WikiLeaks and the organization’s founder Julian Assange run a risky game in leaking the secrets of the powerful for the whole world to see. But while having the propensity to be an incredibly unique tool capable of exposing corruption, it can also be used for nefarious purposes.
The U.S labeled Julian Assange a cyber terrorist halfway through Obama’s first term in office. Assange would likely harbor resentment against Democrats and the Obama administration. Perhaps enough to participate in the meddling of Russia in the U.S election, offering an anonymous platform by which to air the dirty laundry of those selected while hiding the whole story.
Related: Congressman Heck Masterfully Sums Up Why Knowing About Russian Election Interference Matters
But it looks like Trump’s Justice Department isn’t as appreciative of the Constitution as Obama’s was. Under the Obama administration charges were not brought against WikiLeaks, the Justice Department deciding that it would be tantamount to filing charges against journalists.
According to a report from the Washington Post:
“Prosecutors in recent weeks have been drafting a memo that contemplates charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, possibly including conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act, officials said. The memo, though, is not complete, and any charges against members of WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, would need approval from the highest levels of the Justice Department.”
“The fact of the matter is — however frustrating it might be to whoever looks bad when information is published — WikiLeaks is a publisher, and they are publishing truthful information that is in the public’s interest,” said Barry Pollack, Julian Assange’s attorney. “Democracy thrives because there are independent journalists reporting on what it is that the government is doing.”
And while it is possible that WikiLeaks is being used as a tool of vengeance, it is also true that they are protected under the Constitution.
The Obama administration didn’t seek charges because of the possible door it would open to going after journalists. And as we have already seen, Trump is not a big fan of the free press.
If charges are successfully filed against members of WikiLeaks and there is a conviction, it could set a scary precedent for how journalists are treated for questioning the government in the future.
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