This morning, we asked Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD): “Do you think that Julianne Assange of WikiLeaks should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act or some other action that the Justice Department seems to be contemplating?”
Van Hollen replied: “If indeed he violated the law, if there’s that kind of determination, then prosecution should go forward, but there’s obviously a very serious question as to whether or not there was any violation of the law.”
Indeed, as McClatchy reports, the Justice Department is having a difficult time linking Bradley Manning, accused of conveying the leaked documents, to Assange in a criminal way. They also report that “the State Department didn’t respond to several requests from Assange to work out which documents threatened national security.”
Van Hollen continued: “Regardless of the legal standing, it was reckless and irresponsible to leak all these cables. I do think it has the potential not only to jeopardize some very sensitive issues with respect to national security and foreign policy but you always run the risk when you do this of literally putting people’s lives in danger.”
Our attempted follow-up, “What about the New York Times and so on?” was rebuffed as Van Hollen departed Fox’s studios. The New York Times and other papers are also making leaked cables public, so why is the administration only threatening WikiLeaks with criminal prosecution? U.S. officials concede they can’t point to a single case of a document released by WikiLeaks having led to anyone’s death. First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, speaking to Time Magazine, says stretching the law to target WikiLeaks would threaten freedom of the press.
Perhaps more significantly, the issue should not simply be the possibility that a collaborator or such could be killed from a leak or WikiLeaks’ alleged violations of law. It should be killings resulting from government policy and violations of law by the U.S. government exposed in the cables and as part of its reaction to their release. Glenn Greenwald has written about aspects of this; strong interview on FAIR’s CounterSpin.