Saturday, January 8, 2011

The real reason why the US Department of Justice subpoenaed Twitter over Wikileaks

Last month, the US Department of Justice issued a subpoena to Twitter demanding user information for several accounts connected to Wikileaks. As you might expect, the list includes Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange, but it also includes several public Wikileaks supporters as well which begs the question "just what is the DoJ looking for?"

The Wikileaks saga has proven to be one of the most important disclosure related events since Daniel Ellsberg blew the whistle on government wrongdoing in 1971. Then, like now, Ellsberg was declared a villan by the US government but is widely credited with being a hero today for exposing decisions about the Vietnam war that were crucial to US interests. Whether Julian Assange will be vindicated as a hero of our modern age or not is yet to be seen but I think it's becoming obvious that, hero or not, the government is intent on stopping Assange from exposing any more of their dirty deeds.

The worrisome thing to me is that I don't really believe much of the government actions against Assange, Wikileaks, and its supporters has anything to do with Assange himself or the disclosures being made through the site. The government knows very well it can't charge a foreign citizen with treason and they know they can't create a retroactive sedition law and apply it to Assange. This entire dog and pony show is designed not only to get Assange to shut up, but to create a chilling effect throughout the activist community and send the message to anyone who would dare oppose the US government that they better watch out.

In the end, whether what Julian Assange did was right or wrong is irrelevant; the effect will be the same: next time someone finds something the government is doing wrong they will think twice before saying anything. Next time someone thinks about going to a rally to protest government corruption or waste, they will think twice about it. Stopping Assange is a bonus, but not the main point.

As a citizen of the US, it appalls me, but doesn't really surprise me, that our government would use such strong-arm tactics to cover-up wrongdoing. We tout ourselves as a nation who values justice, honor, and truth. Yet it seem that every time our government is caught doing something wrong, the immediate response isn't to eradicate the wrong but to persecute the person or group that exposed it.

This isn't the America we were taught we lived in when we were in school. This isn't the 'flag waving, freedom loving' country we tell the world we are.Then again, maybe we never were any of those things. Maybe it's all be a big lie all along.

Regardless of what becomes of Julian Asaange and the Wikileaks community, I believe the most important thing is that activist and supporters not be intimidated. Speaking truth to power can be scary and it can be dangerous. But as long as there are good people who are willing to put it all on the line because they really believe in freedom, they really believe we *can* be better, then they must continue to stand up and not let their voices be silenced. It doesn't matter if that happens in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, or the United States. Truth is truth and, in the end, truth will win out against oppression every single time.

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