Dershowitz Compares Assange Case to New York Times 1971 Pentagon Papers Case
April 15, 2019 (EIRNS)—In an opinion piece published April 12 in The Hill Constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz remarks that, in his view, there is really no difference between the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the 1971 case of the New York Times publication of the Pentagon Papers, which had been provided by Daniel Ellsberg.
If, in 1971, the Times could publish the Pentagon Papers
“knowing they included classified documents stolen by Rand Corporation military analyst Daniel Ellsberg from our federal government, then indeed WikiLeaks was entitled, under the First Amendment, to publish classified material that Assange knew was stolen by former United States Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, from our federal government.”
Thus, if Assange were charged with espionage, Dershowitz argues, or any other crime just for publishing the Manning material, “this would be another Pentagon Papers case with the same likely outcome.” While the government might try to argue that the New York Times is “more responsible” with its publications than WikiLeaks, the Constitution doesn’t distinguish between degrees of responsibility, Dershowitz explained.
Prosecuting Assange simply for publishing classified material will likely fail, however, so prosecutors have decided to charge him with a different crime of conspiracy—to help Manning break into a federal government computer to steal classified material. Even this, however, is “factually weak,” Dershowitz says, and may not be sufficient for an extradition request to be granted. There are may “ifs” in this case, however, which will play out in coming days and weeks.