Assange again

In a Wall Street Journal editorial, L. Gordon Crovitz again pushes for the United States to prosecute Wikileaks’ Julian Assange as a traitor.

Crovitz is actually not as hawkish as some. While raging hotheads on the right have made no secret of their desire to also see the editors of the New York Times and other news organizations indicted for publishing the classified Wikileaks documents, Crovitz makes an interesting distinction: intent. Emphasis in bold mine:

[W]ithout focusing on intent, the [Espionage Act] would raise serious First Amendment issues. Many academics and media commentators — and perhaps overly cautious prosecutors — have missed the point that WikiLeaks is different from the New York Times. It’s the political motivation of Mr. Assange that qualifies him to be prosecuted. The publisher is not liable for its reporting.

I’m glad to see that Bill Keller won’t soon be joining Bradley Manning in the Leavenworth pen. I’m also glad to see Mr. Crovitz’s nod to the First Amendment, cursory though it may seem. Beyond that, color me confused.

Crovitz is, after all, proposing that the fundamental factor in deciding whether to prosecute Assange ought to be the Wikileaker’s intent, which springs from — and is practically inseparable from — Assange’s political persuasions. Those persuasions (and there’s Crovitz’s rub) are presumably anti-American, though I see them primarily as anti-secrecy and pro-accountability. Putting a guy on trial for not being sufficiently rah-rah about America’s military adventures doesn’t strike me as particularly laudable, or as particularly in keeping with the spirit of the First Amendment.

About Rogier:
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.
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  1. meme
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Color me not so confused. The NYTimes is often accused of being polemical, but they are in the business of selling news stories. Assange is in the business of posting leaks that support his worldview. Case in point, he passed on posting a leak about Brazil that could have changed the election to focus on posting diplomatic cables that would do harm to US diplomatic interests. Would the NYTimes pass on a timesensitive story to meet a preconceived agenda? Occasionally they do. Sales suffer when they are found out. Assange though gets a free ride from people who share the same agenda, or those who dismiss reporting about Assange as propaganda.

  2. Rogier
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    My fondest wish is that, as a political culture, we will one day let go of basing our opinions of people on their supposed allegiances. Rather than rejecting or celebrating them based on whether you believe they belong to your tribe, why not judge the actual, naked merits of the case before you? That would be lovely.