National Security

Is Julian Assange a Journalist?

For First Amendment purposes, it doesn't matter.

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Despite Vice President Biden's recent squabbling with Republican senators over the meaning of Christmas, he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell do agree on something. They both say WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has published thousands of confidential Pentagon and State Department documents on his group's website, is "a high-tech terrorist."

But assuming that President Obama is not ready to drop a bomb on Assange, punishing him for disseminating military records and diplomatic cables will require specifying what crime he committed under U.S. law. That won't be easy, unless the Justice Department is prepared to criminalize something journalists do every day: divulge information that the government wants to keep secret.

Last week Assange's lawyer claimed a grand jury has been convened in Alexandria, Virginia, with the aim of indicting him. But under what statute? The most obvious possibility is the Espionage Act of 1917, which makes it a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to "receive," "deliver," "transmit," or "communicate" any "information relating to the national defense" that "the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation."

In spite of the law's sweeping language, it has almost always been applied to government employees who leak information, as opposed to people who receive it and pass it on. The one exception was the 2005 indictment of two former pro-Israel lobbyists who were accused of receiving and disclosing classified information about U.S. policy toward Iran. Their source, a Pentagon official, was convicted under the Espionage Act, but the case against them fell apart after the judge ruled that the government would have to show they knew their disclosures were unauthorized and might damage national security.

Assange could be prosecuted even under that reading of the law, and so could all the news organizations that ran stories about the WikiLeaks documents. But the government has never used the Espionage Act to prosecute a journalist, which is what Assange claims to be.

His critics disagree. "WikiLeaks is not a news organization," writes Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen. "It is a criminal enterprise. Its reason for existence is to obtain classified national security information and disseminate it as widely as possible….These actions are likely a violation of the Espionage Act, and they arguably constitute material support for terrorism."

There is a circular quality to this argument: Assange is not a journalist because he's a criminal, and he's a criminal because he's not a journalist. But for constitutional purposes, it does not matter whether Marc Thiessen, Attorney General Eric Holder, or anyone else considers Assange a journalist.

"Freedom of the press" does not mean the freedom of those individuals who are lucky enough to be officially recognized as members of the Fourth Estate. It means the freedom to use technologies of mass communication, which today include the Internet. This freedom does not amount to much if the government can deny it to someone by questioning his journalistic credentials.

The government could try to avoid First Amendment problems by accusing Assange of conspiring with Pfc. Bradley Manning, the army intelligence analyst who is charged with leaking the Pentagon and State Department documents. Such a conspiracy could be a crime under the Espionage Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits disclosure of sensitive national defense or foreign relations information obtained through unauthorized computer access. But so far no evidence has emerged that Assange was any more culpable in the leaks than a reporter who receives confidential information from a government source.

There is another way to stop anger over the WikiLeaks document dumps from turning into an assault on the First Amendment. Assuming the allegations against Manning are true, the government should be asking why its own data security practices are so shoddy that a single low-ranking soldier with computer access was able to divulge such a huge trove of supposedly secret information.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Good morning reason!

    So, the logic is, if you are writing a story about stealing cars and you steal cars,you are protected by the first amendment?

    No, wait, you are saying that if you solicit people to steal cars for you and you write about it, you are protected.

    Thank you for the civics lesson!

    At least you did not try to say that Assange was first to release the climategate emails.

    1. At least you did not try to say that Assange was first to release the climategate emails.

      That’s getting a little old, Suki. Wanna try and move forward a bit?

      1. When someone at reason stops spreading that lie and gives proper credit to The Air Vent, I will stop reminding reason of who released the emails.

        1. What do you mean keep spreading lies? Tim or Brian mentioned it in an offhand way a couple of weeks ago, not being aware of Assange’s exaggeration. It was pointed out at the time and they have since moved on.

    2. At least we know you can’t make an anology that makes sense.

      1. Your failure to grasp the concept is meaningless.

        1. I can see why someone who doesn’t understand the concept would think that I misunderstood the concept.

      2. We already knew that the JohnSukiBotNeoConThingWhateverItIs couldn’t do that, heller.

        1. I think the inability to reason makes John T.’s Asian woman persona more realistic.

          1. You know, I never thought of it that way. Good point. I guess John is a better terrible writer than we thought.

    3. Re: Suki,

      So, the logic is, if you are writing a story about stealing cars and you steal cars,you are protected by the first amendment?

      Information cannot be stolen, by definition, Suki. If you COPIED IT, it is NOT stealing, notwithstanding the IP proponent’s wildest tangerine wet dream.

      1. ^ This.

  2. I understand the author’s concern about narrowly defining the press. Of course, anybody can publish a pamphlet of political thoughts, not just the mainstream press. However, laws protecting classified documents can’t all be struck down, right? We’re not looking for an anarchy solution with regard to national security, right? We effectively have no rule of law if anybody with a facebook page is exempt from the law. If someone shows a classified document to her friend, is she part of the press? So do we narrowly define the press, or do we stop exempting the press from the consequences of publishing classified material. Free speech is no excuse for publishing classified material, so why is free press acceptable?

    1. Free speech is no excuse for publishing classified material

      Unless the person works for the government and promised not to release classified information, why not?

    2. Protecting freedom of speech does not make someone “exempt from the law”. It means that there are some laws that the government cannot rightly pass and enforce. That doesn’t completely dismantle the rule of law.

      1. 99.5% of what is “classified” is utter bullshit. I mentioned previously about a previous de-classification project releasing a document about a “silent weapon system”. It was a crossbow.

        Did Assange reveal the order of battle in a war zone? Did he reveal new weapons technologies? Outing pissy comments about UN ambassadors doesn’t really qualify as treason to me.

        1. I mentioned previously about a previous de-classification project releasing a document about a “silent weapon system”. It was a crossbow.

          Let’s have a link to the source of this information, otherwise I call bullshit. I did a google search and the only links I got were this reason article comments and a previous reason comment.

          1. I forgot what page it’s on.

    3. You don’t need a law to be able keep secrets. Does a law actually make the secrets any more safe? The only reason Manning was caught was because he’s a blabber mouth anyhow. The first amendment is perfectly compatible with secrets. How do you keep secrets without a law? You don’t disclose the secrets. If you want to take it a step further, *if* this information is so dangerous, *who* illegally disclosed it to Bradley Manning and put the USA at risk? Was it the head of intelligence? Free press and free speech are perfectly acceptable reasons for publishing “classified” material.

      In some professions there’s an expectation that you not disclose the details of those you do work for. Do you think these people would do well if it came known that they were spreading private information about their customers or employers?

      Do you think a soldier who cared about the safety of America would disclose secrets he thought would harm his country? Do you feel that an unproven, low ranking soldier should be trusted with dangerous secrets?

  3. I don’t much care if people want to think Assange is a journalist. Whatever.

    But the real point is the guy is a slimy little prick with an anti-american agenda. I might – repeat, might – have some modicum of respect for the guy if he leaked something from somewhere else. Where is the Chinese, Russian, etc. stuff?

    1. You don’t look very hard do you? Do none of you statist bootlickers who parrot this line know how to use Google? Just try searching for “Wikileaks Russia” or “Wikileaks China”. You will be surprised.

      1. The only Russian stuff I’ve seen thus far is when our State department cables mentioned them. Where’s the stuff *from* Russia?

    2. Many of the leaks made contries other than the US look bad. (Anti-semitism in Venezuela, banning Sicko in Cuba).

      Also being a slimy little prick with an anti-american agenda is not a crime.

      1. Anti-semitism in Venezuela

        That just makes Chavez a bigger hero to the left.

        1. Yes, of course, sucky, questioning the repressive policies of the Israeli government fits the definition of anti-semitism perfectly.

          Frankly, most of the pro-israel people I know are anti-semites.

          What better way to keep any of “those people” living here than letting them have their “own country”.

          1. Nice anecdotal bullshit, but that doesn’t change the fact that the pro-Israel, pro-jewish crowd on the left is..well.. non-existent.

            1. Then why are the majority of Jews still socialists?

      2. Yes, its not a crime. Never said it was. What it does do is makes me question his motives and methods. Lots of people seem to think he’s a hero or something, but he’s really an anarchist if his only motive is to embarass and harass.

        1. What do his motives have to do with it? Who cares. He’s outing secrets, that’s a good thing.

          You cannot evaluate the impact of the secrets until they are revealed to you. Thus you need to mass publish them all . Assange is right .He may have an annoying personality (or whatever it is that makes people call him a douche) but he’s right.

    3. What about the report that Cuba had banned “Sicko” because the government was afraid of the backlash it would cause once the public realized Moore lied about the crappy health care the average person receives?

      That’s anti-Cuba/anti-Communist. Doesn’t get more American than that.

      1. Well, it would have made Cuba look bad. If it was true.

      2. Michale Moore says sicko was not banned in Cuba and the State Department memo writer is misinformed.

        1. Ha ha, Micky Moore is right again!

    4. So, committing exactly the same acts as Assange committed is okay with you, as long as the “right” people are embarrassed?

      1. That’s my brother’s line of reasoning. Which has already created two family outing spectacles between us. 😛

        1. two family outing spectacles

          So, either you’re both gay or your family has short-term amnesia?

          1. Alright, family gatherings. Better?

      2. That’s pretty much what he’s saying. Fucking intellectual consistency, how does it work?!?

        1. lol… It’s an older meme, sir, but it checks out. I was about to clear it.

    5. So the “real point” is that some dude named Ragnar thinks Assange is a prick. Good to know.

      1. And that some other guy named Rhayader had no better comment to make.

        1. Others have pointed out the intellectual dishonesty of the point — if you call it that — you tried to make above. Do you have anything to say about Assange that goes beyond personal insult and a directionless preference that he pick on some other monolithic government?

          1. Assange is a tool. Nothing more. More people need to be asking who funds him and pulls his strings.

            1. OK, so no.

              1. Nice to see that you don’t know what a tool is.

                1. A band from LA?

    6. the guy is an equal opportunity leaker because he’s anarchist, and any leak that will damage any form of governess is a win for Assange. I just notice his name is an Ass with an ange n the end it fits him well.

      1. Yeah, WTF does Assange have against Mary Poppins?

        And you just noticed that about his surname? That’s a comment worthy of the most intelligent detractors of the guy, to be sure.

        1. “”Yeah, WTF does Assange have against Mary Poppins?””

          She wanted him to use a condom?

    7. Ragnar, you are right. The very fact that he released a pre release about an up coming release on a “bad” bank shows he is just trying to do harm. If he was trying to shine light on wrong doing he would just fucking release the data!

      1. Exactly. He’s not a reformer, or even a reporter. He’s a bomb thrower.

        1. Bomb thrower?

          Nice to see that you don’t know what a tool bomb is.

    8. Well, our government has an anti-North Korean agenda…and I guess they are mostly slimy little pricks. So I will give you that one.

  4. He’s a new aggregator.

  5. *news* – damn iphone

  6. Is Julian Assange a Journalist?

    Only if he was on Ezra Klien’s email list.

  7. If Assange’s leaks had gotten Obama impeached or ginned up popular support for a war with Iran, the Faux News crowd would be trying to get Assange a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

  8. I’m a bit confused. Assagne is not an American citizen, and his actions did not take place on American soil. How can he face indictment any more than say, someone who was in the KGB, who received classified American intel and reported it to his superiors. How about any other intelligence agent receiving classified information from another country and sending that information to their superiors. Can the US try to nab them and charge them under the Espionage Act? Hell, our own intelligence agents do or attempt to do the same thing everyday! Oh, but maybe they are part of the protected government worker class.

    1. If we were in a war, there might be a legit military solution. But we arent, so there isnt.

      1. Fact Check: We aren’t in “a” war. In fact, we’re in at least two. Therefore the government can justify doing whatever it wants until they decide to end the war.

    2. Because he solicited US classified documents, made and overt action to further his conspiracy with “Bradass87” to steal the classified documents. It does not and should not matter if the conspirators are US citizens or not to be guilty of that act.

      Americans who engage in stealing secrets from other countries are exposed to their laws too. Business people get arrested as spies all over the world.

      1. You say that like it is a good thing.

      2. This bears repeating: Assagne is not an American citizen, and his actions did not take place on American soil.

        Going after him for espionage is akin to ticketing a German for going over 65mph on the Autobahn.

        As far as I know, there is no evidence that he solicited any material from Manning, or that he even knew who sent it to him.

        I get that you are angry that he gave us a black eye, but you need to direct your anger at the leaker, not at Wikileaks.

        1. That’s why they are trying to label him as a “terrorist”. They can’t do a black bag job on him if he is anything else and they know they currently have no way to charge him.

      3. So the people who release information to the public are the conspirators?

    3. “How can he face indictment any more than say, someone who was in the KGB, who received classified American intel and reported it to his superiors.” He would not be indicted…he would get a hot one between his eyes.

    4. “Jurisdiction” is a quaint 19th century idea, created by slaveholding patriarchs to confuse all us hayseeds.

  9. I still dont understand why McConnell isnt calling the editor of the New York Times a terrorist.

    As he is an American resident (no idea on his citizenship), there actually may be laws that apply to him.

    1. He did not solicit the theft. If the documents are dumped on your desk without asking, you did not commit a crime.

      That said, I am sure many others are taking up the slack for calling everybody at the NYT “terrorists.”

      1. There is a big step between having it dumped on your desk and publishing it.

        And I dont have a problem with either.

      2. Also, bullshit on it being dumped on the NYT’s desk. They solicited it via http.

        They sent a request and the info was sent to them.

        [Okay, Im assuming here that the newspapers got the info from wikileaks and not a separate random email from PFC Dumbass]

        1. This is a great point. In this scenario Wikileaks is just the middle-man. The NYT “received” secret documents yada, yada… and is every bit as guilty as Wikileaks. Moreso, because they are Americans on American soil. How about the London Times? Do these prosecutors have the stones to try to arrest the editors at the London Times because they “received,” “delivered,” “transmited,” or “communicated” any “information relating to the national defense” that “the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

          No? I didn’t think so. Wikileaks and the London Times and the New York Times are all in exactly the same position regarding the diplomatic cables with respect to this law. I say if you are going to prosecute one, you’d better go after the others too…

          1. What happens when someone in the US government leaks Iranian secrets? Will we allow Iran to prosecute the leaker or any media outlet that printed those secrets?

            Going after Assange is just a distraction from the real issue. The US Government didn’t properly secure the documents and a member of the US Army took advantage of it. There is far more talk about Assange than Manning, so it’s working so far.

      3. I have seen nothing so far that says Assanage did solicit Manning to get the documents. Since you keep repeating it, please post a link to back up the claim.

  10. “Freedom of the press” does not mean the freedom of those individuals who are lucky enough to be officially recognized as members of the Fourth Estate. It means the freedom to use technologies of mass communication, which today include the Internet. This freedom does not amount to much if the government can deny it to someone by questioning his journalistic credentials.

    This cannot be said enough.

    1. Let’s see. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

      I wish the Assange haters could state what part of that is confusing.

      1. “”I wish the Assange haters could state what part of that is confusing.””

        That would require thinking. They are too busy being a tool in the government plan to keep the focus away from its own incompetence.

  11. We’re not looking for an anarchy solution with regard to national security, right?

    What if we concentrate on actual substantive harm?

    If the House of Saud’s Jefe grande removes Hillary Clinton from his Christmas card list in a fit of pique, that doesn’t count as substantive harm.

    1. Yeah seriously. I keep hearing about how Assange’s actions have caused all this harm, but I haven’t seen one shred of evidence of anyone actually coming to any harm as a result of this stuff. Seems like sort of an important detail to that line of inquiry.

      1. “”Seems like sort of an important detail to that line of inquiry.””

        The most important element is that Assange, not the US goverment takes the heat.

      2. That’s classified.

  12. Arthur C. Clarke (PBUH) toyed with the idea of a world with no secrets in his novel (IIRC) “The Light of Other Days”.
    There’s some technobabble about how it is done but essentially it speculates about how the world is changed when nothing can be kept secret any longer- governments fall, marriages end, religions crumble. In the end an open world is more peaceful and wealthy.

    1. David Brin covered it from a nonfiction perspective with The Transparent Society (one reason I tolerate his technocratic tendencies).

    2. And boring as hell. I like secrets but I don’t lawyer up when one is broken.

  13. “a high-tech terrorist.”

    The T-word is becoming as meaningless as “racist” and “fascist”. E.g., “Reason’s slow loading is high-tech terrorism.”

    1. “Terrorist” is how people who uncomfortably close to fascism themselves Godwin people.

  14. …the government should be asking why its own data security practices are so shoddy that a single low-ranking soldier with computer access was able to divulge such a huge trove of supposedly secret information

    This is a question that needs to be asked. Some serious head rolling better be taking place.

    Assange may be a douche, but being a douche is not a crime. However, he may also be a rapist douche and rape is a crime, so I have no problem of Assange being strung-up for rape. The thought that the Swedish government is a puppet of the US and that the Swedish government has trumped up the charges is just plain humorous.

    1. It’s ludicrous that the Swedish government is doing the bidding of the U.S.

      I’m sure European governments issue interpol alerts for people whose crimes are punished by small fines all the time.

      1. That cause the Swedes have always been the US’s poodle. That’s been obvious since …

        Maybe the CIA dropped some acid into those women’s drinks or perhaps …

    2. “” However, he may also be a rapist douche “”

      Not by any defintion of rape that we use in the good ole USA.

      1. That’s another thing that’s funny about this whole thing. Ordinarily right-wingers have no use whatsoever for the feminazi definition of rape. But now that it can be used to buttfuck somebody they hate? They’re all for it.

        1. I would expect nothing less of them.

        2. Not even a little true. Just look at Cathy Young’s article. Even Glen Fricken’ Beck is making fun of the rape charges.

  15. Just because one group huddles together to agree to protect information as “classified” doesn’t mean a totally different group should give a shit about that protection. To me, it’s a bit like a group of religious people telling atheists they are going to hell. If the first group failed to protect the info, it ain’t the second group that should get punished.
    This whole thing is silly… and I have a TS and work for the guvmint.

    1. I have a TS and work for the guvmint.

      Are you sure?

    2. The FBI just called the Cyber-Police. They are going to find you!

      1. With a Back-Trace!

      2. Wow, that’s almost word for word from the order we got a couple weeks ago saying not to access the wikileaks site. “they are monitoring and they can and will find you”
        As someone who must, I’m all for protecting classified…I’m just not all that worked up about Assange himself. If he was a US citizen, I might have stronger feelings and if he actually stole the info from siprnet himself I’d have even stronger feelings. But a foreigner who sought to get his hands on US classified??? He’s part of a pretty big club.

  16. By focusing on Assange, the government is diverting attention from the real problem. We have PFCs with deep emotional problems, who have been given top secret clearances. It’s like Jack D. Ripper, without access to nukes of course. Americans are pussies. Step 1, elect people who will have the balls to ensure that the silly stuff in these leaks are not classified. Step 2, kill the pieces of shit that leak the materials that are rightfully classified.

    Since step 1 has been a total failure, it seems a little icky to start with step 2. As you all know from my past posts, I would anyway.

  17. Still wondering when the press is going to realize that if Assange can be prosecuted, so can anyone who works for any publication that ran a story discussing any of the WikiLeaks material.

    There is no principled distinction between WikiLeaks posting “secret” diplocable X, and the NYT quoting “secret” diplocable X.

    1. Yep, exactly. I suspect this is the genesis of the “is Assange really a journalist?” crap in the first place.

      They’re scrambling to find a way to differentiate their Fine News Organizations from a quasi-anarchist creep, and they have none.

    2. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking, especially on the occasion when I watch Faux News (sometimes for laughs, sometimes just to ogle the girlies in short skirts who are trying to pretend to be journalists) and hear some chickenhawk chickenshit yammer “…wikileaks cable blah blah blah proves that Iran is yada yada yada…On To Tehran!” (Oh, you mean that cable that is still classified as Secret Noforn? Didn’t you just say we’re in a war, and revealing secrets in a time of war calls for instant death? Hello? Bueller? Bueller?)

      1. Good boy, now get over here and lick my balls!

  18. “In spite of the law’s sweeping language, it has almost always been applied to government employees who leak information, as opposed to people who receive it and pass it on.”

    Doesn’t matter. The law only requires prosecutors to prove that the defendant came into unauthorized possession of sensitive intelligence and meant to cause harm to the nation.

    And what the hell does free speech have to do with anything? He’s not even an american citizen.

    1. So when your friend from Canada comes to visit and announces “the US government is a bunch of fascist assholes!” (it’s just an example, work with me) he can be locked up since free speech doesn’t apply? Then held indefinitely without trial? Since apparently no rights apply to him as a non-American. Think.

      1. Yeah, there’s no difference between publishing a list of high value infrastructure that must be protected from terrorists at all costs and saying the government is run by a bunch of arseholes. How fucking dumb are you? And I thought the left had a monopoly on self-delusion; you libertarians seem to have a penchant for it too.

        1. Yes, because actual “terrorists” are known to hit mostly strategic targets, and most people on this website won’t call politicians a bunch of arseholes.

          1. -[, and most people on this website won’t call politicians a bunch of arseholes.]

            + [.]

            I love it when I mess up sarcastic remarks by misreading.

        2. Idiot. The point is that the right to free speech is applicable whether someone is a citizen or not.

          But since you bring it up, other than in scale, how is what Wikileaks did any different than a Bob Woodward book? Or any old investigative reporter. In fact, since they actively seek leaks from specific sources, they should be more culpable, no? Hell, the government leaks security and defense information all the time to influence the conversation, but that’s ok because they’re the ones who decide what we can handle knowing? And although they suck on taxes and healthcare, they are completely benevolent and have our country’s best interests at heart always when it comes to security or defense and we should simply defer. Do you not see the inconsistency in that position?

          1. Since the Constitution restricts the GOVERNMENT, and it is by such restriction that our rights are protected, I would argue that the US government is restrained by that document WHEREVER it operates in the world. If the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law … abridging freedom of speech or of the press…” then I take that to mean that the Congress can’t pass a law that has the effect of abridging freedom of speech or press in Africa, Asia, Europe, or ANYWHERE, not just the US. Of course, I suppose this was not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution because the founders would not have expected our government to be so brazen as to try to exert that kind of control other countries. The whole “we can do whatever we want because we aren’t on US soil” rationalization is crap. One might make an exception during the prosecution of a war, I suppose, but that would only be the exception that proved the rule. And if Congress wants to use that exception, they had better get busy and start declaring war. The “authorization of force war footing” approach is also crap.

    2. And what the hell does free speech have to do with anything? He’s not even an american citizen.

      “Congress shall make no law…”

      Freedom of speech is a restriction on the government, not a right granted to people from on high. Citizenship has nothing to do with it.

      1. The US government is also required to give due process before it removes life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. A lot of people have a problem with that so they want to water down due process.

        People that argue that foreigners have no rights under the Constitution don’t understand the Constitution because many of those rights are not really rights but restrictions on the government. That in and of it’s self does not require citizenship.

  19. His critics disagree. “WikiLeaks is not a news organization,” writes Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen. “It is a criminal enterprise. Its reason for existence is to obtain classified national security information and disseminate it as widely as possible… These actions are likely a violation of the Espionage Act, and they arguably constitute material support for terrorism.”

    There is a circular quality to this argument: Assange is not a journalist because he’s a criminal, and he’s a criminal because he’s not a journalist. But for constitutional purposes, it does not matter whether Marc Thiessen, Attorney General Eric Holder, or anyone else considers Assange a journalist.

    “For the tyrant, any excuse is sufficient” – Aesop, the tale of the wolf and the lamb.

    1. His critics are pissed off that they didn’t get to leak the material.

      Which would have been in the best tradition of “the public’s right to know” journalism.

  20. We can trust politicians like Hillary Clinton and all of our high level Government Bureaucrats to make decisions for us in the public’s best interest in total secrecy with no accountability. Any journalist who discloses this information is a terrorist and must be liquidated without trial.

    Government Agents are all highly competent, just like the heroes we see portrayed on television and in the movies.

  21. Because he solicited US classified documents, made and overt action to further his conspiracy with “Bradass87” to steal the classified documents. It does not and should not matter if the conspirators are US citizens or not to be guilty of that act.

    There’s a slight jurisdictional problem here. He is not a US citizen, and has never set foot on US soil. He is not subject to US law.

    For example, a German citizen who injures an American in a car accident in Germany cannot be sued in US courts, much less indicted for a criminal offense by the US.

    And what the hell does free speech have to do with anything? He’s not even an american citizen.

    The First Amendment prohibits the government from doing anything to infringe on freedom of speech/the press. It doesn’t matter if the infringement is directed at US citizens or not.

    Of course, infringement directed at non-citizens is an invalid ultra vires exercise of power, in any event.

  22. The government could try to avoid First Amendment problems by accusing Assange of conspiring with Pfc. Bradley Manning, the army intelligence analyst who is charged with leaking the Pentagon and State Department documents.

    Which would be quite a stretch, as Assange did not even meet Pvt Manning.

    The idea of prosecuting a person on “conspiracy” charges has always hit me as one of those made-up crimes designed to circumvent the constitution and the protections therein (4th, 5th Amendments and Habeas Corpus.)

    So what if people “conspire” to commit a crime? Why would thinking or talking about committing a crime be a crime in itself? Thoughts cannot or should not be punishable, only evil acts. I may talk to a person about killing a guy I don’t like, but if I don’t actually kill him, then where’s the crime? Where’s the victim?

    1. “”Why would thinking or talking about committing a crime be a crime in itself? Thoughts cannot or should not be punishable, only evil acts.””

      Oh come on, that’s the cornerstone of our anti-terror efforts.

      1. Not to mention our growing list of “hate crime” statutes.

    2. A “speech act” is generally considered outside of the realm of “freedom of speech”. Ordering a wild dog you have trained to kill someone or screaming “Fire” in a crowded theater are clearly actions. Openly coordinating a crime that you intend to be carried out would fit under this. Of course, I might ask if conspiring with others to release truthful information to the public at large is a constitutionally protected right (and function) of the press (ignoring the blatant freedom of speech issue with Bradley Manning).

      1. Not quite. If you order a dog and it does nothing, there is not action, only speech. Similarly if you yell fire in a theater and no one moves, there was no action and no harm. Your examples are not about speech, but the reaction to speech.

        I do not fear the person that yells fire in a theater. I fear the morons that decide to trample people without looking around to see if there is cause to run.

        1. It’s really not a hard step to make. Perhaps you might feel if the volume of the speech was so loud that it stopped your heart and killed you, you might feel this “speech” was an action. What if someone decides to exercise their speech by placing bombs in playgrounds. Is this speech? Maybe there was some political message, and particular bomb that slaughtered the children.

          If I made a serious threat to your life in the manner saying that if you continued to speak on some matter of truth, I would kill your children – is that my right of free speech? Do you have free speech in this situation?

        2. It’s really not a hard step to make. Perhaps you might feel if the volume of the speech was so loud that it stopped your heart and killed you, you might feel this “speech” was an action. What if someone decides to exercise their speech by placing bombs in playgrounds. Is this speech? Maybe there was some political message, and particular bomb that slaughtered the children.

          If I made a serious threat to your life in the manner saying that if you continued to speak on some matter of truth, I would kill your children – is that my right of free speech? Do you have free speech in this situation?

  23. “”There’s a slight jurisdictional problem here.””

    I don’t think they care.

    1. They being our govenment.

  24. Since people here seem to be kidding themselves that Wikileaks was established a few weeks ago for the purpose of leaking government information, what do you think about them leaking thousands of names and addresses a few years ago of people who are members of, or received information from, the BNP?

    To American readers who are unfamiliar with the story, or the BNP, they are a rather whacky traditional socialist party with some rather unsettling ideas. This argument about “government transparency” doesn’t work here: these were private citizens who had their private details released in the hope that they would be intimidated and lose their jobs/reputations (which a few did) just because they were members of the “wrong” political party.

    Do libertarians support this practice? Should every private citizen who the far left considers to have the wrong opinion have there private details published? Why not? IT’S FREEDOM OF SPEECH, BITCH!

    According to the Daily Hellograph this was one of Wikileaks greatest “stories” – note how they boast about people losing jobs; seems more like a thuggish witch hunt than a story. Just step back and look at what you’re supporting here people.

    1. “”Just step back and look at what you’re supporting here people.””

      Distasteful free speech?

      But again the problem wouldn’t be wikileaks, the person that gave the information to them and how that person obtained the information is the problem.

      1. Publishing private details of people who that the left believes have the wrong views is an example of “distasteful free speech”? No it isn’t; it’s the kind of behavior we’d expect to see in a police state. In a free country people have a right to privacy, violating that right is a crime not an expression of free speech.

        And stop with this ridiculous aversion that Wikileaks are just passing the data on and are completely innocent. If somebody passes a stolen item on to you and you know for a fact that it’s stolen when the police come for you after you sell it on eBay you can’t say “well he stole it!” It doesn’t work that way and you know it.

        People who call themselves libertarians supporting this far left extremist who seeks to destroy the values you claim you love is just as mindblowing as far leftists who claim they support women’s and gay rights while standing up for people who hang women for showing their hair (and rape them if they’re virgins) and hang gay people because they’re gay.

        And if you believe that violating privacy is an act of free speech then Ayn Rand was right: libertarians are not supporters of individual rights, they are amoral whim worshipers who believe that anything goes. If I wanna do then I’ll do it! If somebody gets killed in the process then that’s too fucking bad! Despicable.

        1. Far Left Extremists should never be allowed to publish anything! their agenda is obvious!

        2. “”In a free country people have a right to privacy, violating that right is a crime not an expression of free speech.””

          Wait, I thought we were talking about England, land of a million cameras, databases, ect. What privacy law was broken? And again I must point out that if there is a problem here, it’s not the one repeating the message, it’s the one that stole the information.

          “”If somebody passes a stolen item on to you and you know for a fact that it’s stolen when the police come for you after you sell it on eBay you can’t say “well he stole it!” It doesn’t work that way and you know it.””

          Speech is not property, that analogy fails big time.

          1. Don’t repeat it please; I’ve heard it a million times: Wikileaks are innocent because they merely handle stolen goods, they don’t do the stealing. Have you fooled yourself that’s true now you’ve said it for the millionth time?

            And what does the government’s obsession with CCTV cameras have to do with the right of a private citizen to join a political party? Libertarians just luuuuurve private freedom don’t they? Or is a violation of a person’s rights perfectly OK when a private organization does it? What if the Labour party had released that list on a government website? Would you support it then?

            1. “”And what does the government’s obsession with CCTV cameras have to do with the right of a private citizen to join a political party?””

              It doesn’t, but it does say much about the right to privacy.

              1. This is the double standard that turns me against libertarians: it’s wrong when the government violates our rights, but it’s fine when anybody EXCEPT government does it. Let’s take all the evils of a totalitarian government: eradication of privacy and the right to one’s own opinions, persecution of people for disagreeing with the establishment and let’s move that thuggish behavior into the private sector. No. No. No.

                1. “”This is the double standard that turns me against libertarians: it’s wrong when the government violates our rights, but it’s fine when anybody EXCEPT government does it.””

                  I would agree with that, if it were true. The subject is far more complex than shouting rights have been violated.

        3. Publishing private details of people who that the left believes have the wrong views is an example of “distasteful free speech”? No it isn’t; it’s the kind of behavior we’d expect to see in a police state. In a free country people have a right to privacy, violating that right is a crime not an expression of free speech.

          And stop with this ridiculous aversion that Wikileaks are just passing the data on and are completely innocent. If somebody passes a stolen item on to you and you know for a fact that it’s stolen when the police come for you after you sell it on eBay you can’t say “well he stole it!” It doesn’t work that way and you know it.

          But you ignore the muddy mess of “public” vs. “private”. Government documents aren’t the same as “private property”. Every step taken to produce these documents was created through the taking of private property (taxation) of the citizenry, under the nonsensical premise that it is for the “good of the people”. If they justify government through the “consent of the governed”, then how does one “steal” materials that we bought and paid for? And how does one know what is being done with their money, by those who claim to be working for our benefit, if they are allowed to eternally claim they are “classified”?

          People who call themselves libertarians supporting this far left extremist who seeks to destroy the values you claim you love is just as mindblowing as far leftists who claim they support women’s and gay rights while standing up for people who hang women for showing their hair (and rape them if they’re virgins) and hang gay people because they’re gay.

          And if you believe that violating privacy is an act of free speech then Ayn Rand was right: libertarians are not supporters of individual rights, they are amoral whim worshipers who believe that anything goes. If I wanna do then I’ll do it! If somebody gets killed in the process then that’s too fucking bad! Despicable.

          While I admire Rand’s works, she was a despicable person in life.

          The government recently revealed that their investigations showed over 80+% of explosive devices and banned items were able to pass TSA security measures. Doesn’t this information incentivize terrorists to attack? If an attack occurs, will the government be culpable for giving “aid” to terrorists by releasing such information?

          1. With respects to your last paragraph, it was recently in the news that we were going to send more spec ops into Pakistan, which gave the Taliban a heads up to our future operations. Few seem to have a problem with the release of that information.

            1. were should be are.

          2. Hey Buddy! You can’t say that about Ayn Rand! She’s our leader!

          3. “While I admire Rand’s works, she was a despicable person in life.”

            You admire her works? Like this or this?

            1. “While I admire Rand’s works, she was a despicable person in life.”

              You admire her works? Like this or this?

              I didn’t say I regarded all of her thoughts as sacrosanct, merely that I admired what she did. I disagree with her on various issues, such as her hypocritical support of theft and force when it suited her. Her arguments from “On the Nature of Government” are not impressive and fall into absurdity. Government’s “powers” are properly an extension of the individual’s rights, so the idea that individuals should not be free to act for their self-defense is poor logic.

              Her hatred of libertarianism because it didn’t demand a “rational” Objectivist type philosophy was a low point.

        4. Stealing an item does not equal copying files.

          What does left or right have to do with free speech? What does left or right have to do with women’s and gay rights? What does left or right have to do with being anti-racist?

          You’re a rambler.

        5. There are laws against slander, libel, and intimidation. “Free speech” doesn’t mean you are shielded from or absolved of the natural consequences of your speech. It just means that you can say what you aim to say without government censorship. If the consequences of your speech are that people are harmed or their property damaged, you may fairly be called to answer for that harm or damage. But the other side must prove that they incurred real damage and that your speech was either the credible cause of the damage, or significantly aggravated it. To be criminally liable, I believe the prosecution would have to show that you foresaw and intended the bad consequences, and spoke in hopes that harm would result. Given “free speech,” however, the mere act of speaking or publishing, regardless of how objectionable the material may be, is not punishable.

    2. Anyone who would leak information about the British National Party is a terrorist, and must be dealt with accordingly!

      1. Look I don’t care for the BNP anymore than I care for Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the etc… but you know perfectly well the difference between leaking information “about” the BNP and leaking a long list of names and addresses of private citizens who happened to support them or be interested in them. Anybody here who supports that can only be called an anarchist, an anything-goes whim worshiper who has no right to claim they support individual rights. Privacy is the key individual right. You’re all a bunch of fucking phonies.

        1. Privacy is the key individual right.

          Three people can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

          You want to keep your info private? Dont fucking give it to anyone, ever.

          Want to give money to the BNP and keep your privacy? Donate it anonymously. What, the British government has laws against that? Well, then we see where the problem lies, and it isnt with wikileaks.

          1. Fuck off! Give money to people who hate capitalism just as much as Assflange! But I still believe everybody has a right to their privacy. Anybody here who claims otherwise clearly has no understanding of individual rights. And maybe I should quote Ayn… no. There’s no point.

            “You want to keep your info private? Dont[sic] fucking give it to anyone, ever.”

            Yep, that’s what living in a free country is all about! Long live liberty!

            Incidentally what do people here think about Flange’s hissy fit about the Guardian… LEAKING private information about him? Eye row neeeeey!

            1. “”I still believe everybody has a right to their privacy. Anybody here who claims otherwise clearly has no understanding of individual rights.””

              I’m pretty sure robc’s point is that if one understand the concept of privacy, they will not trust other people to keep it that way.

              1. Or more commonly, they will have a contractual basis upon which it can not be revealed. It’s not that you can’t trust anybody or do anything, only that those to who give out info without contract have no expectation of privacy (or at minimum retribution via violation of contract).

        2. We can trust the Federal government, the Obama administration and Homeland Security to respect our key individual right to privacy!

        3. “”Privacy is the key individual right.””

          Let’s assume that’s true. Then the person who takes the information is the one violating that right, right?

          You are an example of an earlier point. If you are really concerned for the privacy issue, you would spend more time talking about what PFC Manning did, and what the US government didn’t do to protect what they are claiming to be secrets.

          1. So if I’m a victim of hacking then I should be prosecuted for not installing a decent firewall? I guess blaming the victim is the only reasonable thing to do, huh?

            1. Don’t be stupid, the person who actually stole your information should be the one prosecuted. That’s the point I’ve been trying to get you to understand.

            2. Also, the person who stole it should be responsible if that information is then published by a third party. Don’t shoot the messegener, shoot the thief.

              1. Sorry that doesn’t wash. If I sold goods that a burglar passed on to me (assuming I knew he was a burglar) I couldn’t use the “third party” excuse. I would be an accessory to that crime and would rightly be prosecuted.

                What’s fantastically ironic about that whole BNP farce is that the man who originally leaked the list did so because the party was no longer racist enough! The BNP were cleaning up their image to suck in more mainstream voters and the true Nazis at the top got off shit free and the innocent people who wanted to listen to the party got their names plastered over the internet. What’s even more ironic is that it was a massive propaganda victory for the BNP. Say whatever you like about this country (and people on “Reason” mag’s blog have said some pretty nasty things in the past) but we’re damn tolerant people, and most of the country was just as disgusted as I was and they won the sympathy vote (and a few seats in parliament). People have a right to privacy whether we agree with them or not.

                On a funnier note now the BNP was forced to let in non-whites the press can no longer criticize them… because it’s racist. Criticizing the BNP is racist. I wonder sometimes if this whole planet is not merely a dark comedy show run by aliens with a sick sense of humour.

                1. Goods are not speech.

                  1. Why not? Ever heard of intellectual property? And let’s go for the most extreme example possible: forget people with the wrong political views, forget embarrassing cables, what if Assange somehow got ahold of the details designed plans of a nuclear weapon or a gas centrifuge would he be allowed to publish them by saying “it was an employee at AWE/URENCO who stole those plans, all I did was use my credentials as a professional attention whore to make sure the whole world found out that they had been leaked!” Would that be protected by freedom of speech laws?

                    I’m terrified of the answer I’ll receive. Like I was the last time I asked that question.

                    1. “”Ever heard of intellectual property?””

                      You bet I have, and I defend it. I’ve also heard of fair use. If Assange is brought up on copyright infringement charges, we can debate the merits, or lack thereof then.

                    2. Why not? Ever heard of intellectual property?

                      Yes, and not everyone agrees with this concept. But even so, these documents, from my understanding, don’t fall into “intellectual property”.

                      And let’s go for the most extreme example possible: forget people with the wrong political views, forget embarrassing cables, what if Assange somehow got ahold of the details designed plans of a nuclear weapon or a gas centrifuge would he be allowed to publish them by saying “it was an employee at AWE/URENCO who stole those plans, all I did was use my credentials as a professional attention whore to make sure the whole world found out that they had been leaked!” Would that be protected by freedom of speech laws?

                      I’m terrified of the answer I’ll receive. Like I was the last time I asked that question.

                      Does freedom of speech protect government officials who give or sell secrets to foreign governments, say like when the Clinton administration gave nuclear secrets to the Chinese?

                2. “”People have a right to privacy whether we agree with them or not.””

                  Assuming that’s true, a state cannot prosecution someone for that which is unwritten in law. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge that rights not written into law can and will be ignored by law. It’s not that the right doesn’t exist per se, it’s just not protected under law. When you want to prosecute someone for violating a privacy law, or right, you must reference where on the written page the law/right exists. Simply going into court and yelling you violated my rights will not do.

                  1. “People have a right to privacy whether we agree with them or not. Assuming that’s true.”

                    With libertarians like this who needs statists?

                    1. Well in the real world the right to privacy isn’t cut and dry. I understand the difference between in theory and in practice.

                    2. “Well in the real world the right to privacy isn’t cut and dry.”

                      And the right to one’s own earnings is not cut and dry? I guess we should tax, tax, tax! Or is that double standard going to come back and haunt us: violation of rights by the government? BAD. The exact same action from anybody except government? GOOD. Or at least justifiable.

                      Well I don’t believe there are double standards in morality. If it’s wrong for one man to do it it’s wrong for all.

                    3. “”Well I don’t believe there are double standards in morality. If it’s wrong for one man to do it it’s wrong for all.””

                      Fine, but keep in mind standards of morality and standards of law are two different things. I can’t lock you up for a moral issue unless it’s codified into law.

                    4. So law should be based upon whim and opinion not morality? We certainly need a country of men, not laws, right?

                    5. And the right to one’s own earnings is not cut and dry? I guess we should tax, tax, tax! Or is that double standard going to come back and haunt us: violation of rights by the government? BAD. The exact same action from anybody except government? GOOD. Or at least justifiable.

                      Well I don’t believe there are double standards in morality. If it’s wrong for one man to do it it’s wrong for all.

                      It’s ironic that you are defending an institution that DOES believe that “the right to one’s own earnings is not cut and dry”, and uses this very plunder to act and document its actions that you are so concerned with keeping private.

                      Is one’s earnings his by right? If it is, then you undercut the concept of taxation, the lifeblood of the state. What say you?

                    6. Which is why I say if a society is really interested in privacy as a right, it will make sure it is written into law.

                      Not that it matters in the debate of the origin of rights, but in the acknowledgement that it matters in a court of law.

                    7. So I take it Assange should be taken to court for violating everything from a private citizen’s right to their opinion to the names of informants who helped Coalition forces to high values infrastructure that needs to be protected? Something tells me you’ll say no.

                    8. Well if Assange broke any laws within US jurisdiction, then he can be charged. I’ve seen nothing that says was in US jurisdiction. Other than that I point to my below post from earlier.

                      If what he did broke the laws of the land where he did it, he could face charges there.

                    9. But if you are really concerned for coalition forces, you could ask why did the US government just give the heads up to the Taliban that we plan to move more forces into their Pakistan safehavens. Best I can tell so far, that will have a greater impact on our strategy than anything Assange has done.

                    10. Political considerations of course. If the US military did what it should do: curbstomp these arseholes until every last one of them was dead people like you would cry bloody murder. But I agree: when you are facing off against people who wish to kill you it’s kill or be killed. I know what I prefer. Anyway I’m bored of arguing with you nutters. Good night.

                    11. Blame Game, I’d say the primary failure of your argument is the assumption that public employees funded by taxpayers should have an expectation of privacy while on the job. We are their bosses, and they report to us because they are purported to speak and act for us. Much of the information would have eventually been accessible through the Freedom of Information Act anyway, thus proving that government employees should not assume perpetual privacy for anything marked less than “top secret”.

                      Even if your assumption was true that public employees have unimpeachable privacy rights on the job, until they treat our own expectations of privacy with similarly unimpeachable respect, I will have none for theirs. The constant violation of our own privacy by government combined with the terrible track record of government abuse, corruption and incompetence makes me beyond unsympathetic to the point where I believe Obama, Hillary, Bernanke, and every senator, cabinet member and representative’s email should be read-only accessible to the entire public, and their every on-the-job conversation (as well as that of their staff) should be recorded and streamed online. Perhaps such surveillance by the public will make them think twice the next time they propose a Patriot Act-styled law.

                    12. Bored? Or tired from throwing out all those red herrings?

                    13. It’s unclear to me how you made him quit. It seemed like the rambling was never going to end.

                3. The BNP have no seats in Parliament, you fucking idiot.

        4. Clearly you have a perfect understanding of the philosophy of anarchism.

          1. I find it suspicious that “Blame Game” is so sore about what happened to the BNP. Why isn’t he bothered about what Assange did to Scientology?

    3. Governments are not people. People may indeed have a right to privacy and certainly may have an actionable case against those who violate it but GOVERNMENTS are not PEOPLE.

  25. A question I have yet to see anyone ask is where was Assange when he published the infromation and what are the laws of that land. The 1st amendment issue only applies to the actions of our government. If what he did broke the laws of the land where he did it, he could face charges there.

  26. To expound a bit on Suki’s argument: What if Assange received stolen cars? He didn’t steal them, but they’re stolen goods.
    Possession or dissemination of classified information is a crime. Prosecute him. It doesn’t matter if he is a journalist or not. The U.S. Justice Department wouldn’t be seeking prior restraint. And it doesn’t matter how some “low-level” intel guy with emotional problems got his sweaty hands on these electronic docs.
    Prosecute Assange and throw him into the cell next to Bradley Manning.

    JZ
    Columbus, GA

    1. “”What if Assange received stolen cars? He didn’t steal them, but they’re stolen goods.””

      Speech is not property. That analogy fails.

    2. I ‘bleve yer arguin’ to an irrelevant conclusion son.

      Red
      Bum Fuck, AR

  27. Possession or dissemination of classified information is a crime. Prosecute him.

    You can’t prosecute somebody who you have no jurisdiction over.

    To repeat: if a German citizen injures an American in a car accident on German soil, or hell, guns him down, hangs the body, and sets it on fire, all on German soil, he has committed no crime under US laws and cannot be prosecuted in the US courts.

    No. Jurisdiction.

    1. Unfortunately it may depend on the American citizen.

  28. Have Obama administration supporters connected the dots on this whole wikileaks issue thing?

    1. They are waiting for the Government to issue free crayons.

  29. I gotta tell ya, Assange may live up to the first three letters of his name, but I can’t blame him for seeking all the attention and publicity he can possibly get. Were he not a global celebrity/attention seeker, he would’ve already been literally underground months ago. Now if he dies, he’ll be a martyr to half the world. The anti-Wikileaks people obviously aren’t thinking about unintended consequences.

    1. I have to admire his enthusiasm. I long ago gave up on the idea that I could make a difference by championing a cause.

  30. I think it would be funny if Assange ended up in Italy and the Italians said they would trade him for the CIA officers that kidnapped their citizen, or no dice.

  31. Assange is at very least a publisher of newsworthy information. That may not make him a “journalist,” according to some definitions of the term, but he is definitely a member of “the press” for First Amendment purposes.

    1. Is WL not a non-profit media organisation?

  32. This is absurd – He does, or more accurately, wikileaks, do what any journalist does- This is hypocritical beyond belief- The reaction of the US who purport to be promoters of freedom and freedom of speech.
    Isn’t this just so amusing

    “U.S. to Host World Press Freedom Day in 2011”
    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/…..152465.htm

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA sob sob the sound of hysterical laughing weeping as I rend my clothes in despair at the grotesque phoniness of the whole thing. Crazy thought I know, instead of this melodramatic scapegoating- all those embarrassed and exposed, could just own up -behave like adults-and live up to the responsibilities inherent in the positions they seek to fill. Or resign

  33. What difference does it make if hes a journalist or not…the news if filled w/ people everyday with jouralistic credentials. But for the most part jouralists seem little more than spokesman regurgiating what they are told to say/ actors/ and mouthpieces for/with agendas. Personally Id prefer just the facts and be allowed to make my own calls rather than be told what to think. Its funny that so many will make fun of FOX (as do I )-but through my eyes, its all the same. Many times Ive called the news/paper, to question why a story they ran was so incomplete, short of details, obviously very biased, and very seldom a follow up to complete the story. The standardized reply Ive been given has been that “they are not allowed to/ that they did not know/ and that they are already told what to report” So why? and who? is making these calls…? Not once has anyone been able or willing to tell me.

    1. Never read Chomsky/Herman’s Manufacturing Consent? There are plenty of other books about this subject too.

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  35. “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to become member of Australian journalists’ union ”

    http://www.news.com.au/breakin…..z18rnGqu1Y

    1. This would probably grind a few gears.

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