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Analysis

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.

June 3, 2019

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.

To read the full piece, click here.