Making Political Activists Enemies of the State

The news that the “US government obtained secret court orders to force Google Inc and a small Internet provider to hand over information from email accounts of a WikiLeaks volunteer” is now the latest government attack on peaceful American citizens to be revealed to the public. Jacob Appelbaum, “a volunteer for the campaigning website,” had his email history looked through by the government with the help of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a law “that allows the U.S. government to secretly obtain information from people’s email and cellphones without a search warrant.”

This is the same Appelbaum who “has been subjected to harassment, detention, and interrogation at airports by US agencies.” He has never been charged with a crime and the government has so far hid behind a wall of secrecy to avoid having to explain why he has been placed under surveillance.

I’ve written before about how activists, particularly those vocally against American wars, empire, or national security policies, are targeted for surveillance, harassment, and even prosecution, despite having never committed any discernible crime.

After all of this Awlaki business…I’m sort of left wondering what if Appelbaum happened to be vacationing in Morocco or some such country at the time of the government’s decision to frame his political activism as a crime without a name.

Update: Glenn Greenwald on Appelbaum:

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” and that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” In light of everything the U.S. Government has been able to seize regarding Appelbaum without a single search warrant — laptops, cellphones, cameras, memory sticks, Twitter activity, electronic goods of his friends, interrogation via forcible detention, and now lists of his email correspondents and other information showing his email activity — is there any rational conclusion other than to view that Amendment as an absurd joke?

  • MoT

    "Unreasonable" as defined by whom? The FedGov? Give me a break! Those ass-hats will never say anything they do is unreasonable. Why? Because by their own definition their actions are righteous and therefore above question. You, peon, are but a slave in their eyes.

    • liberranter

      Yep, exactly. To paraphrase Lysander Spooner, any "constitution" the interpretation and upholding of which is in the hands of the very body that it is supposed to constrain is worse than a useless scrap of paper; it is a dangerous weapon.

      As for Mr. Appelbaum and his Wikipedia associates, one word: ENCRYPTION. While no one can say for certain that the feds don't have "back doors" into our PGP keys, using this tool certainly makes the fedsnoops' jobs that much harder.

      • MoT

        Exactly. And this episode alone points out a reason why some experts have warned for many years to stay away from the TOR servers as they may very well be CIA honey-pot operations either directly or indirectly. If I were to have something in my possession that could land me in jail I can guaran-damn-tee you that I'd not have it originate or hosted in any way from Uncle Scams sand box.