Government officials afraid of a full-body scan of their words should resign, says LP Chair

For Immediate Release Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WASHINGTON – While Democratic and Republican politicians outdo each other with calls for the prosecution and even execution of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for providing information to various news media, Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle says that free speech and freedom of the press must be supported unconditionally. Hinkle released the following statement today:

“In 1787, as the U.S. Constitution was being written, Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.’ His recognition of the critical need for a free press led him and others to demand a Bill of Rights, where freedom of speech and freedom of the press were listed in the very first amendment to the Constitution.

“In 2010, Democratic and Republican politicians alike are trying to destroy this precious liberty. The Obama Administration, which has already invoked the ‘state secrets’ claim in court more than any administration in history, has arrested Army Private Bradley Manning, alleging that he copied and leaked various documents, and is holding him in solitary confinement pending a military trial. Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopefuls are falling over themselves seeing who can sound the toughest. Mike Huckabee says that anything less than execution of the leaker is too kind. Newt Gingrich wants Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, declared an ‘enemy combatant’ so that he can be denied all due process. And Sarah Palin wants Assange hunted down like Osama bin Laden (perhaps missing the irony that bin Laden has not been caught).

“Even more ominously, companies which provided various services to WikiLeaks suddenly decided to end their relationship after receiving pressure from Washington. Amazon, PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard all suddenly felt that the activities of WikiLeaks, well-known to them for years, were illegal, absent any actual charges being filed for the violation of any law. When government officials start pressuring businesses in order to silence critics, tyranny isn’t far off.

“Publishing documents provided by a government agent is not a crime. Embarrassing public officials is not a crime. Regardless of the degree to which the released documents are helpful or harmful, Assange and WikiLeaks are exercising their rights, and American politicians and government agents should stop threatening and harassing them.

“Freedom of the press is not a luxury, and the prospect of a government able to silence dissent and prevent the press from communicating unfavorable information about the behavior of government employees should frighten anyone who loves liberty. It is understandable that government officials who are lying to the public and covering up misdeeds want to keep their actions secret, just as a criminal doesn’t want the police to find out about his crime. As Steven Greenhut of the Pacific Research Institute notes, ‘If it weren’t for anonymous sources and leaked information, the journalism business would serve as a press-release service for officialdom.’

“Private Manning deserves the presumption of innocence, due process, a speedy and fair trial, and decent treatment while in prison. If Manning revealed information which did not damage national security or result in harm to others, but instead revealed evidence of incompetence, corruption, or other illegal activities, then he should be able to raise that as a defense at any trial. Just as when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and had his subsequent prosecution dismissed by the courts, an important principle is that information which is being kept secret to protect wrongdoing is not in fact legally and properly classified. A jury should be able to judge both the facts and the law, and to acquit Manning if the jury finds his actions to be justified.

“Two years ago, candidate Barack Obama praised the long tradition of information leaks by defending those who revealed Bush-era covert actions. ‘We only know these crimes took place because insiders blew the whistle at great personal risk…. Government whistle-blowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.’ Obama appears to have forgotten this statement, just as he has forgotten many other statements and promises he made while campaigning.

“Only a month ago, we were told by the Transportation Safety Administration that they should have the power to strip or grope us if we want to exercise our right of travel. In my view, any government official too embarrassed to handle a full-body scan of their words and actions should resign.”

The Libertarian Party platform includes the following:

1.1 Expression and Communication. We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology.

1.5 Crime and Justice. Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to them selves. We support restitution of the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer. We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused. The rights of due process, a speedy trial, legal counsel, trial by jury, and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must not be denied. We assert the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, call LP Executive Director Wes Benedict at 202-333-0008 ext. 222.

The LP is America’s third-largest political party, founded in 1971. The Libertarian Party stands for free markets, civil liberties, and peace. You can find more information on the Libertarian Party at our website .