Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Spy is a Spy is a Spy

Like a Condom, the First Amendment Can't Protect You
    First of all, I feel so much more confident that the TSA's nude photos of airline passengers will never be released now that I know the government couldn't even prevent half a million classified national security documents from being posted on WikiLeaks.
    Among the criminal laws apparently broken by Assange is 18 U.S.C. 793(e), which provides:

    "Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, (etc. etc.) relating to the national defense, ... (which) the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates (etc. etc) the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same (etc) ...

    "Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

    As is evident, merely being in unauthorized possession of classified national security documents that could be used to harm this country and publishing those documents constitutes a felony.
    The entire public discussion about prosecuting Assange has been neurotically fixated on the First Amendment, as if that matters.
    All this is completely irrelevant.

    New York Times reporters are agitators intent on damaging our government, and they're considered "journalists." That doesn't mean they have carte blanche to hunt endangered species, refuse to pay their taxes or embezzle money. The First Amendment isn't a Star Trek "energy field" that protects journalists from phasers, photon torpedoes, lasers, rockets and criminal prosecutions.
    Assange would be prosecuted for committing the crime of possessing and releasing classified national security documents that could do this country harm. The First Amendment has no bearing whatsoever on whether Assange has committed this particular crime, so whether or not Assange is a "journalist" is irrelevant.

    The problem here is that people get their information from the media, which is written by journalists, and journalists have spent the last half-century trying to persuade everyone that laws don't apply to them.

    If a fully certified, bona fide, grade-A "journalist," rushing to get a story, swerves his car onto a sidewalk and mows down 20 pedestrians, he's committed a crime. It doesn't matter that he was engaged in the vital First Amendment-protected activity of news-gathering.
    If Assange had unauthorized possession of any national defense document that he had reason to believe could be used to injure the United States, and he willfully communicated that to any person not entitled to receive it, Assange committed a felony, and it wouldn't matter if he were Lois Lane, my favorite reporter.

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