THE BLOG
08/28/2013 03:17 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2013

Gang Rape of Free Media in Our Western Democracies?

Without our free media, all our other freedoms can be stolen from us under the darkness of fear. Our free press is under assault by the very institutions whose claim is that they are protecting us. An alphabet soup of security agencies appear to be acting in concert, from Washington to London to other western capitals, in seeking to intimidate into silence our free press. It reminds of orchestrated gang rape where the victim is targeted for being too immodest -- the rationale offered to citizens is that the press has been too promiscuous with our national security. The perpetrators, though, may not be certain in their assertions of legality or morality but rather appear to be acting more with the confidence of both impunity and a veil of state secrecy. When was the last time that a security service was prosecuted or even had their budgets cut? On the other hand, the hunt for alleged leakers/whistleblowers is in full season, along with the journalists who cover their stories.

Seeking to Impose Self-censorship?

Most recently The Guardian has been targeted, offices invaded and evidence and computer drives erased by UK intelligence services. The Guardian journalist most closely associated with Edward Snowden leaks, Glenn Greenwald, had his male partner Adam Miranda detained, questioned and intimidated by UK security agents while he was changing planes at London's Heathrow Airport. They selected the transfer area of the airport employing the pretext of an anti-terror provision (presumably beyond any EU/UK legal safeguards afforded to anyone detained within national borders). There has been no public explanation offered as to why Mr. Miranda was detained, and presumably the security agencies do not feel accountable to provide such. Mr. Miranda was not associated with any terror organization unless a new category has been established like "HomoIslamists." Perhaps they also thought that picking upon the male lover/partner of Greenwald would somehow intimidate and/or embarrass the journalist from further coverage of Snowden and his disclosures. As a heterosexual man, I perceived this as no different than my wife/girlfriend being targeted based upon her relationship with me.

In the U.S., the security agencies have been no less brazen, despite the avowed constitutional protections. They have gone beyond seeking confidential sources from journalists presumably protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Reporters from a broad range of established press agencies, the Associated Press to Fox News, have been labelled by U.S. officials as traitors and/or in violation of laws in providing support to terrorist organizations. The rationale offered by the Obama administration in seeking to gag free speech and media is a blanket assertion of national security. The citizen-reporter not associated with a big media organization may be even more vulnerable. Is employment being threatened and perhaps arrests and agency actions as IRS tax audits? The objective of the unrestrained hunt is not only to make an example of alleged leakers as Snowden, Bradley Manning, but also the media that dares not apply self-censorship and reports on their leaks -- whether WikiLeaks or Fox. While most U.S. Courts would not dare cross the U.S. Constitution and impose self-censorship, so far they have also been largely absent from the legal debate and protection of journalistic freedom.

Impunity Enabled by Secrecy?

The coordinated campaign appears, though, to be much broader than Washington and London but perhaps encompasses as broad range of shadowy state-sponsored security agencies involved in the rendition programs under the George W. Bush administration. (Also seen yet unexplained but plainly coordinated efforts to force Bolivian presidential plane to land in Western Europe under erroneous intelligence that it was also carrying Edward Snowden.)

Again, the full extent of such coordinated covert programs appears to be beyond scrutiny, emboldened by secrecy, and rationalized by arguments tugging upon anything from fear to patriotism. Most disconcerting, do state security apparatus act in concert where domestic agencies acquiesce in actions of foreign agencies in order to project plausible deniability that they do not spy and/or target their own citizens domestically? Such a contrivance may be more likely where multinational corporations -- private contractors actually perform the spying/data mining. We have no way of knowing.

Asking the Question of What the Government Does May Be Defined as a Threat to National Security and thus Implicit Crime?

Perhaps the best indication that the leaks may in fact have been a necessary as well free exercise of our press is that governments have rushed in response to the leaks to justify the intrusive spying-data gathering campaigns. Without greater transparency, we still may not have the opportunity to make an informed decision as to how far the intrusion and at what cost to our freedom. Orchestrated panels of inquest encrusted with insiders and hobbled by pre-cooked conclusions do not satisfy the standard of transparency, independence, or a free society. Without the free media, as The Guardian and Greenwald, we probably would not even know of these "national security" programs and certainly not of what questions to ask.

Promiscuous in Revealing Warts & Excesses of our Governments:

We are being told that the terrorists hate our society because of its freedoms. Perhaps, but beyond the freedom to listen to Lady Gaga and watch girls in bikinis, I most value my right to be informed and to inform as well as to think for myself. By seeking to impose a self-defined patriotic morality upon our free media, is state-sponsored security apparatus becoming the greatest threat to our freedom and safety? Another much wiser man, Ben Franklin on the eve of the American Revolution, stated that a society willing to sacrifice liberty in order to attain security in the end will have neither. Where the terrorists have not been directly successful in stealing our freedoms, those who assert rights in protecting us have. Worse, they would now protect us from the free media and the access to be informed, vote and act as responsible citizens. It is as if somehow we cannot be trusted with a media unless girdled as if it is too promiscuous in revealing the excesses and warts of our government.