By Theodore Shoebat
The Justice Department has charged Julian Assange with conspiracy to break into a computer that contained classified information. If he is found guilty for this, he could face up to five years in prison. But the Justice Department is also going after him for receiving and publishing information considered to be classified. But this is something that many journalist do and don’t get into trouble for. Receiving leaked government information is standard in the journalism world; an anonymous insider releases data not meant for the public to a journalist or a news agency and articles on the information are published and the public is informed. This type of activity is central to journalism; everything else is just repeating what is already out in the open. Receiving and publishing leaked information is what makes journalism so important and is requisite for an informed society.
the indictment against Assange states that he “repeatedly sought, obtained, and disseminated information that the United States classified” as secret. But obtaining and spreading classified information is what journalists do all the time. What is disturbing is how this is being done under Trump who has repeatedly called the media an enemy of the people. For example, in April of 2019 he wrote on Twitter:
The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs. They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
In May of 2019, Trump said the same thing:
The Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE. For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion. They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!
In February of 2019 Trump called the New York Times an enemy of the people:
This same administration which has incessantly attacked the press (especially with the term “fake news”) is now attacking a major source for journalists who write on government corruption and military abuses. The Obama administration did not indict Assange because it could not be done without criminalizing common journalistic practices. But the administration of Trump — who has been praised as a savior against “the Left” — is now indicting Assange.
Its possible that the charges will not work against Assange.
There was a case similar to Assange’s that took place back in the 2006, The United States vs. Lawrence Anthony Franklin, Steven J. Rosen, Keith Weissman. The prosecutors in this case were in Alexandria, Virginia (which, quite interestingly, is the same district that is now charging Assange). Franklin was a Pentagon official who informed Rosen and Weissman, both political analysts for th American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, about classified information. For this, all three of them were charged under the 1917 Espionage Act forbidding the “communication of national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it.”
Although what took place here was nothing unusual and was quite common in Washington, Franklin was found guilty of violating his oath to keep secrets classified. Rosen and Weissman were indicted for merely receiving the information. Franklin was sentenced to 13 years in prison, but his sentence was later reduced to 10 months house arrest, while Rosen and Weissman got no sentencing since they simply received information. If receiving such information is a criminal act, then all the people reading the leaked classified information in articles written by the journalists who obtained the information are also guilty. As Fred Kaplan writes: “Had the Franklin indictment passed muster, and had its logic been extended, people who simply read the subsequent articles (‘persons not entitled to receive it’) could have been indicted under the act.”
If the judge views Assange’s case assiduously with the Franklin case in mind, then its possible that really nothing will happen to Assange. It looks like the only thing they can get Assange on is hacking, and not merely receiving information. As Kaplan writes:
Whether Assange will get the same break is hard to say, but certainly he should. His single-count indictment last month was a different matter: It accused him of helping a source with a Top Secret clearance—Chelsea Manning, then an Army private—crack the code of a computer containing classified information. This sort of activity is not protected by the First Amendment, and any journalist who gets caught going that far in pursuit of a scoop would also face jail time.
But what did Assange release? Probably the most famous thing that Wikileaks ever revealed was a video showing American soldiers killing staff members of Reuters, firing on civilians and even children:
If it was a crime to release this footage, then what is being attacked in this case is not hacking, but the exposing of corruptions that need to be exposed. The attack on Julian Assange by the Trump administration is an attack on the act of shedding light upon the darkness of the military industrial complex.
Now that Assange has been arrested and indicted, journalists have been raided and arrested in Australia. As Joe Lauria reports:
Following the arrest and Espionage Act indictment of Julian Assange a number of police actions against journalists for publishing classified information and other journalistic activity has heightened fears among mainstream journalists that they could be next.
Police in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday raided the offices of the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, copying thousands of files related to a 2017 ABC broadcast that revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
Three Australian Federal Police officers and three police technicians entered ABC’s Sydney headquarters with a search warrant that named two ABC investigative journalists and the network’s news director. The police demanded to look through the journalists’ emails, ABC reported.
David Anderson, the ABC managing director, said it was “highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way”.
“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defence matters,” he said. “The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest.”
Lyons said the federal police were going through dozens of emails with the authority to delete or even change their content. Protagonist Winston Smith’s job in Orwell’s 1984 was to rewrite news archives.
“I recall writing ages ago about Australian legislation giving the Australian govt power to ‘add, alter or delete’ targeted material,” Australian psychologist and social critic Lissa Johnson told Consortium News. “The msm barely batted an eyelid at the time. Now that power is being wielded against the ABC.”
Gaven Morris, ABC’s news director, said: “Journalism is not a crime.”
“Our journalists do a really difficult job, I’m proud of what they do, they do it in the public’s interest,” he said. “I’d say to all the journalists at the ABC and all the journalists across Australia, don’t be afraid of the job you do.”
Marcus Strom, president of Australia’s journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, called the raid “disturbing.”
“It should chill the public as well as journalists,” he said. “These raids are all about intimidating journalists and intimidating whistle blowers so that mistakes made by the Government, including potential crimes, by the military, remain covered up, remain secret, and don’t fall in to the public domain.”
On Tuesday morning in an unrelated case, Canberra police entered the home of the political editor of the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph. “Journalist Annika Smethurst opened her front door to find seven AFP officers waiting for her. All because she dared to do her job and keep the nation informed on what its government was doing,” the Telegraph said in an editorial.
Ironically, the Smethhurst article in April 2018 that raised the ire of the government “revealed the departments of Defence and Home Affairs were considering new powers allowing Australians to be monitored for the first time,” The Telegraph reported. “Her original article included images of top secret letters between Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo and Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty.”
If the attacks on journalism continues and this policy intensifies, this could very expand into more dangerous consequences. Imagine if a number of Western countries go under horrifically fascist type regimes, how they will apply these types of measures of censorship with so much more brutality, ruthlessness and carnage.