NY Times Editor Says He's 'Alarmed' By The Idea That The US Might Try To Prosecute Wikileaks

from the took-them-long-enough dept

One of the more frustrating things about the press's reaction to Wikileaks was that so many of them tried to shy away from the fact that the same laws that protected them as journalists almost certainly protected Wikileaks as well -- and any legal attack on the organization or someone like Julian Assange could come back to haunt the journalists themselves. So it's nice to see NY Times executive editor Bill Keller (who has detailed his contentious relationship with Wikileaks and Assange) finally come out and say that he would be alarmed by any legal action taken against Wikileaks:
"It's very hard to conceive of a prosecution of Julian Assange that wouldn't stretch the law in a way that would be applicable to us," said Keller. "Whatever one thinks of Julian Assange, certainly American journalists, and other journalists, should feel a sense of alarm at any legal action that tends to punish Assange for doing essentially what journalists do. That is to say, any use of the law to criminalize the publication of secrets."
The panel, where this was being discussed, also included former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith (now a Harvard Law Professor) who has spoken out in the past saying that he believes Wikileaks is legal. He noted that any lawsuit would be very difficult to pull off. He still thinks the administration will try to bring a lawsuit, but he expects that it will eventually fail in the courts. I'm still hopeful that the administration recognizes the likelihood of failure in any lawsuit and recognizes the dreadful legacy it will leave in suing an organization for publishing leaks.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Don, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Online news site could also publish leaks

    It's just a matter of time before online news decides to publish leaks as well. I bet it would be an amazing revenue generator.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    I am alarmed, also. And, I think anyone who wishes to prosecute Wikileaks should be investigated.

     

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  3.  
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    A Dan (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    Typo

    "conentious" is not a word that I'm familiar with.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 3:29pm

    Re: Typo

    "'conentious' is not a word with which I'm familiar."

    FTFY :-)

     

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  5.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    Question ....

    Where are these large financial institution Wikileaks we were promised? The financial blogs are getting rally dull with out a huge crisis. All they talk about are failing countries (done to often to count), the fact that without a QE3 that the housing market is going to tank again, and random stocks bonds and commodities.

    I need my fix!!! Give me a serious financial scandal. Or start impeachment proceedings against the president for the violating the constitution for the HomeSec-ICE thing or any of the other violations of the constitution. He did swear an oath to uphold the constitution you know.

    "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    /RANT

     

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  6.  
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    A Dan (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Re: Typo

    I have no problem ending a sentence with a proposition if you want to continue this party at my place.

     

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  7.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Typo

    Yeah, what he said.

     

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  8.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 4:49pm

    Re: Typo

    "conentious" is not a word that I'm familiar with.


    Because it's not a word. Fixed now. Thanks!

     

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  9.  
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    Christopher (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 6:15pm

    Re: Online news site could also publish leaks

    I don't care about 'revenue generation', I care more about knowing what the feds and others are doing in my name so that I can take them to task for doing things that I don't agree with, such as torturing people.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 8:44pm

    Waste

    If it is clearly going to fail, as it should, why should the government waste tax payer's hard earned dollars on it? Surely there are better things to be spending that money on right now.

     

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  11.  
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    velox (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 10:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Typo

    Who did you want to get familiar with at your place?

     

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  12.  
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    velox (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 10:45pm

    "He still thinks the administration will try to bring a lawsuit, but he expects that it will eventually fail in the courts."
    Hmm. Will the administration go ahead with a likely unsuccessful prosecution just to try to create cover in 2012 from "soft on terror" accusations pouring out from Limbaugh and Co.?

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 11:25pm

    "recognizes the dreadful legacy it will leave in suing an organization for publishing leaks."

    If the administration pushes too hard, the people in the US might get all "Egypt" on their ass. Fix joblessness not Wikileaks.

     

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  14.  
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    jenningsthecat (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 5:28am

    When is a journalist not a journalist?

    I find it interesting that Mr. Keller still maintains the pretense that Assange isn't a journalist: ("...tends to punish Assange for doing essentially what journalists do.") How, specifically, is Assange NOT a journalist? If he does "what journalists do", doesn't that make him a journalist?

    We are fast approaching, (if we don't already live in), an age in which paper qualifications and convoluted notions of 'expertise' are being abandoned in favor of a demonstrated ability to do the job. It's time for 'qualified experts' in all fields to recognize this and either get with the program or be left behind.

     

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  15.  
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    Pixelation, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 8:06am

    Re: When is a journalist not a journalist?

    I think he considers Assange more of a publisher than a journalist.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    RD, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    Re: Question ....

    "Or start impeachment proceedings against the president for the violating the constitution for the HomeSec-ICE thing or any of the other violations of the constitution. He did swear an oath to uphold the constitution you know."

    Wow seriously? So only Democrat presidents should be impeached? Because the Chimp sure as HELL should have been impeached if Obama should be, since he violated the constitution just as badly. But no, we ignore all of Bushy-boys errors and just make sure to get those damn Liberals!

     

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  17.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Question ....

    When did I say anything about democrats? Bush should have been impeached also.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 7:45pm

    Re: When is a journalist not a journalist?

    Assange isn't a journalist. He is at best a publisher, but mostly just a man with a political agenda. I tend to think of him as an information terrorist. If the information was all valid, just release it all. Not releasing it all and instead hanging it over people's head is information terrorism.

    His actions border on being a blackmailer as well, "process our payments or I will release things about your financial institution" sort of thing.

    Mr Keller's alarm is misplaced. Perhaps it reflects his relationship with Assange.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/magazine/30Wikileaks-t.html

     

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  19.  
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    Thomas (profile), Feb 6th, 2011 @ 9:29am

    Angry governments...

    do stupid things. Legality and probability of success have nothing to do with it. They might sue or they might make the wikileaks people disappear. I think making them disappear is more likely.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 8:01pm

    Re: Re: When is a journalist not a journalist?

    It's kind of amusing how often you contradict yourself, TAM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Chuck D. Money (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 5:35pm

    Two things

    1) Anyone and everyone should be prosecuted for violation of the Constitution. In a country where all of our laws are based on the concept of "precedent," the constitution is the first and foremost one, and any and all violations of it should be prosecuted with the maximum possible penalty being assessed. We can start with every single law enforcement officer who has ever invoked the Patriot Act, as they are violating the Constitution. Both of the most recent presidents, and even presidents as far back as both FDR and even Lincoln have suspended the Constitution "for national security" so let's dig them up and burn their corpses. Then, let's do the same with every lawmaker elected since 1796 - after all, the Constitution demands that it be torn up and rewritten from scratch "every 20 years" and any congressman or senator since that time has violated such. Of course, I'm being sarcastic, but the point is simple: if we REALLY wanted to follow the Constitution, even halfass, little to none of our government would remain.

    2) Assanage is a Journalist just as much as Bernstein and Woodward. He took documents which anyone with basic common sense would have known were being leaked illegally, implicating both the current and previous administration in doing rather embarrassing stuff, and I'm referring of course to either Woodward or Bernstein (whichever one met Deep Throat in the parking garage). The idea that Assanege is somehow a terrorist, but that the Watergate reporters are great journalists is laughable. Either they're all 3 terrorists or they're all three journalists and champions of free speech in its most apparent and raw form. You cannot have it both ways, folks. Freedom is great when it helps you, and it's awful and even painful when it doesn't, but the reason we choose freedom over totalitarianism is simple - it's good more often than it's bad. In the words of Winston Churchill, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried." If you can't handle your neighbors burning a flag in their front yard, then you have no right to fly one in your own yard. If you don't like what someone else is saying, you have every right to shout louder, but don't silence them. If you want to pray to your god, that's fine, I'll go observe my molecule. Freedom isn't about limiting options, it's about expanding them beyond limit, and about the realization in each and every one of us that if we silence their voice today, we'll wind up mute tomorrow. So no, leave Assanege alone. You may not agree with what he's doing, or even with how he's doing it, but if you don't believe he has a right to do it at all, then you shouldn't expect to have a right to complain about it tomorrow.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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