The State’s Climate of Fear and Violence
Government-Created Climate of Fear
by Glenn Greenwald
One of the more eye-opening events for me of 2010 occurred in March, when I first wrote about WikiLeaks and the war the Pentagon was waging on it (as evidenced by its classified 2008 report branding the website an enemy and planning how to destroy it). At the time, few had heard of the group — it was before it had released the video of the Apache helicopter attack — but I nonetheless believed it could perform vitally important functions and thus encouraged readers to donate to it and otherwise support it. In response, there were numerous people — via email, comments, and other means — who expressed a serious fear of doing so: they were worried that donating money to a group so disliked by the government would cause them to be placed on various lists or, worse, incur criminal liability for materially supporting a Terrorist organization.
At the time, I dismissed those concerns as both ill-founded and even slightly paranoid. From a strictly legal standpoint, those concerns were and are ill-founded: WikiLeaks has never even been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime, nor does it do anything different than what major newspapers around the world routinely do, nor has it been formally designated a Terrorist organization, nor — I believed at the time — could it ever be so designated. There is not — and cannot remotely be — anything illegal about donating to it. Any efforts to retroactively criminalize such donations would be a classic case of an “ex post facto” law unquestionably barred by the Constitution. But from a political perspective, the crux of the fear was probably more prescient than paranoid: within a matter of months, leading right-wing figures were equating WikiLeaks to Al Qaeda, while the Vice President of the U.S. went on Meet the Press and disgustingly called Julian Assange a “terrorist.”