As people who love liberty, and especially the freedom of the press, we must strongly condemn the prosecution of Julian Assange by the U.S. Justice Department.
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has been recently charged with an additional 17 counts in violation of the Espionage Act. His crime was publishing material illegally obtained by Army Intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning.
This is a departure from many years of American tradition, in which the United States government would punish leakers of government information (those who were sworn to keep classified material classified), not journalists who were under no such oath. No president, heretofore, has gone to such lengths to prosecute reporters of information (although other presidents, like Obama, have done it to lesser extents). We should clarify, as Jake Tapper did in 2014, that Obama used the Espionage Act more than any other president, but it was primarily against the leakers themselves.
Whereas the morality of whistleblowing while under sworn oath of confidentiality, as with Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, can be debated on ethical grounds, a news publication, reporting agency, or journalist is under absolutely no moral or legal responsibility to protect government secrets.
In fact, charging someone like Julian Assange – the publisher of information – under the Espionage Act has never been successful in prosecution. The Trump Administration’s argument is that Assange ‘goaded’ Manning into producing the stolen information. The Justice Department had previously claimed that Assange ‘helped’ Manning commit ‘computer intrusion’ to obtain the info, which is a dubious claim considering Manning already had clearances for such systems (thus, there was no ‘hacking’ that needed to be done).
We agree with WikiLeaks’ assessment of the situation in their tweet (above). This is madness, and it does jeopardize journalism and the First Amendment.
Some have argued that Assange is not a “traditional journalist.” There are two problems with this assertion. The first is that the Supreme Court has ruled that anyone reporting anything (even on a so-called ‘blog’) is a journalist for the sake of legal standing (Obsidian Finance Group vs Crystal Cox, 2011). Secondly, however, First Amendment rights aren’t only reserved for the Press (as defined one way or another). These protections are reserved for the People.
In short, anyone who publishes information is a journalist, by law, but it doesn’t matter. Any Citizen has the same liberty to publish information as someone who is called a “journalist.”
Yet, Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s National Security Division Chief, said of Assange, “Julian Assange is no journalist.”
The Supreme Court differs.
For the record, there is no actionable intelligence that has demonstrated any information released by WikiLeaks has led directly to the deaths of any United States service personnel…not that it would matter. It is the government’s responsibility to keep their secrets; it is not the job of the press to keep their secrets for them.
We would like to petition President Donald J. Trump for the release of Julian Assange, and furthermore, to arrange him safe harbor as political refugee from any foreign state that may seek to hurt him for a similar offense.
We also pray that Trump’s motive in detaining Assange may be to extract information regarding the U.S. government’s role in illegally spying on the Trump Campaign or in relation to Hillary Clinton’s felonious deeds, which only Assange may know. If this scenario is correct, it is likely that the charges filed against Assange are designed to ‘expedite the process’ of data mining that Trump himself needs to do to clean up the American Deep State.
This news publication, Pulpit & Pen, regularly reports information which is made available to us, the source of which is a whistle-blower or one who may be breaking rules to pass along that information (when those rules are transcended by their conscience). It is an ominous decision to prosecute information publishers for publishing information. And indeed, it is a threat to the First Amendment.
[Publisher’s Note: Contributed by JD Hall]