US to Indict Julian Assange
The US is getting ready to indict Julian Assange under the Espionage Act, according to his lawyer.
According to a new ABC news report, the US is about to indict Julian Assange for publishing leaked documents through his WikiLeaks organization.
The news of the imminent indictment comes from Assage’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, who said, “Our position of course is that we don’t believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he’s entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks.”
This is, of course, because as a publisher of leaked information, the Espionage Act does not, in fact, apply to Assange.
US Attorney General Eric Holder has been admittedly trying to find ways to classify Assange’s publishing of the leaked documents as criminal, saying he had “authorized just last week a number of things to be done so that we can hopefully get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable,” and that he was conducting “a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature.”
The reason the Attorney General’s office has to work so hard to define the action as criminal is that it isn’t, and thus requires a lot of creative interpretation. This reality is underscored by a report from the US Congressional Research Service, which says of the Assange case: “We are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it.”
As if this fact needed any more evidence, see exhibit A:
The Pentagon Papers, which leaked classified documents about the US dealings in the Vietnam war, are the only comparable historical reference we have. Ellsberg, a military analyst, leaked the Papers to the ‘New York Times,’ who published them in 1971. The Nixon Administration tried to ban the ‘Times’ from publishing them, but on June 30th the Supreme Court decided the Times could keep publishing freely in the ‘New York Times vs. United States’ decision.
Today, the Pentagon Papers are sold in bookstores and at Amazon.com, which itself denied service to WikiLeaks recently for doing the exact thing that yielded the Pentagon Papers—publishing leaked documents.
Take a look at the Amazon screenshot above. You see the author? It says ‘Department of Defense’ for a reason. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks neither authored nor leaked the classified cables that has the world in uproar—they merely published them.
If the US is going to indict Julian Assange under the Espionage Act, then it must retroactively apply the same standard to the New York Times, Amazon.com and their owners, declaring them criminal entities.
What’s more, Assange is not even a US national. The Congressional Research Service makes clear that the the Espionage Act is for “U.S. nationals who had access to classified data before handing it over to foreign agents,” which is clearly not the case.
Either the grounds for US indictment are disingenuous, or we as a nation are dialing back our commitment to a free press. This, amid the announcement that the US will celebrate World Press Freedom day in 2011.
In the end, the imminent US indictment of Assange smacks of a philosophy of American exceptionalism that simply can’t get used to the 21st century reality we’re no longer assured to rule the schoolyard, and that there are other countries and other foreign nationals who are simply getting the better of us.
Sure, it stings, but the only thing anyone hates more than a bully is a sore loser.