from the freedom-of-the-press? dept
It's no secret that the DOJ has been desperate for years to come up with some way -- any way -- to try to charge Julian Assange with crimes under the Espionage Act. However, to date, this has failed. Attempts to pressure Chelsea Manning into lying about deeper involvement from Wikileaks failed, and that should have been the end of any investigation. But years later, the "investigation" continues for no clear reason. If the DOJ has been unable to find any evidence of criminal violations so many years later, it should end the investigation.
Instead, it's spying on journalists' emails, using a combination of the outdated ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) and the Espionage Act to demand a very broad set of information from Google concerning those three staffers. Of course, the DOJ and Wikileaks haters will counter that Wikileaks isn't a journalistic operation, but that is hard to square with reality. You would have a very difficult time coming up with a legitimate distinction for how what Wikileaks does is any different than what the NY Times or Washington Post investigative reporters do on a regular basis. Getting leaked documents is part of investigative reporting. Cultivating sources is part of investigative reporting (and that likely happens a lot more often with traditional reporters than operations like Wikileaks).
Trevor Timm has an article highlighting how these warrants to seize Wikileaks' staffers' emails is an outright attack on journalism, even as many traditional journalism operations refuse to speak out against the treatment of Wikileaks:
Isn't it about time "we don't like those people" stopped being an acceptable excuse for spying on people? Wasn't our Constitution supposed to prevent that kind of abuse?
Unfortunately the news world has never rallied around WikiLeaks’ First Amendment rights they way they should – sometimes even refusing to acknowledge they are a journalism organization, perhaps because they dare to do things a little differently than the mainstream media, or because WikiLeaks tweets provocative political opinions, or because they think its founder, Julian Assange, is an unsympathetic figure.
Those are all disgraceful excuses to ignore the government’s overreach: the rights of news organizations everywhere are under just as much threat whether the government reads the private emails of staffers at WikiLeaks, Fox News or the Associated Press. In the eyes of the law, the organizations are virtually indistinguishable, as legal scholars from across the political spectrum have documented for years.