Now that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is in custody, we can expect the U.S. government to request his extradition and prosecute the Australian for espionage. “Any such proceedings would set up a test of whether the First Amendment’s protection for a free press extends to a website with a worldwide audience,” notes McClatchy today.
In 1917 the United States enacted the Espionage Act, a law that has made it a crime to “willfully communicate” secret government information that could expose national secrets held by officialdom. Since the law was passed, however, the government has avoided prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information.
“The First Amendment’s freedom of speech and the press has protected journalists in the past, though it is not clear whether the courts would consider Assange a journalist,” writes McClatchy.
Assange’s “actions are not those of a responsible journalist that would enjoy the protection of the Constitution,” opines Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel at the CIA. Government, of course, will decided what is responsible and irresponsible journalism and the high court will enshrine this in law.
The establishment – including its highest court – may eventually restrict the First Amendment and have its protection apply only to selected corporate media journalists and other propaganda functionaries of the elite.
Any such ruling by the Supreme Court will send a message to investigative journalists and alternative news organizations and publications – you will be prosecuted for revealing “government secrets,” in short it may soon be illegal to report information the government wants to keep hidden from the American people.
According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, the Supreme Court has not resolved the question of “whether, in cases where information has been acquired unlawfully by a newspaper or by a source, government may ever punish not only the unlawful acquisition, but the ensuing publication as well.”