By: +David Herron; Date: May 22, 2019
When Assange was arrested in April (see Wikileaks founder Assange arrested, not charged in leaking Clinton emails during 2016 campaign), the initial charge was about "jumping bail" over a case in Sweden over a rape accusation. The USA then unsealed an indictment containing a single charge concerning Assange conspiring with Bradly Manning (now known as Chelsea Manning) to hack into top secret USA government computers to download the documents that were ultimately posted to Wikileaks. Those documents were incident reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a huge cache of top secret State Department cables during the Hillary Clinton years at State.
What was understood at the time is - when a Journalist publishes stolen documents, the Journalist is not legally responsible for the fact those documents are stolen. The person who stole the documents is responsible for the crime of stealing documents, the Journalist is not responsible for that crime. EXCEPT - in this case it is accused that Assange assisted with the theft of the documents, and is therefore responsible for that crime.
Bradly Manning (now known as Chelsea Manning) has spent jail time related to that theft.
The NY Times is reporting that Assange now faces 17 new under the Espionage Act. The charges are still about the 2010 publishing of the aforementioned documents.
The NY Times says no Journalist has ever been charged under the Espionage Act, and that this should be seen as an attempt to undermine the protections Journalists have under the First Amendment. But the NY Times does not explain further what that means.
The NY Times claims that what Assange did in his work with Wikileaks -- seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources -- is not significantly different from what regular news organizations like the NY Times does.
But in the Mueller Report concerning Russia's influence on the 2016 election season it is clear that Assange was not using Wikileaks as a pure journalistic enterprise. Instead, Assange eagerly sought out opportunities to damage the Clinton Campaign. Assange stopped being a Journalist, and has been acting as a Partisan with a political goal to achieve.
I think it is short-sighted of the NY Times to again claim that Assange is a Journalist.
An earlier NY Times report does explain further why the filing of Espionage Act charges might be chilling to Journalists.
According to the NY Times, the indictments treat "everyday journalistic practices" as as if they were part of "a criminal conspiracy." That is, any Journalist will take measures to communicate securely with their sources, and protect their sources activities, and collaborate to some degree with the sources on the release of the materials.
The DoJ is, then, treating that "everyday" activity as a conspiracy to commit a crime.
According to the NY Times: "... a 2001 Supreme Court ruling held that the First Amendment did not permit prosecutors to charge people with crimes for publishing or broadcasting information so long as they broke no law in acquiring it — even if their sources had done something illegal to obtain it."
The Espionage Act is concerned with disclosure of national secrets to folks not authorized to receive those secrets.
Anytime a Journalist publishes government secrets they in theory could be charged under the Espionage Act. However Journalists have protection under the First Amendment that the Government has never tested in court.
The 8000 pound bear - Assange conspiracy with Russia and the Trump Campaign over Clinton e-mails
We have to again call out the missing indictment.
It is clear from the Mueller Report that Assange was communicating with both officials in the Trump Campaign, and with Russian GRU Agents, over publishing e-mails stolen from the Clinton Campaign. It was a three-way conspiracy in which GRU Agents stole the emails, and then there were negotiations between the conspirators on the timing of publishing the emails.
Why isn't Assange being charged with his role in this conspiracy?
Oh - wait - the Commander In Chief keeps claiming No Collusion No Crime.