobedience told me they view the attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks as such a profound assault on basic freedoms, including press freedoms — one motivated by a desire to conceal government wrongdoing and illegality — that they would rather be imprisoned than cooperate in any way with those efforts. That is the mindset of true principled heroism, and if it actually comes to that, anyone committed to transparency and preservation of press freedoms should do everything possible to support such persons in any way they can…

This whole thing seems like a massive waste of resources by the Administration, seeking to punish whistleblowers and the press for revealing information that wasn’t sensitive, but merely embarrassing.

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Comments on “White House Ramps Up Efforts To Criminalize Wikileaks, As Witnesses Refuse To 'Cooperate'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

We’ve discussed a few times how, despite all the promises of transparency and protection for whistleblowers from President Obama, the Obama administration has been by far the most aggressive presidential administration in going after leakers and trying to charge them with crimes.

>implying politicians(especially liberal ones) aren’t the cause of all woe in modern america

seriously though, who didn’t see this coming? besides all the hippie college kids who couldn’t see past his skin color when they voted for him.

Steven (profile) says:

All I want from the next president is two things.

Freeze total government spending at current levels (Yes I know the president doesn’t set the budget, but a promise to veto anything over current levels would be enough).

Provide easy access to all non-secret government information.

Two simple things that would go a loooong way to fixing this crap. No presidential candidate will even dare say it, much less do it.

Anonymous Coward says:


My thoughts went along the lines of a sixth grade reading comprehension test, 250 words or less, one line item per bill. One test out of committee, one test for each House and Senate versions, and a final test for the combined final bill. No slipping stuff in.
Rotate the testing between all sixth grades randomly. Congress is verbose enough that every one of those classrooms will get a crack at some bill.
Oh, and an added benefit, guess what will happen to sixth grade reading comprehension due to Congressional action?

G Thompson (profile) says:

There is an easy answer to their predicament which should (I empahsise should) work in any democratic country that works with the rule of law.

When you give evidence in front of a judicial panel you are asked a specific question under either oath or affirmation, which basically states “do you hereby state that all answers you shall provide to questions will be the truth as you have witnessed and understood it”

Stating yes to this and then NOT answering questions by evoking the Fifth (which is wholly a USA phenomenon/priviledge) or simply not answering, can make you open to contempt because of the Yes answer to oath/affirmation

In other words to not be contemptuous to the court, answer in the negative to the actual oath/affirmation. Remember a subpoena compels you to hand over physical evidence or your personage (you) for the purpose of questioning after an oath/affirmation is sworn, nothing more.

If the court(or tribunal) does not want a negative question, don’t ask the question in the first place. IF this is done we then fall into the realm of duress, harassment, and emotional,psychological, and/or physical (in the case of internment) torture.

It boils down to the actual oath/affirmation. Or do you Americans have a contempt of the court for refusing to actually answer a contractual situation in any other means than in the affirmative?

A lot of law makers will balk at this, mainly because it is an affront to their system we now know, but I ask them to think back to the original common law and its precursors, like the Magna Carta et.al or even your own Bill of Rights and then say why the above is theoretically bogus.

Jeni (profile) says:


“Imagine what’s next…

Kind of scary, huh. We’re either going to flip or we’re going to flop.

Seems to me a quote from B.O. himself should resolve this – his own words about running a “transparent government”.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides …”

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