Can the US government prosecute media outlets that reported on the WikiLeaks cables? According to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the answer is maybe.
Following the release of thousands of documents by government watchdog WikiLeaks, Lieberman told the The New York Times that he wanted to use “all legal means” against the website.
Appearing on Fox News Tuesday afternoon, Lieberman added that the US Constitution’s protection of free speech may not be enough to keep media outlets out of harm’s way if they dedicated coverage to the WikiLeaks disclosures.
“Julian Assange has written an editorial that points out or characterizes his organization as an underdog in the media world,” Lee noted. “He’s saying he’s a journalist, and he’s just providing information out there for the world citizens to see. He mentions that organizations like The New York Times have published his information which you’re classifying as state secrets. So, are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks has put out there also culpable in this and could be charged with something?”
“I have said that I believe the question you’re raising is a serious legal question that has to be answered,” Lieberman replied.
“In other words, this is very sensitive stuff because it gets into the America’s First Amendment. But if you go from the initial crime, Private Manning charged with the crime of stealing these classified documents, he gives them to WikiLeaks, I certainly believe that that’s a — WikiLeaks has violated the espionage act,” he said.
“But then what about the news organizations, including the Times, that accepted it and distributed it? I know they say they deleted some of it, but I’m not here to make a final judgment on that,” Lieberman continued.
“But to me New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship. And whether they’ve committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department.”
Lieberman’s position seems to be a slight change from last week, when he said the Times should not be prosecuted.
“I don’t know if you can prosecute the Times under existing Supreme Court decisions,” he told Fox Business News’ Don Imus.
“But I’ll tell you this, I wish the Times, just as an act of citizenship had said, ‘No, we’re not going to publish this stuff because it’s going to do the country damage,’” he said
The Justice Department is investigating whether it can prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
Newspapers like Britain’s Guardian and The New York Times have published much more information from the secret documents than WikiLeaks has. Only about one percent of the cables have been released so far.
This video is from Fox News’ Happening Now, broadcast Dec. 7, 2010.