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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, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @12:46PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @12:46PM (#847040)

    From the publication of record of the ICFI: New charges against Julian Assange under the Espionage Act criminalize journalism []:

    The prosecution of Assange is the spearhead of the drive by the American ruling class to eviscerate the First Amendment and dismantle democratic rights. If Assange is convicted, it will mean that the publication of documents outlining the illegal activities of the US military/intelligence apparatus will be effectively criminalized.

    Notably, several of the charges pertain specifically to obtaining and publishing documents related to the US government's torture at Guantanamo Bay and other sites throughout the world. Assange sought to publish, according to the indictment, "operating and interrogation procedures at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; documents relating to Guantanamo detainees," and "CIA detainee interrogation videos."

    Those who carried out these crimes have gone unpunished, and in many cases--including that of current CIA Director Gina Haspel--retain posts at the highest levels of the American state.

    The move marks the first time that a journalist has been charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.

    US prosecutors attempted to convict Daniel Ellsberg, a contractor at the RAND Corporation who photocopied internal reports on the Vietnam War and distributed them to the press as the Pentagon Papers, under the act. Based on its claims that Ellsberg violated the law in obtaining the documents, the Nixon White House attempted to stop the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing the papers.

    In its 1971 ruling on the New York Times Co. v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Times to publish the stolen secret documents, declaring, "Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell."

    The prosecution of Assange for publishing "documents relating to the national defense" represents an attempt not only to reverse this ruling, but to make the very dissemination of documents by journalists a crime.

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  • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Friday May 24 2019, @01:56PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 24 2019, @01:56PM (#847059) Homepage Journal

    Well, dude, you've made a helluva lot of those wswsws..... posts. For once, I have to agree with wsw...... Whatever else Assange may or may not be, he is a journalist, and he is covered under all the same rights, obligations, and freedoms that the publisher of any major newspaper is covered.

    If all of the MSM doesn't come to Assange's defense, and work overtime to build that defense, things are going to get ugly. There really shouldn't be more than a small handful of idiots in Washington who are serious about prosecuting Assange. Unfortunately, we have an overabundance of idiots. "Well, yeah, we have Freedom of the Press! All of the press that we approve of are free to report anything they like - if they know what's good for them, they only like to report stuff we want reported!"

    "no more than 8 bullets in a round" - Joe Biden
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @08:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @08:15PM (#847331)

    fucking pigs