Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nick Merrill, George Christian and Julian Assange are still with us

Caught up on the story of Nick Merrill on 'Democracy Now' this evening. For six years, the FBI barred him from revealing that the agency had ordered him provide them with personal information on his clients. Apparently, Nick wasn't the only one who was presented with a "gag order" and Amy Goodman also talks to the Connecticut librarian George Christian who, along with three other librarians, sued the US government after receiving a national security letter demanding information about library patrons.

What is particularly worrying is not only the gagging orders themeselves but also the prevelance of the so-called  "national security letters" with Mr Merrill saying that the FBI issued more than 192,500 letters between 2003 and 2006. This effectively means that the FBI doesn't need a court order to access the internet browsing history and emails received and sent by an individual. This is what is particularly frightening for while  the gagging order does additionally mean that the person who has been asked to hand over the information cannot even talk about, we might assume that even if they could talk about it, they would, nevertheless, still hand over the information. Yes, a gagging order might be the best option but there are a couple of other scenarios.

Take the recent disclosures by Wikileaks, which has put itself outside the reaches of the gagging orders; already the debate has moved on from the reliabiltiy of the documents, which in fact prove that war crimes have been committed, to a ridiculous discussion on how dangerous it was to publish the them. This means that, having failed to stop their publication, the manufactures of consent will now do everything in their power to discredit them and their publisher, which, in fact, means that in the ongoing public discussion that follows freedom of speech is relegated to something of secondary importance at best. Still, it is good that we still even still have this discussion. For, if this nonsensical superficial debate did not take place, the spooks in Langley and elsewhere might make people like Mr Merrill, Mr Christian and Mr Assange, just disappear.

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