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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What about Siobhan?

A U.S. federal grand jury is reportedly meeting to consider possible criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to a lawyer for Assange, writes Threat Level blog.

The grand jury has met secretly in Alexandria, Virginia, according to Mark Stephens, an attorney for Assange.

Now as I recall, Siobhan Gorman, while working as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, published leaked material on National Security Agency surveillance technology. The leaker was convicted but Gorman, now with the Wall Street Journal, was let be. Gorman participated in getting the documents by agreeing to the transfer via an encrypted email service, Hushmail.

So the issue here is highly selective prosecution, in which officials distinguish among "acceptable" and "unacceptable" news organizations. This amounts to an unconstitutional licensing of the press.

BTW, the original purpose of a grand jury was to screen out bogus and political prosecutions.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated last week that he had authorized “significant” actions in the criminal investigation into WikiLeaks, but would not go into details. The United States could bring charges against Assange under the Espionage Act for disseminating classified U.S. State Department cables and other information.

Or, the Justice Department could bring a conspiracy charge against Assange under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if investigators have evidence that Assange incited or aided someone in obtaining the documents illegally. The latter charge would help prosecutors avoid First Amendment issues that come with charging Assange under the Espionage Act.

The Espionage Act, which dates to 1917, has never been successfully used against a media organization, but this doesn’t mean Assange is in the clear.

Whatever law the Justice Dept. uses against Assange, the First Amendment declares that "Congress shall make no law" abridging freedom of the press or speech, and clearly the idea is to retaliate against him for exercising press freedom.

I found a copy of the "conspiracy" cable on the Guardian (see post below). Here's the page:

It seems there isnt outright censorship, but an attempt to slow people down.

Here is another link. Let me know whether it works.

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