GOP Introduces Legislation to Prosecute Julian Assange

Republican Rep. Peter King of New York has introduced legislation that would allow the U.S. to prosecute foreigner Julian Assange and those involved in the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. The legislation is intended to amend the Espionage Act of 1917 – a law considered to be unconstitutional by many in it’s current state. Rep. King and others want to include the publishing of leaked classified documents as espionage.

Technically, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have both violated the espionage act, but the U.S. barely raised a brow in those circumstances, instead focusing their entire effort on hunting down and silencing Assange and company.

Here’s what Rep. King, the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, had to say in introducing the legislation, via Raw Story:

“Julian Assange and his associates who have operated and supported WikiLeaks not only damaged US national security with their releases of classified documents, but also placed at risk countless lives, including those of our Nation’s intelligence sources around the world,” Rep. King, the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. “As international pressure has held back Assange, we now find that his colleagues are planning to spin off a new website called OpenLeaks, dedicated to the same dangerous conduct.”….

“These organizations are a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States,” Rep. King continued. “Julian Assange and his compatriots are enemies of the US and should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. This legislation provides the Attorney General with additional authority to do just that.”

This is the latest move by the U.S. in attempts to silence WikiLeaks and prosecute Julian Assange. Bradley Manning, the U.S. army soldier accused of leaking information to WikiLeaks, is still being held in solitary confinement. The U.S. has been accused by many of torturing Manning.

If the Patriot Act was not enough, then surely this new legislation is. If passed, such an amendment to the current espionage act would leave no journalist or news agency free from the will of the U.S.

The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer discusses why this new bill, and the Espionage Act in general, are both so problematic.

If WikiLeaks is prosecuted under the Espionage Act as it currentlyexists, then no journalistic institution or entity is safe. The idea that anytime that a journalist obtains a document that has “information related to the national defense” that could be used “to the injury of the United States” they could be subject to prosecution would destroy national-security journalism as it currently exists. Also frightening is the reality that government officials looking to skew public debates one way or another regularly leak information to the press, so the government would really only be prosecuting people for publishing leaked information they didn’t want leaked.

I think there’s this idea that because the New York Times and theWashington Post are treasured journalistic institutions the government wouldn’t dare engage in the kind of coercion it has leveled so effectively against Assange, and that even if he were prosecuted under an archaic unconstitutional law like the Espionage Act, he’s a scary foreigner and there’s no way that Americans would be treated the same way….


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