(photo: Shrieking Tree)

It is with great excitement that I welcome you to The Dissenter, a Firedoglake blog that will cover civil liberties and digital freedom issues. It will feature regular coverage of the torture scandal that continues to wear on and the ongoing US government war on WikiLeaks, along with coverage of the Orwellian expansion of the surveillance state, Internet privacy rights, the mass incarceration of people of color in this country and the current and historic repression of dissent.

While the blog name correctly suggests that the writers here often dissent against the government (as one has the liberty to do in America), the name also stems from the fact that the right to dissent is one of the most important civil liberties to defend in this country. As dissent becomes less and less tolerable and individuals face government efforts to criminalize dissent, a country becomes less free.

There will be plenty of posts that define and redefine what someone can expect from The Dissenter. So, who is this author announcing the beginning of this blog? Who am I and why am I being given the privilege to curate, write and publish to this blog?

Throughout the past six months, I served as a web intern for The Nation Magazine and worked closely with Greg Mitchell, helping him to maintain his daily WikiLeaks blog. Mitchell had me contribute sections to both of his books, The Age of WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences. I shot multiple videos for TheNation.com, which can be found here at VideoNation.

Emily Douglas, a fine web editor with The Nation, noticed something about me and gave me this opportunity to work with Mitchell, which made possible my transformation into an authority on all things related to WikiLeaks. I spent my internship publishing to a website called WikiLeaks Central, a site with a fine group of writers from North America and Europe who may be featured here from time and time. I launched a weekly podcast called “This Week in WikiLeaks,” which WikiLeaks tweeted multiple times to their more than 900,000 followers. (I hope to continue to do “This Week in WikiLeaks” for The Dissenter.) And, before I was finished, I had Russia Today’s “The Alyona Show” contacting me to talk about WikiLeaks on the show.

Prior to The Nation internship, I was a multimedia editor at OpEdNews.com. I wrote and published articles to OpEdNews for three and a half years covering conferences, the antiwar movement, torture, people’s movements, media reform and justice issues, war, the two-party system and third party politics, etc. Editor-in-chief Rob Kall and the great editorial staff of OEN saw something in me in 2007, when I published my first article on Dennis J. Kucinich not being given equal time during a presidential debate, and from that point forward I earned a reputation as a trusted author.

If not for The Nation and OpEdNews, I would not be here.

I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in May of last year with a B.A. in Film/Video, after studying for four years. However, filmmaking is not what defined my time, when I look back at that period. Participating in activism with friends in an activist group called World Can’t Wait, which continues to fight against all the horrific Bush Administration policies that Obama has embraced. I remember organizing with college staff and students on media reform and justice issues and blogging regularly when I was not in class and growing my idealism and passion for speaking out on various topics.

I traveled to three national political conventions in 2008—the Democratic National Convention, Republican National Convention and the Green Party National Convention. With two documentary filmmakers, Babette Hogan and Julie Eisenberg of Polidoc Productions, I worked on a film now in post-production that took a look at the Green Party and what it is like to run as a third party candidate in a presidential election. And, in April 2010, I co-organized a major arts & media summit called “Art, Access & Action,” which explored the intersection of politics, art and media. It was a conference that earned a level of support from the media reform organization Free Press.

I have a history of working the fringes, and I don’t intend to stray from working the fringes as I begin to curate this blog and write and publish here.

Now, what can you expect from this blog?

First, I must introduce you to a colleague, who will be sharing this space with me—Jeffrey Kaye.

Jeff is a clinical psychologist, who has written regularly on torture and other subjects for Truthout and The Public Record and he works as a volunteer clinician and evaluator for Survivors International, a torture victim treatment and services center in San Francisco.

Those following this blog can look forward to:

  • Updates on the latest conflicts and debates over civil liberties, torture and digital freedom issues (cybersecurity, freedom of information, the national security state’s expansion, torture, repression of dissent, etc)
  • Analysis of unfolding conflicts/debates, what is at stake and why they should matter to US citizens
  • As I respect the power of a live blog, live blogging of hearings in Congress that touch on civil liberties/digital freedom issues, along with a live blog post updated regularly each day with news items that you should be informed about (items we may not cover with an extensive blog post but which are important to know)
  • Interviews with individuals doing work on the ground to inform the public on civil liberties/digital freedom issues, individuals being targeted for exercising their civil liberties/digital rights and individuals who are organizing on the ground to stop the attacks on civil liberties
  • Guest posts from writers who can provide insight into issues that Jeff and I may not be able to provide
  • And, finally, a weekly podcast that will feature an interview with someone talking about the latest news and updates surrounding WikiLeaks, an organization that provides a lens for understanding so much about how the press, policy and politics, the national security state, etc

US history has seen repeated attacks against civil liberties, usually in the name of defending the country against some national threat, whether it was the Palmer Raids targeting immigrant leftists after World War II, the McCarthyist blacklists and loyalty oaths of the Cold War, the COINTELPRO attacks against leftists, antiwar activists and civil rights leaders in the 1960s and, as Will Potter has reported, the transformation of animal rights and environmental movement group leaders into terrorists.

Now, the government is going after Palestinian and Colombia solidarity activists, raiding the homes of people who helped to organize a massive antiwar march at the 2008 Republican National Convention and subpoenaing activists to appear before a grand jury. The government is harassing and intimidating activists who organize in support of accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning. And, they are allowing agencies like the FBI, an agency that has grown into a massive domestic spy agency, to exercise more and more intrusive surveillance powers each and every day.

This blog has a great burden and responsibility. In the aftermath of 9/11, a bipartisan consensus has formed among mainstream politicians and once again presented the nation with a calculated assault on civil liberties in the name of national security. All people who write, publish and comment here at this blog will be part of challenging this continued attack that did not end when President George W. Bush left office at all.

Onward.