Archive for the ‘national security’ Category

One-Man Protest for Bradley Manning’s Freedom in Indiana Town

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
Protestor holds sign reading "FREE BRADLEY MANNING" (Photo: EEJ)

Jason Urbanski holds a one-man rally for intelligence leaker Bradley Manning on July 31, 2013 in La Porte, Ind.

On the day news broke of the conviction of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning for downloading secret government documents and giving them to Wikileaks for release to the public, Jason Urbanski held a one-man rally for Manning’s freedom in front of the county courthouse in La Porte, Indiana. His handpainted sign with red-glitter letters said ‘FREE BRADLEY MANNING.”

I happened upon Urbanski while I touring around the area. I took the opportunity to talk with him a bit.

Urbanski spoke of Manning in heroic terms. “He sacrificed his freedom to show the world the truth,” Urbanski said. “He made a really unselfish decision to do something good. We can’t forget about him.”

A restaurant worker in nearby New Buffalo, Michigan, Urbanski said he was hoping that a future president, if not the current one, would pardon Manning. The way to pursue that, Urbanski reasoned, was to start at a grassroots level.

Manning was convicted by a court martial on several counts, including espionage. Manning was acquitted, however, of aiding the enemy, which was the most serious charge pursued by prosecutors.

“I think that what Bradley Manning did was just motivated by simple human empathy,” Urbanski said. “It was a political act, but really it was an act of human compassion.”

While I was there, Urbanski’s protest seemed to draw neither cheers nor jeers from passers-by. I think it is safe to say his opinions represent a minority view in the United States. I, myself, don’t see Manning in the same light that Urbanski does, but I am, however, very happy to see someone out flexing their First Amendment rights on a courthouse street-corner to weigh in on the topic.

Famed Media Lawyer James C. Goodale Calls Out Obama on Press Freedom

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Daily Beast logoFamous media lawyer James C. Goodale (who I was lucky enough to meet when I was a summer associate at his law firm in New York in 1999), has written a provocative piece for the Daily Beast that I think is worth a read: Is Obama Worse For Press Freedom Than Nixon?

Goodale argues that Barack Obama’s campaign to stamp out leaks is trampling on the freedom of the press. He notes that the Obama administration has obtained more indictments of leakers – a total of six – than any other American president. (That’s a factoid I found somewhat surprising.)

To avoid making bad history, Goodale urges the Obama administration to drop any effort to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange under a theory that the conspired with the Army’s Bradley Manning to violate the Espionage Act. Doing so would breathe life into a legal theory that Goodale calls “extremely dangerous to freedom of the press.”

Such a prosecution, Goodale explains, “would only require that Manning agreed with Assange to leak information. This would be far easier to prove than trying to prove Assange, in fact, violated the Espionage Act.” Going there would “put in jeopardy the gathering of national security information by any reporter and so criminalize the newsgathering process.”

Wanting a Chance to Be Heard in New Trade Negotiations

Friday, May 11th, 2012

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is conducting closed-door negotiations for a new trade deal involving intellectual property – the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Big Hollywood and Big Pharma are involved and are allowed to see negotiation documents. The public is not. Once the deal is concluded, it could bind Congress to change IP law and restrict free-speech, fair-use, and access-to-information rights.

In a brash move snubbing the lobbyist-challenged public, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative decided to cancel a very limited opportunity for people to voice their concerns at a “stakeholder” meeting.

The following is an abridged version of a letter to the signed by many legal academics to the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk.

The letter was written by law professors David S. Levine of Elon, Christopher Jon Sprigman of UVA, and Sean Flynn of American U.

Dear Ambassador Kirk:

We write as legal academics from the US and current or potential future Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) member countries to express our profound concern and disappointment at the lack of public participation, transparency and open government processes in the negotiation of the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). We are particularly and specifically concerned that the United States Trade Representative (USTR) took the opportunity of its hosting of the latest round of negotiations in Dallas, Texas, to begin this week, to further restrict public involvement in the negotiations by eliminating the full-day stakeholder forums that have been hosted at other rounds. We call on the USTR and all TPP negotiating countries to reverse course and work instead to expand, rather than contract, the opportunities for public engagement in the formation of the TPP’s intellectual property chapter.

At a time when the last international intellectual property law to be negotiated under a similar process, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, teeters on the edge of rejection by the European Parliament in large part because of the loss of faith in its secretive process demonstrated by hundreds of thousands of marchers across Europe, the move to scale back participation in the TPP appears highly unwise and counterproductive. The functional and theoretical impact of the lack of transparency and accountability in the TPP and other trade negotiations institutionalizes the kind of process that the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan criticized as policy making through “ignorant armies clash[ing] by night.” This is no way to build support for a broad reaching new international law that will constrain democratic law making over intellectual property matters in the US and abroad, particularly in an era of massive and rapid technological change that is testing the bounds of our current policy framework.

Our first and most important suggestion is to immediately begin a policy of releasing to the public the kind of reports on US positions and proposals on intellectual property matters that are currently given only to Industry Trade Advisory Committee members under confidentiality agreements. The USTR has previously refused to share its own proposals with its own citizenry claiming that, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to do so would damage the national security of the United States. …

Our concerns flow from the now-established observation that “trade” agreements no longer focus exclusively, or perhaps even predominantly, on the regulation of trade. Rather, the agreements increasingly propose international law standards that bind the legislative branch to change, or lock in place, domestic regulatory decisions. …

Unfortunately, there is little about the TPP negotiating process that is open to the broad range of inputs that would be reflected in domestic policy making. There has been no publicly released text of what USTR is demanding in these negotiations, as there would be in policy making by regulation, in Congress or in multilateral forums. Reviews of leaked proposals show that the US is pushing numerous standards that are beyond those included in any past (i.e. publicly released) agreement and that could require changes in current US statutory law. Reviews also show that the US proposal is manifestly unbalanced – it predominantly proposes increases in proprietor rights, with no effort to expand the limitations and exceptions to such rights that are needed in the US and abroad to serve the public interest. …

The unbalanced product results from an unbalanced process. The only private individuals in the US who have ongoing access to the US proposals on intellectual property matters are on an Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) which is dominated by brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Hollywood entertainment industry. There is no representation on this committee for consumers, libraries, students, health advocacy or patient groups, or others users of intellectual property, and minimal representation of other affected businesses, such as generic drug manufacturers or internet service providers. …

All of the above makes the most recent further withdrawal from the TPP negotiation of a limited participation venue particularly disturbing. … While far from ideal for all involved, including the USTR and its ITAC advisors, this mechanism at least allowed for some exchange, even if that exchange was fundamentally flawed and artificially limited in value because of the information-disparity problems discussed above. In the place of these full day open forums in Dallas, USTR has channeled stakeholder input into a 4-hour mid-day (10:30am-2:30pm, i.e. over the lunch hour) exhibit hall for stakeholder tables. There will be no opportunity, as in the past, to speak to assembled negotiators through presentations. …

Trial of Accused Terrorist Blogger Tarek Mehanna Set to Open Today

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Tarke Mehanna forward mugshotAccused terrorist blogger Tarek Mehanna (Image: Sudbury Police Department.)

Opening statements are expected to begin today in the trial of Tarek Mehanna on terrorism-related charges stemming from alleged support for Al Qaida.

Federal prosecutors say the 29-year-old, born in Pittsburgh and raised in Boston, aided Al Qaida by promoting the organization’s cause on his blog. Specifically, prosecutors say he translated into English distributed online Al Qaida texts originally written in Arabic.

Mehanna is asserting the First Amendment in defense. His lawyers argue that his speech is constitutionally protected, since it was not done in coordination with a terrorist organization. They have sought from the judge a jury instruction on constitutional free-expression rights.

Mehanna faces life in prison if convicted.

More:

Bush White House Allegedly Directed CIA to Spy on American Blogger

Friday, June 17th, 2011
Headshot of Juan Cole

This photo of Cole was publicly available on his blog. Imagine that.

Jonathan H. Adler of The Volokh Conspiracy points to quite an alarming story in the New York Times reporting allegations that the George W. Bush White House directed the CIA to gather damaging information about blogger Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor whose liberal views on his Informed Comment blog were highly critical of Bush’s foreign policy.

The allegations come from ex-CIA officer Glenn L. Carle. The NYT reports:

According to Mr. Carle, Mr. Low returned from a White House meeting one day and inquired who Juan Cole was, making clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to gather information on him. Mr. Carle recalled his boss saying, “The White House wants to get him.”

“ ‘What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?’ ” Mr. Low continued, according to Mr. Carle.

Mr. Carle said that he warned that it would be illegal to spy on Americans and refused to get involved, but that Mr. Low seemed to ignore him.

“But what might we know about him?” he said Mr. Low asked. “Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?”

Mr. Carle said that he responded, “We don’t do those sorts of things,” but that Mr. Low appeared undeterred. …

Wow. That sure seems illegal. A former CIA general counsel interviewed for the story agreed, saying, “The statute makes it very clear: you can’t spy on Americans.”

If Carle’s allegations are correct – or even partly right – this is just completely outrageous. But I can’t do a better job of pointing out how absurd it all is than Cole does himself:

… I mean, really. How inept do you have to be to enlist intelligence officials in monitoring bloggers? They put up their thoughts for everyone to see every day! I keep thinking of David Low’s stupid question as to what the CIA could find out about me. Did he mean, aside from the gigabytes of data at my own blog?

As Cole says, maybe the Bush administration should have been trying to use some of those CIA resources to get Osama Bin Laden instead of digging up info on American bloggers.

Peter Colwell: If You Are Reading This, You Are Engaged and Aware

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Peter Colwell has written a note in the William Mitchell Law Review titled “If You Are Reading This, You Are Engaged and Aware”: Serving the Diversity of Interests in Blogs Written by Service Members.

Here is an excerpt:

The current regulatory regime governing blogs written by members of the military comes from official policy memoranda, Army Regulation 530-1, Operations Security (OPSEC), and Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) articles. This regime fails to provide clear guidance to service members on what is required of them as bloggers, exactly what material they may publish on their blogs, and what the process is for review of blogs. The result is a perception of arbitrary punishment and a potential threat of “chilling” blogging by service members. Further, the regulatory scheme is centered on security considerations and fails to balance or adequately consider the other interests in blogs written by service members in combat zones.

This Note proposes that congressional legislation is necessary to regulate blogs written by members of the armed forces in combat zones. This legislation should weigh the concerns for operational and national security as well as the interests of service member authors, the military, the public, and the literary and journalist community to which these blogs contribute. Congress should enact a statute that creates a committee of civilian journalists and military officials to conduct reviews of blogs and only allow blog removal by vote. The journalists would have insight into journalistic concerns and ethics as well as the journalistic value of a particular blog, while the military representatives would be able to halt publication of blogs that present genuine security risks. The statute should establish concise guidelines, informed by First Amendment jurisprudence, for the review of the postings to curb the discretion of the committee, and it should require written reports on decisions to shut down a blog.

The cite is 36 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 5249.