Many people are of the opinion that Assange and WikiLeaks acted inappropriately with regard to their 2016 publications about the DNC and Hillary Clinton. In a DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks and others, this was found not to be the case:
The DNC argues that WikiLeaks should be considered an after?the?fact coconspirator for the theft based on its coordination to obtain and distribute the stolen materials.
As an initial matter, it is constitutionally insignificant that WikiLeaks knew the Russian Federation had stolen the documents when it published them. Indeed, in Bartnicki the Supreme Court noted that the radio host either did know, or at least had reason to know, that the communication at issue was unlawfully intercepted. Bartnicki, 532 U.S. at 517~18
And, contrary to the argument, it is also irrelevant that WikiLeaks solicited the stolen documents from Russian agents. A person is entitled publish stolen documents that the publisher requested from a source so long as the publisher did not participate in the theft.
The argument that WikiLeaks can be held liable for the theft as an after the?fact coconspirator of the stolen documents is also unpersuasive. That argument would eviscerate Bartnicki; such a rule would render any journalist who publishes an article based on stolen information a coconspirator in the theft.
If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the political financial and voter engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ?secret? and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet. But that would impermissibly elevate a purely private privacy interest to override the First Amendment interest in the publication of matters of the highest public concern.24 The published internal communications allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election. This type of information is plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.
The simple fact is that Assange and WikiLeaks conduct journalistic activities and shouldn’t be prosecuted for doing so. They didn’t break the law in 2016, and the charges against Assange re his earlier material is questionable inasmuch as he is being charged with espionage for the publication of secrets. In Assange’s extradition process, the US is attempting to prosecute journalism as espionage, and we cannot let this happen.
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