State Department Vindictiveness: Using Single Blog Link To Wikileaks To Investigate Employee Who Published Critical Book

from the chilling-effects dept

We've discussed a few times just how ridiculous it is that the US government still pretends that the State Department cables available via Wikileaks are somehow classified and secret. It's a head-in-sand approach, in which government employees have to pretend that information, which the rest of the world knows about, isn't actually known. This makes no sense. In the business world, if you sign a non-disclosure agreement, and content becomes public through other means, you're free to talk about it. The way the government does it is crazy... and opens up the possibility of abuse, such as in the following case.

State Department employee Peter van Buren has written a book that apparently criticizes the US's efforts in Iraq entitled: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Not surprisingly, the State Department isn't happy about the book. While it did review the manuscript before it was published, it can't stop the publication.

So, instead, it appears to being coming up with other ways to be vindictive. Such as investigating him for "disclosing classified information." And, no, it's not because of info in the book, which was pre-vetted by the government. It's because he wrote a blog post, where he dares to link to a Wikileaks cable, which is public to the whole world.

But, in the vindictive little minds of folks in the State Department, since such info is still technically "classified," they can go after van Buren for "disclosing classified info." And, making it even better, the investigators who interrogated him over this told him that if he wrote about the interrogation, he could also be charged with "interfering with a government investigation." It makes you wonder if the people involved in this recognize how petty and childish they appear in their actions. No one who can think straight thinks that van Buren linking to a very public document reveals classified information -- and on top of that, speaking publicly about State Department bullying is not, in any way, interfering with a government investigation.

Tragically, this is not an isolated incident. Despite the President's insistence that he wants to see more whistleblowing, every time we see whistleblowing in the federal government it seems like it's followed up by vindictive attacks by the federal government.

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  1. icon
    Tor (profile), 30 Sep 2011 @ 1:14pm

    An analogy

    I guess people who work at American crematories better be careful. I mean, if it's possible to disclose information that has already been disclosed then I guess it must similarly be possible to kill people who are already dead. According to the logic reasoning of the state department crematory staff should be found guilty of murder.

    By the way, in linguistics there is a simple test for telling different kinds of verbs apart. It's possible to say "he painted for an hour" but you cannot say "he died for an hour", i.e. some verbs signify a continuous activity/event whereas others signify a punctual transition from the current state to a final state. I'd argue that "disclose" belongs to the latter class. To not recognize this difference one has to put aside both all reading comprehension and logic.

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