USA v Julian Assange

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 12th Jan 2024
Wordcount: 448 words
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Facts

The defendant in this case is Julian Assange. He is the founder of Wikileaks, an organization that distributes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources (Hansen, 2020). Assange was indicted by a federal grand jury on 13 counts relating to his alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army Intelligence Analyst, in the unauthorized downloading and dissemination of significant quantities of classified documents (Department of Justice, 2019).

Issue

The principal issue in this case centers on whether Assange's actions constitute criminal acts or fall within the protection of the First Amendment rights to free press and speech. Federal prosecutors allege that Assange took an active part in Manning's theft of secret files, thereby violating the US Espionage Act (Hansen, 2020).

Holding and Rule

No final ruling has been made in this case, as the defendant is still in UK custody and his extradition proceedings to the U.S. are under way (Plait, 2020). However, U.S prosecutors hold that Assange is not a journalist or a whistleblower but a criminal conspirator who agreed to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer (Department of Justice, 2019). This position implies that if Assange is extradited and found guilty, it could set a precedent potentially limiting press freedom by equating journalistic investigative activities with criminal behavior.

Disposition

While currently the case is still pending, Assange's defense team continues to fight against his extradition. They argue that he is an innocent party being politically persecuted for actions that are constitutionally protected in the U.S. under freedom of the press (Gabbatt, 2020). Therefore, the resolution of this issue could significantly impact the interpretation of freedom of press and speech in U.S. law.

References:

Department of Justice (2019). "WikiLeaks Founder Charged in 18-Count Superseding Indictment". Retrieved from: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/wikileaks-founder-charged-18-count-superseding-indictment

Gabbatt, A. (2020). "Julian Assange's US extradition hearing resumed after four months". The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/

Hansen, M. (2020). "Julian Assange: What is His Indictment About and Why is He in Belmarsh Prison?". Amnesty International. Retrieved from: https://www.amnesty.org/

Plait, P. (2020). "Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing: The Only Just Outcome Is His Freedom". The Intercept. Retrieved from: https://theintercept.com/

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