by Jacob G. Hornberger
At the recent sentencing of Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton announced that he was “perplexed” by the Myers’ claim that they had no intent to harm the United States by turning over classified documents to Cuba. He told the couple that they deserved heavy punishment for betraying the United States.
As I wrote in an article last November, Myers, who worked for the State Department, and his wife pled guilty to spying for Cuba for some 30 years. Pursuant to a plea bargain, Walton sentenced the husband to life in prison without possibility of parole and sentenced the wife to 7 years in jail.
The good judge no doubt has the same mindset that unfortunately afflicts many Americans — one that conflates the U.S. government and our country. For these people, it’s all just one big amorphous whole. In their minds, if you disclose secret information from the files of the U.S. government, that must mean, automatically, that you’re betraying your country.
You see this conflation mindset playing out right now in the Wikileaks disclosure of those secret Pentagon documents. People like Walton are saying that by disclosing secret documents belonging to the U.S. government, Wikileaks has hurt the United States.
Another example was when Daniel Ellsberg, the former Pentagon worker, disclosed the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. President Richard Nixon took the position that Ellsberg had betrayed his country by disclosing classified documents that embarrassed the Pentagon. I wonder if Walton, who was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President George W. Bush, ranks with those who think that Ellsberg betrayed his country by disclosing the lies and fabrications of the Pentagon to the American people.
Actually, the U.S. government and our country are two separate and distinct entities. This phenomenon is, in fact, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the country from the U.S. government.
What Walton apparently failed to address at the sentencing, and what the government obviously wanted to suppress by avoiding trial, was the nature of the information that the Myers’ delivered to Cuba. Obviously, in Walton’s mind and in the minds of U.S. officials, the nature of the information was irrelevant. All that mattered was that it was information that the U.S. government wanted to keep secret. That was enough to convert the Myers’ into bad people — into criminals — into people who had betrayed their country.
Myers himself made a revealing statement in his 10-minute explanation to the judge, a statement that must have left the judge even more perplexed. Myers stated, “The Cuban people feel threatened” and that they had “good reason to feel threatened” by the U.S. government.
There is no possibility that the information that the Myers’ disclosed to the Cubans dealt with Cuban plans to attack, invade, conquer, or occupy the United States, for the simple reason that Cuba has never had any such plans.
No, it’s actually the other way around. It’s the U.S. government that has engaged in a 50-year obsessive campaign against the Cuban government and the Cuban people, including a brutal economic embargo that has squeezed the lifeblood out of the Cuban people, assassination attempts, invasion attempts, coup attempts, and who knows what else?
In other words, it’s been the U.S. government that has waged an immoral, aggressive war against an independent, sovereign regime, for the sole purpose of ousting Castro’s regime from power and replacing it with a pro-U.S. regime, just as it has done in Iran, Iraq, Guatemala, Afghanistan, and many other countries.
Why the animosity toward Fidel Castro? No, it’s not because he’s a socialist. After all, your standard U.S. official — perhaps even Judge Walton himself — believes in the same socialist programs that Castro favors, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, welfare for the poor, income taxation, and the like.
No, the reason they’ve hated Castro since he took power in 1959 — the reason for their decades-long obsession with Cuba — is that Castro refused to kowtow to the U.S. Empire. He refused to make Cuba a vassal state of the U.S. Empire, as his predecessor Batista had done. That’s what earned Castro, Cuba, and the Cuban people the ever-lasting enmity of the U.S. Empire.
Thus, while the Myers’ share Castro’s socialist philosophy, that wasn’t the gravamen of their offense, especially since most other U.S. officials do too. Their crime was following their conscience by disclosing what had to be information regarding the U.S. government’s never-ending, obsessive quest for regime change in Cuba.
In the minds of U.S. officials, all that’s obviously irrelevant. Everything the U.S. Empire does is automatically supposed to be considered good, and anybody who discloses information regarding the U.S. government’s wars of aggression, torture, secret prisons, human rights abuses, rapes, embargoes, sanctions, invasions, assassinations, and occupations is to be automatically considered bad.
The Myers’ would have been better off if they had simply disclosed their information to the New York Times rather than to Cuba. At least the American people, not just the Cuban officials who received the information, would be able to see what their government’s been up to.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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