Friday, April 12, 2019

David Ignatius: Does Asange Merit First Amendment Protection As A Journalist?

David Ignatius writes in his Washington Post column about the claim that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (seen in the above photo as he was arrested in London) should be protected under the First Amendment as a journalist.

WASHINGTON -- Is Julian Assange a journalist? The Justice Department sidestepped that question in its indictment of Assange. But his case is still certain to stir a debate about whether the WikiLeaks founder deserves protection under the First Amendment.

Assange was arrested in London Thursday, as U.S. prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing him of conspiring with Chelsea Manning to hack a Pentagon computer in 2010 to obtain secret documents that WikiLeaks hoped to publish.

The indictment skirts First Amendment issues by focusing on Assange's alleged attempt to help Manning crack a password and gain special "administrative-level privileges," an effort that proved unsuccessful. But the underlying "purpose and object of the conspiracy" was "so that WikiLeaks could publicly disseminate the information on its website," prosecutors said.

Assange's supporters describe his arrest and proposed extradition to America as an attack on press freedom. But there's some skepticism about that claim, even from several of the country's most prominent defenders of the First Amendment.

"When you read the indictment, it doesn't look like anything that turns on whether Assange is or is not a journalist," said Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in an interview Thursday. "No newsroom lawyer would tell a reporter it's OK to do what's alleged in the complaint -- to help a source break a password and hack a computer." 

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with David Ignatius (seen in the above photo) about his spy thriller, The Quantum Spy, via the below link: 

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