Last updated on August 17, 2019
After his detainment last month by London’s Metropolitan Police on an extradition warrant sent by the U.S. Department of Justice, Julian Assange has been charged with espionage. The WikiLeaks founder was determined a key culprit in one of the most significant compromises of classified information in the United States.
A superseding indictment returned by the federal grand jury has found Assange guilty of having aided former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in the illicit reporting of critical national defense documents.
According to an article by The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, Assange had aided in the receiving of classified documents that contained the uncensored names of “human sources of information to United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan”. The disclosure of these documents included the names of several figures in politics, all of whose denial of privacy would entail not only benefit for American adversaries but also a denial of the safety of the people involved.
WikiLeaks is a controversial, non-profit organization dedicated to leaking classified media sources and articles to the public. In an ode to “scientific journalism”, as Assange himself had put it in a 2010 interview with The Guardian, he has made it his mission to disclose controversial source documents of interest for public viewing. However, many have criticized this and called him more akin to a propagandist than a journalist.
The issue, amongst many others like it, has raised further social discussion on the ever-pressing matter of press freedom, as well as the constitutional right to publish classified government material as noted by the First Amendment. While journalists have reason to believe this case is an assault on their craft and only further exacerbates the already prevailing case against them, they must also call into question the implications of what is currently justified by the constitution.
As it currently stands, even organizations like the Washington Post and the New York Times can publish classified material. In fact, cases like this have already been brought to court in the past, the most notable being the 1971 New York Times Co. v. United States landmark decision. But, what usually sets apart large press organizations from the likes of WikiLeaks is not only the medium by which they share their news, but the processes by which they determine whether news is or is not worth sharing. Contrast to most of these organizations, WikiLeaks clearly does not give nearly as much thought to this. After all, why else would the organization be wholly devoted to the disclosure of classified documents to begin with?
Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not reflect the stance TheWorker takes on this issue. TheWorker seeks to include as many perspectives possible regarding even the most controversial subject matters.