Julian Assange Is About to Become a Journalist

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen in a police van, after he was arrested by British police, in London, Britain April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the US Espionage Act, the same act his co-conspirator, Bradley “Call me Chelsea” Manning was convicted of breaking. But in the history of the Act, no third party has ever been successfully tried and convicted. The 52 were either anarchists directly plotting to overthrow the US government or persons who sold or made available American secrets to hostile powers.

Progressives cheered Assange’s arrest in April because they believe him to be an agent of Donald Trump’s, the man who helped disseminate the Hillary Clinton/DNC emails that the mainstream press worked so hard to gloss over. Mrs. Clinton herself chimed in, “The bottom line is he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged.” Their mantra has been “Julian Assange is no journalist!” so he is undeserving of First Amendment protection. This is actually been a point of agreement among Progressives and Conservatives. Both National Review and Commentary ran editorials to this effect.

But the cracks are beginning to show. Like a fetus miraculously becomes a baby in the twinkling of an eye, Mr. Assange may be about to become a journalist. In their coverage of the new indictments this was the take of The New York Times:

It’s starting to dawn on them that maybe they should have been more careful in what they wished for. If Assange is convicted for publishing Manning’s treachery or the DNC materials, they, too, are on the thin edge of the wedge. It’s not enough to argue “he’s not a journalist” because technology has made traditional definitions of “journalist” and “publisher” obsolete. It’s also hard to backtrack on all the support they offered both to Manning (who NBC News downgraded from traitor to “whistleblower”) and to former President Barack Obama who commuted Manning’s sentence on his way out the door in 2017.

But the initial desire was for political punishment as Assange was obviously guilty of sabotaging Mrs. Clinton. But their cheerleading just may have handed a president they detest a new weapon in throttling the power of the press. So like a caterpillar, Assange may emerge into a beautiful First Amendment butterfly.

Published in Journalism
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There are 41 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher

    Assange was a dirt-bag when he was publishing secret State Department communications back during Bush ’43’s administration and he’s a dirt-bag now.

    About the worst thing they could do to Assange is just let him go on a street corner somewhere. Some of his leaks have gotten people killed. People who had friends. Friends with long memories who are poorly socialized and suffer from insufficient impulse control.

    • #1
    • May 23, 2019, at 5:15 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  2. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    To be honest I do not see much of a difference between what Julian Assange does and most the MSM media does. Somebody is going to have to explain the difference to me.

    • #2
    • May 23, 2019, at 5:21 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  3. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Fake John/Jane GaltSomebody is going to have to explain the difference to me.

    The MSM will tell you that they cooperate and will withhold operational information so as not to endanger personal in the field. How much of that is born of patriotism and how much is dealing in future bargaining chips is up to you to decide.

    If there is one thing the Democrats would love to come away with out of this mess is an “official” government definition of “journalist.” This could wrestle First Amendment protection away from the general population and hand it exclusively to an elite few.

    @percival Assange may be a dirtbag – but if you love the Constitution in any meaningful way – it has to protect the dirtbags, too. That’s why treason is the only Constitutionally defined crime, and why authorization of force is not the same as a formal declaration of war.

    • #3
    • May 23, 2019, at 5:42 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. Randy Webster Member

    EJHill: Their mantra has been “Julian Assange is no journalist!” so he is undeserving of First Amendment protection. This is actually been a point of agreement among Progressives and Conservatives. Both National Review and Commentary ran editorials to this effect.

    When I read this, I went and reread the First Amendment. I see no evidence that it recognizes any freedom for the press that it doesn’t recognize for ordinary citizens. The press has no special First Amendment protection.

    • #4
    • May 23, 2019, at 5:54 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt: Somebody is going to have to explain the difference to me.

    The MSM will tell you that they cooperate and will withhold operational information so as not to endanger personal in the field. How much of that is born of patriotism and how much is dealing in future bargaining chips is up to you to decide.

    If there is one thing the Democrats would love to come away with out of this mess is an “official” government definition of “journalist.” This could wrestle First Amendment protection away from the general population and hand it exclusively to an elite few.

    @percival Assange may be a dirtbag – but if you love the Constitution in any meaningful way – it has to protect the dirtbags, too. That’s why treason is the only Constitutionally defined crime, and why authorization of force is not the same as a formal declaration of war.

    I didn’t say lock him up. I said let him go.

    • #5
    • May 23, 2019, at 5:55 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Randy Webster: I see no evidence that it recognizes any freedom for the press that it doesn’t recognize for ordinary citizens.

    Unfortunately, that’s not true in the application of the law. Case in point, if law enforcement finds out you have classified material in your home they can simply obtain a warrant and arrest you. If they find out the New York Times has it, then it’s a whole different ball game. They won’t arrest anyone, and instead first ascertain if and what the Times intends to publish. To stop publication, that is to obtain a court order of prior restraint, the government must prove “inevitable, direct, and immediate danger to the United States.” (New York Times v US, 1971)

    • #6
    • May 23, 2019, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. Steven Seward Member

    In the constantly “evolving” realm of Democrat reality, Assange will transform into a journalist the same way that Racist Democrats in the South all transformed into Republicans, Hillary Clinton changed into a Yankees fan, Barack Obama “evolved” into a promoter of Gay Marriage, George Zimmerman metamorphosed into a White Hispanic, Beto O’rourke shape-shifted into a real Hispanic, Elizabeth Warren mutated into a Native American, and James Comey transmuted into a patriot. It’s hard to keep track of who’s who.

    • #7
    • May 23, 2019, at 6:35 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Does anyone remember the Pentagon Papers?

    • #8
    • May 23, 2019, at 7:04 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Boss Mongo Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    Some of his leaks have gotten people killed. People who had friends. Friends with long memories who are poorly socialized and suffer from insufficient impulse control.

    @percival, my memory ain’t that long, I got good impulse control, and I hope they let him loose on a street corner.

    • #9
    • May 23, 2019, at 8:18 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    Some of his leaks have gotten people killed. People who had friends. Friends with long memories who are poorly socialized and suffer from insufficient impulse control.

    @percival, my memory ain’t that long, I got good impulse control, and I hope they let him loose on a street corner.

    Sorry Boss but not in this country. We don’t need that stuff here. On the other hand what happens out of country stays out of country.

    • #10
    • May 23, 2019, at 8:22 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Cato Rand Reagan

    This isn’t actually all that complicated:

    Stealing secrets is illegal.

    Publishing secrets that somebody else stole and gratuitously gave you is protected speech.

    To prosecute Assange successfully, they’re going to have to show that he conspired on the theft – somehow caused or induced it. Not just that he got the material after the fact and then published it.

    Wikileaks is, in fact, in the same legal position as the New York Times if all it did is publish. And the New York Times wouldn’t have gotten away with publishing the Pentagon Papers if it had paid Daniel Ellsberg to steal them.

    • #11
    • May 23, 2019, at 9:01 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. DonG Coolidge

    I guess this means Snowden will not be coming back home anytime soon.

    • #12
    • May 23, 2019, at 9:02 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Cato Rand: To prosecute Assange successfully, they’re going to have to show that he conspired on the theft – somehow caused or induced it.

    Doesn’t their mere protected status and willingness to publish, induce and cause theft? If you receive stolen goods and profit on it the law calls you a “fence.” If you receive stolen information and profit on it the law calls you a “journalist.”

    • #13
    • May 23, 2019, at 9:22 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  14. Randy Webster Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Randy Webster: I see no evidence that it recognizes any freedom for the press that it doesn’t recognize for ordinary citizens.

    Unfortunately, that’s not true in the application of the law. Case in point, if law enforcement finds out you have classified material in your home they can simply obtain a warrant and arrest you. If they find out the New York Times has it, then it’s a whole different ball game. They won’t arrest anyone, and instead first ascertain if and what the Times intends to publish. To stop publication, that is to obtain a court order of prior restraint, the government must prove “inevitable, direct, and immediate danger to the United States.” (New York Times v US, 1971)

    It’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with the courts’ interpretation of the Constitution. I spent my whole time studying Con Law being pissed off.

    • #14
    • May 23, 2019, at 10:05 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. Randy Webster Member

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Does anyone remember the Pentagon Papers?

    I even remember the guy’s name: Daniel Berrigan. It was a big deal when I was growing up.

    • #15
    • May 23, 2019, at 10:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Percival (View Comment):

    Assange was a dirt-bag when he was publishing secret State Department communications back during Bush ’43’s administration and he’s a dirt-bag now.

    About the worst thing they could do to Assange is just let him go on a street corner somewhere. Some of his leaks have gotten people killed. People who had friends. Friends with long memories who are poorly socialized and suffer from insufficient impulse control.

    Percival for the win.

    • #16
    • May 24, 2019, at 3:25 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Steve C. Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Does anyone remember the Pentagon Papers?

    I even remember the guy’s name: Daniel Berrigan. It was a big deal when I was growing up.

    Ellsworth?

    • #17
    • May 24, 2019, at 3:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Cato Rand Reagan

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Cato Rand: To prosecute Assange successfully, they’re going to have to show that he conspired on the theft – somehow caused or induced it.

    Doesn’t their mere protected status and willingness to publish, induce and cause theft? If you receive stolen goods and profit on it the law calls you a “fence.” If you receive stolen information and profit on it the law calls you a “journalist.”

    No, it doesn’t. By that standard every journalist outfit on the planet is prosecutable any time anyone steals any information. They’re all potential publishers of stolen information that the thief might hope to use to publicize it. Publishers are free to publish leaks, whistleblower info, etc. They just have to be.

    • #18
    • May 24, 2019, at 4:07 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Cato Rand Reagan

    I knew I remembered this from my First Amendment class in law school. It’s not even clear that you can’t publish stolen plans to an H-Bomb and ultimately, no one was prosecuted for it. If all Assange did was receive and publish, he’s going to be in the clear.

    • #19
    • May 24, 2019, at 4:32 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Randy Webster Member

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Does anyone remember the Pentagon Papers?

    I even remember the guy’s name: Daniel Berrigan. It was a big deal when I was growing up.

    Ellsworth?

    I guess I didn’t remember as well as I thought I did.

    • #20
    • May 24, 2019, at 4:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Barfly Member

    Not to express support for Assange, but who gives a soggy democrat whether he’s a journalist? The First Amendment’s press clause means that our government may not regulate participation in public discourse. It applies equally to plumbers, employees of newspapers, the indigent, …

    • #21
    • May 24, 2019, at 6:36 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Barfly Member

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    Publishers are free to publish leaks, whistleblower info, etc. They just have to be.

    Just have to be? Wish real hard, I guess, and …. nope, nothin’.

    Whether anyone, including publishers, may disseminate information effectively depends on who owns that information. Some information is owned by our government; some of that has been made private (classified) and its owner (us, essentially) says it may not be released. If an individual comes into possession of such information, he is bound to keep it private and return it, by the laws we’ve all agreed to.

    • #22
    • May 24, 2019, at 6:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Cato Rand Reagan

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Does anyone remember the Pentagon Papers?

    I even remember the guy’s name: Daniel Berrigan. It was a big deal when I was growing up.

    Ellsworth?

    I guess I didn’t remember as well as I thought I did.

    Neither did Steve. It’s Ellsberg.

    • #23
    • May 24, 2019, at 6:56 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Cato Rand Reagan

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Not to express support for Assange, but who gives a soggy democrat whether he’s a journalist? The First Amendment’s press clause means that our government may not regulate participation in public discourse. It applies equally to plumbers, employees of newspapers, the indigent, …


    Barfly (View Comment)
    :

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    Publishers are free to publish leaks, whistleblower info, etc. They just have to be.

    Just have to be? Wish real hard, I guess, and …. nope, nothin’.

    Whether anyone, including publishers, may disseminate information effectively depends on who owns that information. Some information is owned by our government; some of that has been made private (classified) and its owner (us, essentially) says it may not be released. If an individual comes into possession of such information, he is bound to keep it private and return it, by the laws we’ve all agreed to.

    You went to a different law school than I did. I wasn’t stating an opinion. I was explaining the state of the law.

    • #24
    • May 24, 2019, at 6:58 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. Bishop Wash Member

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    I knew I remembered this from my First Amendment class in law school. It’s not even clear that you can’t publish stolen plans to an H-Bomb and ultimately, no one was prosecuted for it. If all Assange did was receive and publish, he’s going to be in the clear.

    An article I read said that they were looking at Assange giving Manning tips or a program to crack passwords. That way it’s more than just publishing. 

    • #25
    • May 24, 2019, at 7:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. Cato Rand Reagan

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    I knew I remembered this from my First Amendment class in law school. It’s not even clear that you can’t publish stolen plans to an H-Bomb and ultimately, no one was prosecuted for it. If all Assange did was receive and publish, he’s going to be in the clear.

    An article I read said that they were looking at Assange giving Manning tips or a program to crack passwords. That way it’s more than just publishing.

    Yes, it is. I didn’t say (and don’t believe) that Assange is necessarily legally innocent. I didn’t say it because I don’t know all the facts. I’m just pointing out that the simple act of publishing the classified information, alone, is not enough. On its own, that’s a constitutionally protected activity. But if that’s not all he did, he might well be prosecuted successfully. If he assisted Manning in getting the information from US government computers, I’m sure he’s got a serious problem, and I hope he does. I concur that he’s a vile scumball regardless and I’d be perfectly happy to see him rot in an American prison for the rest of his life. But even scumballs have the protection of the First Amendment.

    • #26
    • May 24, 2019, at 8:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Doug Watt Member

    The Assange case may be more complicated than we know. Sweden has reopened their criminal case concerning rape allegations against Assange. If he’s extradited to Sweden the US can issue a warrant for his arrest through Interpol and wait for a turn at taking him into custody.

    The Snowden case is different, even if some conflate espionage with whistle blowing. Depending upon the work he’s doing for the Russians he will never be allowed to leave Russia. He’s in a tough spot because he will never be completely trusted by the Russians. He may suffer the same fate in Russia that Russian journalists, dissidents, and whistle blowers face – a fall from his apartment balcony, or a bullet in the back of head as he unlocks his apartment door. Solved homicides are reserved for common criminals, unsolved homicides are state acts. 

    • #27
    • May 24, 2019, at 9:29 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Bishop Wash Member

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    I knew I remembered this from my First Amendment class in law school. It’s not even clear that you can’t publish stolen plans to an H-Bomb and ultimately, no one was prosecuted for it. If all Assange did was receive and publish, he’s going to be in the clear.

    An article I read said that they were looking at Assange giving Manning tips or a program to crack passwords. That way it’s more than just publishing.

    Yes, it is. I didn’t say (and don’t believe) that Assange is necessarily legally innocent. I didn’t say it because I don’t know all the facts. I’m just pointing out that the simple act of publishing the classified information, alone, is not enough. On its own, that’s a constitutionally protected activity. But if that’s not all he did, he might well be prosecuted successfully. If he assisted Manning in getting the information from US government computers, I’m sure he’s got a serious problem, and I hope he does. I concur that he’s a vile scumball regardless and I’d be perfectly happy to see him rot in an American prison for the rest of his life. But even scumballs have the protection of the First Amendment.

    I wasn’t disagreeing. I was just adding some information to back up your part that Assange would have to do more than publish the material. 

    • #28
    • May 24, 2019, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Al Sparks Thatcher

    I look at it this way. Assange is not an American citizen, and doesn’t owe the same loyalty to the United States government that those of us who are. So he revealed information damaging to the government? It’s not his government.

    Nor, to my knowledge, did he commit his “crimes” within the borders of the United States. So why are EU countries even considering the extradition request?

    There are some nuances to be considered. The United States is not only a member of NATO, but the major contributor to NATO. We probably spend more on NATO than all the other countries combined. Assange’s country (Sweden?) depends heavily on the United States for its defense.

    So shouldn’t it be Sweden who charges its citizen with espionage against a vital ally? And if it won’t, shouldn’t that be a violation of the NATO treaty? It could be a reason for us to withdraw even if that’s not in the treaty.

    I’d also like to say that the United States is over-charging Assange. I would consider it justice if Assange spent 3 years in prison. Not the rest of his life. He should pay a price, but not that high a price.

    If anything, I’d hold the intelligence officials whose shoddy security policies allowed this to happen. In the United States, it’s not unusual for someone to do prison time for gross negligence. After all, Manning and especially Assange, did not have to do a lot to get this information.

    And it was Manning, as a member of the United States armed forces, who swore a loyalty oath that deserves a lifetime prison sentence.

    • #29
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Assange is a man without a country. He is Australian by birth and education. He was granted Ecuadorian citizenship during his stay in the Embassy in London but that has been revoked.

    • #30
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:17 AM PDT
    • Like
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