Prosecuting Julian Assange Sets a Precedent that Puts Investigative Reporters at Risk
The U.S. says Assange "is no journalist." Here's why that shouldn't matter.
Excerpted from the Washington Post.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday became the first person to face prosecution in the United States for publishing classified information, although newspapers routinely publish government secrets that have been leaked to them.
Defending the unprecedented move, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said “Julian Assange is no journalist.” Millions of Americans no doubt agree. Yet, in making this distinction, the Justice Department is drawing a line the First Amendment simply doesn’t draw — and is threatening the freedom of every news outlet in the process.
The federal indictment alleges Assange solicited and received classified information from Chelsea Manning and published that information through WikiLeaks. The documents he published included official assessments of detainees at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, files relating to rules of engagement for U.S. troops in the Iraq War and State Department cables. Some revealed incriminating information about the conduct of American soldiers and other government officials. In a few cases, they included the names of foreign citizens who provided intelligence to the United States.
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