The feds have charged Assange with committing … journalism

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The day after the federal government indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 18 charges related to his publication of secret Pentagon and State Department documents, San Francisco’s police chief apologized for raiding the home of freelance videographer Bryan Carmody. Carmody had obtained a police report, about the death of a former city public defender, which he wasn’t supposed to have.

The two cases reveal widespread confusion about who counts as a journalist and whether it matters.

Declaring that Assange is “no journalist,” a Justice Department official assured reporters that the DOJ appreciates “the role of journalists in our democracy,” adding: “It is not and has never been the department’s policy to target them for reporting.”

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Yet almost all of the federal felonies described in the Assange indictment involve obtaining and disclosing “national defense information” — crimes that reporters who cover national security routinely commit in the course of doing their jobs.

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