This week, the US government declared war on the First Amendment after it filed an unprecedented indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, for his role in obtaining and publishing classified US military and diplomatic material in 2010. It appears the current Trump Administration has crossed over a Constitutional red line which previous US presidents couldn’t or wouldn’t do, and which now has profound implications regarding the First Amendment.
The superseding indictment brought by the United States Department of Justice carries grave implications in terms of the US Constitution and the concept of a Free Press as could affect the ability every single media outlet to cover or expose government wrongdoing. If the DOJ wins their case against Assange, it will establish a dire precedent – giving the US government the ability to decide who is, or who is not a journalist, allowing the state to try anyone it wants under the Espionage Act of 1917.
Moira Meltzer-Cohen, the attorney for US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) stated:
“Up until now the Department Of Justice has been reticent to actually indict publishers for work implicating matters of national security, because the first amendment rights of the press and public are so constitutionally valuable. This signals a real shift, and sets a new precedent for the federal government’s desire to chill and even punish the vigorous exercise of the free press.”
21st Century WIRE editor Patrick Henningsen spoke to RT International the day this story broke, and focused on the spurious nature of the DOJ indictment which appears to follow a familiar pattern of politicized indictments which are not founded on fact, but rather to wrestle control of the information space and control the geopolitical narrative. The DOJ charge sheet is peppered with inflated rhetoric and elaborate legalese which is clearly designed to side-step the US Constitution by re-framing the story from journalism and publishing to espionage, thus removing any journalist/publisher protections from Assange and WikiLeaks. Henningsen also notes that there is nothing in this new indictment that hasn’t already been publicly known for the last six years – all of which was already heard during the trial of Chelsea Manning.
According to former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger:
“The Espionage Act was a panic measure enacted by Congress to clamp down on dissent or “sedition” when the US entered the First World War in 1917. In the subsequent 102 years it has never been used to prosecute a media organisation for publishing or disseminating unlawfully disclosed classified information. Nobody prosecuted under the act is permitted to offer a public interest defence.”
As a result of the DOJ’s declared war on the practice of journalism in collusion with their proxies in the UK, Ecuador and Sweden to claim global jurisdiction to prosecute any person on the planet for publishing government war crimes and corruption, media watchdog and rights groups are now finally pushing back against the new DOJ leveled against Assange.
* This article was automatically syndicated and expanded from 21st Century Wire.