Block Extradition & Prosecution of Julian Assange for First Amendment-Protected Journalism

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested in London and threatened with extradition to the United States to stand trial on charges related to publishing U.S. government documents that exposed U.S. government war crimes. 

In response to the arrest, the ACLU said:

“Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public's interest.

In response to the unsealed indictment, the ACLU said:

"Criminally prosecuting a publisher for the publication of truthful information would be a first in American history, and unconstitutional. The government did not cross that Rubicon with today’s indictment, but the worst case scenario cannot yet be ruled out. We have no assurance that these are the only charges the government plans to bring against Mr. Assange. Further, while there is no First Amendment right to crack a government password, this indictment characterizes as ‘part of’ a criminal conspiracy the routine and protected activities journalists often engage in as part of their daily jobs, such as encouraging a source to provide more information. Given President Trump’s and his administration’s well-documented attacks on the freedom of the press, such characterizations are especially worrisome.”

All American journalists, publishers and editors need the protections of the First Amendment to be strong in order to do their jobs. All Americans need the protections of the First Amendment to be strong, not only to protect our rights to speak and write, but to protect our right to know, particularly to know about actions of U.S. government officials that U.S. government officials might be hiding. Some secret U.S. government actions might be against the interests of the majority of Americans. Some secret U.S. government actions might be unconstitutional or otherwise illegal. This is especially important with respect to ending and preventing unconstitutional wars. There’s no way Americans can fulfill our responsibilities to hold U.S. government officials accountable for what they are doing in other people’s countries if we can’t find out what the U.S. government is doing. 

The Pentagon lied for years to Congress and the American people about its unconstitutional role in the Saudi war in Yemen. It took opponents of the war three years just to prove to the satisfaction of the majority of Congress that the Pentagon was lying about its participation in the war. If we could have exposed the U.S. role in the war sooner, we could have ended the war sooner. 

This is why protecting the First Amendment is so important to opponents of unconstitutional war - and why the apologists for unconstitutional war have the First Amendment in their crosshairs. They want to chill national security reporting, because they don’t want the American people to know what they are doing. 

This is why the Congress that just voted to end unconstitutional U.S. participation in the Saudi war in Yemen should vote to prohibit the Department of Justice from spending any of our tax dollars to extradite or prosecute Julian Assange for alleged actions which would be protected by the First Amendment if Julian Assange had been a U.S. citizen journalist standing on U.S. soil when he performed the alleged action. 

For example, the Department of Justice authorization or appropriation could be amended thus: 

"No money in this bill shall be used for the extradition of Julian Assange or any WikiLeaks employee or volunteer to the United States, nor for the prosecution of Julian Assange or any WikiLeaks employee or volunteer in the United States, for any alleged action which would be protected by the First Amendment if performed by a U.S. citizen journalist, publisher, or editor while standing on U.S. soil.

Urge Congress to block the Trump Administration’s attempts to leverage the Assange case to undermine First Amendment protections for journalists, publishers, editors, and the American people's right to know by signing our petition.