I hate being like Chicken Little, constantly claming that the sky is falling. In previous posts I have likened some of our country's attributes to things going on in China, suggesting that we are heading in their directly while we urge them to head into ours (and while they actually do head in our direction).
The latest thing to come out is really chilling. A couple of lobbyists with AIPAC (the pro-Israel lobby in DC) are charged with espionage when they disseminated classified information that they came across. The manner in which these specific people came across the information isn't as important as the judge's ruling in allowing them to stand trial is. He said that one need not have a security clearance, nor have any particular duty to the government if one receives classified information. If you pass it along, or disseminate it in any manner that intends to harm the US OR help another country (even a friend, I guess, and even if it doesn't intend to harm the US), then you can be found guilty under the Espionage Act.
This means that every journalist who writes about about evil acts that the US is doing may be held under the Espionage Act. This, of course, is what some conservatives like Bill Bennett and Rep. Peter King (R NY) have been pushing for a little while, since our embarrassing actions have come to light. They don't have a problem with the actions, just them coming to light, and they've pushed to have the press put in jail as a result.
China and Russia today put people in jail for embarrassing the government under the theory of Espionage. In fact, every totalitarian government in history has tried to imprison those who critisize and embarrass them, all under the guise of espionage or damaging the country. in Russia, they put scientists away for disseminating scientific and environmental reports in a way that shows some of the terrible things that the Russian government does. In China, they put journalists away who talk about government's abuse of authority and corruption. And now, in the US, under the fig leaf of "legal authority" by using a compliant and unquestioning judiciary, we will put away journalists who do the same.
Remember the Taguba report, that exposed the atrocious behaviour of our soldiers at Abu Ghraib? The reporter who broke that story could be in jail, under the theory that it harmed the US (how about the fact that it helped the US, by helping us improve our behaviour?). It could go further, scientists who expose the administration's lies and machinations on things like Global Warming, evolution, drug approval processes or any other number of whistleblowers who regularly keep us informed of this (and other) administration's evil ways.
Think I'm paranoid? Even Contributing Editor Jonathon Adler wrote similiarly in the National Review Online, using more examples directed to his audience (he talks about people who wrote critisizing the Clinton administration who would've possibly been susceptible to prosecution under the Act under the theory now advanced).
And this is the point, people in government often become more obsessed with their remaining in office than in the better good of the country (can there really be any debate about this at this point in our nation's history?). The notion that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely is not new either. You put those two things together, along with the power of the Espionage Act being applied corruptly, for political purposes, in order to stifle lawful and appropriate debate, and you have the markings of an unfree society.
This is something Americans of all political stripes should agree on.