Though in many ways the United States well deserves its reputation as a haven of Freedom of the Press, commitment to free press principle has often lapsed in practice. Indeed the list of dissident, troublemaking publications targeted with legal and extra-legal pressure by the US government is a long one, including the socialist magazine Masses, shut down under the Espionage Act of 1917 for its opposition to World War One,and numerous "underground" newspapers of the Vietnam War era, which were the objects of the covert operations program of harassment, intimidation and disruption now known as COINTELPRO .
In a piece titled The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters Glenn Greenwald documents how this less than noble legacy is alive, and all too well, today in the government's current campaign to discredit and perhaps close down Wikileaks.org, a small website with the temerity to expose embarrassing secret documents from the Pentagon and CIA.
Glenn Greenwald writes:
Over the past several years, WikiLeaks--which aptly calls itself "the intelligence agency of the people"--has obtained and then published a wide array of secret, incriminating documents (similar to this CIA Report) that expose the activities of numerous governments and corporations. Among many others, they posted the Standard Operating Manual for Guantanamo, documents showing how corrupt offshore loans precipitated the economic collapse in Iceland, the notorious emails between climate scientists, documents showing toxic dumping off the coast of Africa, and many others. They have recently come into possession of classified videos relating to civilian causalities under the command of Gen. David Petraeus, as well as documentation relating to civilian-slaughtering airstrikes in Afghanistan which the U.S. military had agreed to release, only to change their mind.
All of this has made WikiLeaks an increasingly hated target of numerous government and economic elites around the world, including the U.S. Government. As The New York Times put it last week: "To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks.org, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret." In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a secret report--obtained and posted by WikiLeaks--devoted to this website and detailing, in a section entitled "Is it Free Speech or Illegal Speech?", ways it would seek to destroy the organization. It discusses the possibility that, for some governments, not merely contributing to WikiLeaks, but "even accessing the website itself is a crime," [emphasis in original] and outlines its proposal for WikiLeaks' destruction as follows:
Websites such as Wikilinks.org have trust as their important center
of gravity, by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insider,
leaker, or whistleblower. Successful identification, prosecution,
termination of employment and exposure of persons leaking the
information by the governments and businesses affected by information
posted on Wikileaks.org would damage and potentially destroy this center
of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions. [emphasis