U.S. Considering Espionage Charges Against Wikileaks Founder

December 1, 2010

The U.S. Justice Department may bring espionage charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.  Attorney General Eric Holder announced that there is an “active,ongoing criminal investigation,” according to the Washington Post.

I don’t know whether or not Holder is serious, but I doubt this prosecution will get very far. Although Mr. Holder has already made it clear that he isn’t troubled by pesky details like the Constitution, courts may be. There will be serious First Amendment implications if criminal charges are brought, particularly regarding our nation’s longstanding respect for the concept of freedom of the press.

Although these documents were “classified”, the State Department distributed them widely, practically ensuring that anyone who wanted to find them wouldn’t have much difficulty doing so. The Best Of The Blogs web site had a great post by Ted McLaughlin yesterday. Mr. McLaughlin wrote:

“Frankly, any government that sends real secrets by cable or electronic transmission in this information age is pretty stupid anyway (and that is something else the people need to know).   I doubt if there’s any established government on earth that can’t access that kind of information, which means the only people these “secrets” are being kept from is the voting public.   The idea that WikiLeaks has been able to access information not available to any interested intelligence service is just ludicrous.”

Bringing an Espionage prosecution here would be particularly ironic, since the documents reveal that the U.S. may have engaged in espionage against United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. According to a 1946 Convention,  United Nations properties or assets “shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation or any other form of interference” by member governments.”

The documents allege that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought password and encryption information for U.N. communications, and details of Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s ” management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat.”

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