Sunday, December 12, 2010


The Progressive is a magazine, that is to say, it is part of the press, and we in the US have this thing called Freedom of the press, enshrined in the First Amendment. So when the government agents descended on my friend Sam back in the day, back when he was Managing Editor of The Progressive, and told him and the Editor-in-Chief, Erwin Knoll, that they could not publish an article on making the H-bomb by a young writer named Howard Morland, Sam and Erwin fought back. The year was 1979, height of the Cold War and the beginning of the Euromissile crisis that would grow hottest in four years.

Sam told me about their encounter with federal agents who threatened them, and about the bizarre separate trials, one of which was like something we might expect from the Ayatollah's Iran--or the Alberto Gonzales Department of Justice, and now such things look more likely with Eric Holder's hand at the helm. One trial was a 'normal' prior restraint effort to get the judge to shut down the issue of The Progressive and one was an 'in-camera' trial. Neither Sam nor Erwin would consent to classified status and so were not allowed at their own trial and their lawyers were not allowed to discuss it with them. Excuse me? True.

Eventually, as the First Amendment asserted itself into the arguments, the government dropped its case and the article was published. We in the US live in a democracy to the extent we are free. The Founders saw that much. Take away freedom of the press and all the rest seems to follow.

And now they are after Julian Assange, who, unlike Howard Morland and Sam Day and Erwin Knoll, is not a US citizen, never committed any crime on US soil, and who is basically a journalist who has simply investigated better than all US media put together. The case against him is already being cooked and, to quote a very interesting blogger who just calls her/himself bmaz:

Eric Holder and the DOJ cannot possibly find jurisdiction to charge American contractors who torture and murder people in the course and scope of their employment by the U.S. Government abroad, and cannot charge CIA supervisors and OLC lawyers who patently admit to destruction of evidence and conspiracy to commit war crimes; however, the same DOJ is now suddenly able to be so legally creative as to find a path to charging a person under the Espionage Act who is not a U.S. citizen, owed the U.S. no duty under citizenship and treason provisions, committed no act within the jurisdiction of the U.S. and who is a member within the general definition of “press” and who only published purported whistleblower leaks given to him. It is amazing how the DOJ is willing to go out on that “limb” when it wants to, but can never so travel when the interests of justice really demand it to.

Assange showed the world proof of US murder of Reuters cameramen in Baghdad--and Bradley Manning is in prison for it now when he should have gotten a medal and a promotion--torture all over our global reach, and Holder has chosen to prepare a case to extradite Assange to stand for his actual crime, the temerity to effectively take on and expose US war crimes.

Assange has been an astonishingly effective nonviolent warrior. We should return the favor and stand in his defense by any nonviolent means at our command. I think Sam would have.

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