In an interview with Fox News (12/7/2010) Senator Joseph Lieberman stated that not only did WikiLeaks violate U.S. law under the Espionage Act, but the New York Times itself was on shaky legal ground for republishing some of the cables. Lieberman went on to say,
“To me, The New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department.”
One is left to wonder. Does Senator Lieberman mean that the law should seek to punish some sort of unspecified “bad citizenship”? Or does he mean that “bad citizenship” (whatever that might be exactly) should be subject to equally vague sanctions or pretextual prosecutions under other statutes?
In either case, the Senator’s remark bespeaks an official mindset that is hostile to any exercise of free speech that might inconvenience or have an actual impact on the impunity of government.
Given the hysterical reactions of elected, appointed and self-appointed public persons, it will perhaps serve to call attention to Section 13 of the Reich Editorial Law (4 October 1933) which provided as follows:
“Editors are especially bound to keep out of the newspapers anything which:
“1. in any manner is misleading to the public, mixes selfish aims with community aims
“2. tends to weaken the strength of the German Reich, outwardly or inwardly, the common will of the German people, the German defense ability, culture or economy, or offends the religious sentiments of others,
“3. offends the honor and dignity of Germany,
“4. illegally offends the honor or the welfare of another, hurts his reputation, makes him ridiculous or contemptible,
“5. is immoral for other reasons.”
(1933 REICHSGESETZBLATT, PART I, PAGE 713)
Americans need to take remarks such as Lieberman’s very seriously and consider them a wake-up call to what is taking place in the name of security and protecting at risk “assets” as Attorney General Holder put it in his recent news conference (11/29/2010).
The imposition of sanctions, whether formal or informal, against the dissemination of “harmful” information is the cornerstone on which State control of expression and opinion is erected.