U.S. Government Thuggishly Harassing Supporters of WikiLeaks Whistleblower Bradley Manning

Glenn Greenwald brings us a new story of the U.S government harassing its own citizens.

Back in July, Jacob Appelbaum, a researcher and spokesperson for WikiLeaks, was detained at New Jersey's Newark airport on his way back from a trip to the Netherlands. Officials confiscated his laptop, cell phone and other electronics, without a warrant, without being charged of any crime and without even being under investigation, as far as he knew. He was interrogated at length about WikiLeaks and was told that he could expect the same treatment every time he tried to come back into the country. Soon after the incident at Newark, Appelbaum was approached by two FBI agents at a New York City computer conference. Again, he was not charged with a crime, and the agents refused to say if he was under investigation.

Just last week, MIT researcher David House was subjected to even worse treatment by authorities on his way back from a vacation in Mexico. House is not a WikiLeaks staffer, but he helped set up the Bradley Manning Support Network, a group that raises legal funds for the imprisoned WikiLeaks whistleblower. House has also visited Manning in prison a handful of times -- visits that were carefully monitored by federal agents.

House was stopped at O'Hare airport, where his and his girlfriend's bags were searched. Two men identifying themselves as Homeland Security officials then told House and his girlfriend they were being detained for questioning and would miss their connecting flight. The men confiscated House's laptop, cell phone, USB drive and camera -- which have not been returned to him -- and asked him to disclose his passwords (House refused).

House was questioned for 90 minutes about his involvement in the Manning campaign, others who are involved, his visits to Manning in prison and his feelings about WikiLeaks. He later learned that one of the self-identified Homeland Security agents was, in fact, with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

House also has not been charged with any crime and has no information about what he's being investigated for. As Greenwald notes:

What's going on is here obvious. The Federal Government has the authority to conduct border searches of people entering the country that are far broader than for those inside the country, and such searches require no search warrant. The Government has that power in order to prevent security threats from entering the country, but here, they are clearly exploiting and abusing it in order to conduct investigative searches which would ordinarily require a search warrant but for which they have no basis to obtain one....American citizens who are charged with no crime and not under investigation should not have their laptops permanently seized and searched by law enforcement officials in the absence of reasonable suspicion that they did something wrong.The real purpose of this conduct is to intimidate and deter anyone from being involved in any way with WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning. And it works.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at November 10, 2010, 4:51am

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