I have often wondered seriously about the American commitment to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I have often wondered also about the American belief in the principles on which it is founded; it's one of those things that make me deeply sceptical about any action taken by that giant of a country that seems to find it so very easy to draw a line between the rights that it accords its own citizens and the denial of those rights that appears to be routine in its treatment of non-Americans.Below is a case in point.
Google May Hand Over Caribbean Journalists' IP Addresses (Updated)Google said the following in a letter to the TCI Journal last week, as posted on Wikileaks and sent to us by the Journal:
To comply with the law, unless you provide us with a copy of a motion to quash the subpoena (or other formal objection filed in court) via email at firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm Pacific Time on September 16, 2009, Google will assume you do not have an objection to production of the requested information and may provide responsive documents on this date.
Google has not yet responded to our inquiry asking what the company might do once the TCI Journal does send a motion to quash the subpoena, which we presume it will do. Hiring lawyers in California will likely be an onerous task for a volunteer-run website from a tiny Caribbean island. Journal editors tell us that they hope Google will decide to help them fight the case on 1st amendment grounds.Update: A Google spokesperson sent us the following response to our inquiry.
"When Google receives legal process, such as court orders and subpoenas, where possible we promptly provide notice to users to allow them to object to those requests for information. Users may raise any and all objections they feel are relevant, including First Amendment arguments. In addition, we are still evaluating all our legal options regarding this particular request."
Here's my problem. In small nations like ours, fighting for freedom of speech and opinion, fighting against corruption and special interests and the continuation of the rape of our region by those who can gain disproportionate access to leaders is risky at best, virtually impossible at most times. Victimization is the word we use to describe what has happened in The Bahamas; in the USA it was called blacklisting and it was carried out against suspected communists in the 1950s, and it is pretty widely rejected as being anti-democratic (though the communist ideals and the communist party has never recovered in the USA since McCarthy). No matter what the British response was to the exposure of the corruption of the Misick government in TCI (and the suspension of the TCI constitution is questionable at best, but that's another topic), it is nevertheless crucial that such corruption could have been exposed and dealt with in a reasonable amount of time.Because the fact is that in small nations like ours, corruption can be achieved pretty easily, often simply by presenting leaders with tastes of fancy lifestyles. Large corporate interests from outside the country find it embarrassingly easy to get what they want from our governments, as we have poor records of social protest, weak organizations on the ground, and a habit of factional interests that often lead us to suspend our critical judgements in favour of partisan support (simply put, that means that our attachments to one political party or another, which for many of us are complicated by familial, social, historical and sometimes racial ties leads us to support actions we might otherwise criticize if "our" party was in power, or to criticize actions we might otherwise consider a good idea).This makes it very easy for corruption to take hold. (And if you ask me, I'll say, yes, there is probably an element of corruption of some kind or another -- not necessarily economic -- in virtually every foreign investment deal passed in The Bahamas and, by extension, in the Turks and Caicos; it's certainly evident that our governments here in The Bahamas favour activities that benefit our foreign investors (Miss Universe) while rejecting those that favour Bahamians (CARIFESTA)).The twenty-first century answer -- and it's this that I believe to be crucial to the spread of democracy in the world, and not American bootstamping and shock-and-awe tactics, or free markets -- has been that investigative journalists in small countries can expose and criticize corruption thanks to the virtual anonymity of the internet. This is what the TCI Journal achieved. Whether we agree or not with the British reaction to the exposure of corruption in TCI, the fact that the colonial power took such drastic action is testament to the power of the internet press.Google's action threatens the ability -- indeed the possibility -- for true democracy ever to exist in these, our little nations (and by extension those nations that really really need the anonymity of the internet to fight the physical oppression that they face). I have no doubt that it is being pressured by the kinds of external interests that held the Misick government in the palms of their hands, and that the kinds of resources possessed by investors enamoured of their near-absolute possession of a land and its people, virtually limitless in comparison to those of the TCI Journal. But its inability to see its action as being in contravention of its own constitution -- the constitution of the country that it sets itself up as a beacon for democracy -- calls into question, for me, the ultimate value of America's democratic principles.