Julian ASSange (thank you Jeff, for this brilliance) wants transparency in governments. Understandable. A lot of people want to know what goes on behind the closed doors with the politicians they (sometimes) elected into office. But his method? WikiLeaks? No wonder my friend Jeff calls him ASSange.
Assange is correct in that there is no law in the United States on the publishing of classified material, which is a loop hole I think needs to be addressed. Freedom of speech, sure. But there’s a reason it’s got that large red TOP SECRET stamp on it. The classification should negate freedom of speech, especially when it deals with national security. Side note, I remember in high school some kid saying “the American people should know everything the CIA knows.” Funny thought. Do you realize what would happen if every American knew what the CIA, NSA, FBI and God knows what other supposedly non-existant black ops group there is? We’d all be living under ground hoping we weren’t going to die. I know nothing of what they know except I’m glad they know it and I don’t. I like being blissfully ignorant and having my tax dollars go to people who live under stress every day because they keep us safe.
Back to our regular program. Assange won’t give up his sources names. Understandable considering 1) they would be arrested and tried for treason and 2) he’d lose his source. The law of disseminating classified material applies to the source, not the publisher. Assange, however, states in his 60 Minutes interview (click here to view it) that “you don’t try the publisher. That’s a violation of the 1st amendment right of the United States, Freedom of Speech. It’s just not done. So we played inside the rules.”
Correction Mr. Assange, it has been done. And the plaintiff has won. In 1993, there was a triple homicide in Montgomery County, MD. The murder used the book “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors” published by Paladin Press as his guide. The family of the victims eventually sued Paladin Press on the charge of “aiding and abetting.” The publisher did publish the manual that was used in the murders. Though settled outside of court, Paladin Press conceded and paid the family. This case set a precedent for first amendment lawsuits. They can be won and they can be lost.
In the case of Mr. Assange, no, we can’t extradite him and try him for publishing classified material, though I wish we could. Whistleblower or not, transparency or not, he’s not a matyr or a journalism saint. He threatens national security. And the thing about lawsuits, it depends on the interpretation of the law and the jury. Who knows what would happen.
Would I classify him as a terrorist? No. He doesn’t fit this definition: the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear. Though he’s severely effing up international relations. You know how your mom says, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” And the whole, “you’re all thinking it, I’m just saying it.” Well, we’re all thinking it, Assange is publishing it.
Click on the links for background and other opinions (i.e, ones that think the Hit Man case couldn’t hold up in a 1st Amendment battle…since the case was settled outside of court)
- Society of Professional Journalists (something Assange isn’t apart of)
- First Amendment Center
- Summary of events