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posted by martyb on Friday May 24 2019, @11:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the One-man-takes-on-US-Government;-who-will-prevail? dept.

Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising First Amendment Issues

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.

The new charges were part of a superseding indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly expanded the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia.

[...] On its face, the Espionage Act could also be used to prosecute reporters who publish government secrets. But many legal scholars believe that prosecuting people for acts related to receiving and publishing information would violate the First Amendment.

That notion has never been tested in court, however, because until now the government has never brought such charges. The closest it came was indicting two lobbyists for a pro-Israel group in 2005 who received classified information about American policy toward Iran and passed it on. But that case fell apart after several skeptical pretrial rulings by a judge, and the charges were dropped.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like The New York Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.

Also at BBC, CNBC, USA Today, and Reuters

Previously: Inadvertent Court Filing Suggests that the U.S. DoJ is Preparing to Indict Julian Assange
U.S. Ramping Up Probe Against Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Says
Wikileaks Co-Founder Julian Assange Arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
Julian Assange Sentenced to 50 Weeks in Prison for Bail Breach
Swedish Prosecutor to Reopen Julian Assange Investigation


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @12:30PM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @12:30PM (#847035)

    a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.

    Not trolling - this is a legitimate question. Why is this considered a "First Amendment" issue? Assange is not a US citizen or resident, and he was not in the US when he allegedly committed these crimes. The US Constitution does not apply outside the US.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @12:38PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @12:38PM (#847038)

    The US Constitution applies to the US Government. All actions that government takes must comply with it. Someone does not lose fundamental rights by not being a citizen, they must still be afforded those rights because it is the government's duty to abide by those restrictions.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by jelizondo on Friday May 24 2019, @02:52PM (3 children)

      by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 24 2019, @02:52PM (#847093) Journal

      Tell that to the people in Guantanamo, or U.S. citizens executed [aclu.org] without trial or people tortured [amnesty.org.uk] by CIA operatives.

      Or try asserting your rights in the border [constitutioncenter.org], where apparently the U.S. government is not bound by law.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by hemocyanin on Friday May 24 2019, @03:29PM

        by hemocyanin (186) on Friday May 24 2019, @03:29PM (#847102) Journal

        There's philosophy and then there is practice. More and more, the Bill of Rights is just a pleasant bedtime story we tell ourselves to set aside the fears that we are living in a country where power is the only measure of legality.

      • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Friday May 24 2019, @04:31PM (1 child)

        by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Friday May 24 2019, @04:31PM (#847151) Journal

        Mostly true and well written. Except that the U.S. Government is indeed bound by law at the border, only what is and what is not permissible under law changes because there is a legitimate national security interest at the border. Which argument can be rejected if one feels that the Bill of Rights and other amendments are absolutes, although the courts have never agreed with such a notion [learner.org]. One may also make a case also that in time of War other priorities come into play (i.e. innocents killed by drone strikes are collateral damage of battle), although that cannot justify torture. The problem there being no actual War has been declared.

        Overall I hope these charges are pressed to their fullest and that the government loses. The chilling effect that a win would have on journalism cannot be underestimated.

        --
        Keep everyone ignorant of the magical world! KEEP AMERICA OBLIVIATE!
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 25 2019, @05:49AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 25 2019, @05:49AM (#847512)

          although the courts have never agreed with such a notion

          The Supreme Court also approved of Japanese internment camps and other blatantly unconstitutional atrocities, though, so forgive me for being skeptical.

          One may also make a case also that in time of War other priorities come into play

          The government still has to follow the Constitution during times of war.

  • (Score: 2) by DeVilla on Sunday May 26 2019, @02:57AM

    by DeVilla (5354) on Sunday May 26 2019, @02:57AM (#847785)

    I would assume the Constitution would have to apply as much as any other US law the US is trying to enforce on a non-citizen/non-resident for a crime committed outside the US. So the grounds for enforcing the protections of the Constitution would be the same as the grounds for enforcing the laws he's being prosecuted for.