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By Alex Johnson
The charge for co-founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange, publishing classified materials represents a serious threat to all American rights & # 39; First Amendments, proponents across the political spectrum said Thursday.
Superseding syndicates adds 17 counts of violations to the Espionage Act of 1917 in a single previous count of conspiracy to make a computer intervention announced last month. In particular, it contradicts Assange, 47, by having illegal forced Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning sends him classified documents, some of which he published without retrieving the names of the confidential sources that provided information to US diplomats.
Advocates and legal scholars say that the law places the criminal activity that journalists do everyday – of the important interest they receive from someone who should not give them.
"For the first time in our country's history, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for publishing real information," Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Speech, Privacy and Technology Project Liberties Union. "This is a remarkable increase in Trump administration's attacks on journalism, and direct invasion of the First Amendment," Wizner said in a statement.
Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York, said the new unexpected charges, mentioned that the Espionage Act was mentioned in the original Assange hacking last month .
But the extra charge is a scary terrifying new place, Jaffer said, since all previous cases under the Espionage Act are targeted at governmental leaked government officials – Not the publisher of their exits.
"It's really what free speech and free press advocates are worried about," said Jaffer in an MSNBC's interview "All In Chris Hayes."
"It really crossed a new border," he said.
"You have Bush administration to start prosecuting leakers as spies, and then you have Obama administration prosecute over Espionage Act cases than all previous administrations combined," he said. "But none of the prosecutions related to a publisher. Now we have a publisher."
Regardless of whether Assange tried, "the syndicate itself would send a very difficult message," he said. the drafting of the lawsuit on Thursday, the argument of the nonprofit Reporting Committee for the Freedom of the Press "the parallels between what a member of the news media of the day should be obviously. "
"Communicating communicators and encryption resources regularly '& # 39; blast & # 39; communication applications and to forward information back (as they should do)," it said.
John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, told reporters Thursday that the Department of Justice "took the role of publishers in our democracy seriously" but did not consider officials of the department Assange to become a publisher.
"No responsible actor, journalist or other, has the purpose of publishing the names of individuals he knows to be confidential human resources in a zone of war, which exposes them to excess risks, "Demers said.
But Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, said in a statement: "Any use of the government of the Espionage Act to criminalize the receipt and publication of classified information is causing a major threat to publishers of this information in public interest, Assertion of the Justice Department Assertion that Assange is not a publisher. "
(Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent of NBC News, is a member of the committee governing organization.)
The criticism of the lawsuit has crossed the line of politics, as some well-known conservatives and libertarian commentators sound like a warning.
Julian Sanchez, a senior nonprofit Cato Institute, a libertarian advocacy group, said the debate about whether Assange's journalist was both "tiresome" and worthless. (The answer, he agreed on Twitter was "no" – Assange was not a publisher.)
The whole point of the First Amendment, he said, "avoid making specific decisions the government about who is a & # 39; real journalist. "
Meanwhile, Scott Horton, director of the nonprofit Libertarian Institute, evidently called the" garbage "of the lawsuit.
"It begins with mentioning Wikileaks public requests for classified documents from a number of governments," wrote Horton Thursday at the institute blog, "as if it was different from what might do any curious reporter. "
Similarly, Eli Lake, a neoconservative ruler for Bloomberg Opinion, said" Great danger to any reporter who has published state secrets. "
While it may be debated whether Assange is a publisher and if Wikileaks is a news organization, "this debate is unrelated," Lake, with a long denial of information leakage from counter-investigations – thought, written on Thursday.
"Assange has no obligation to keep the United States government secret," he wrote. "If Assange can be charged for receiving classified information, then what will stop the government from bringing similar charges against the New York Times or Bloomberg News?"
The criticism of the advocates has gained support from current and former government officials.
David A. Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, told Twitter that "whatever you think about Wikileaks or Julian Assange, a persecution of the Espionage Act can only be is bad for freedom of press in this country [
And Matthew Miller, an analyst for justice for MSNBC, has declared that the Justice Department refuses Assange to grant only a reason for administration by former President Barack Obama, when he was the chief speaker.
"This is nonsense," Miller said on Twitter arguing that there was "clear contrast between the charges of the government employees who swear to protect the classified information and the people outside the government who have published it. "