If the Obama administration’s prosecutions of Pfc. Bradley Manning and a high tide of other journalists and whistleblowers are successful, the result will be “a chill across all investigative journalism,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told reporters Wednesday.
Speaking on a press call, Assange was joined by Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who leaked the famed Pentagon Papers, which provided an impetus for the U.S. to end the Vietnam War. The two hailed Manning as a “hero” who may face a military court that is already convinced of his guilt.
Ellsberg and others specifically pointed to a recent statement by President Barack Obama, in which the commander-in-chief appeared to pronounce the soldier’s guilt.
“It was obviously grossly improper for the commander-in-chief to be saying that,” Ellsberg said.
Ellsberg added that President Richard Nixon had made a similar statement in public about the release of the Pentagon Papers — and that lawyers were able to use that statement to help deflect his prosecution. The case against Ellsberg was ultimately dismissed due to governmental misconduct.
Assange added that if the Obama administration is successful in prosecuting WikiLeaks, Manning, whistleblowers or “other media outlets” with an expanded interpertation of the Espionage Act of 1917, it would ultimately “put a chill across all investigative journalism in the U.S.” — especially affecting the poignancy of national security reporting.
He lamented this potential outcome on the back of his suggestion that 2010 was “the most important year for journalism since World War II.”
“Release of the cablegate material has resulted in the publication of over 10,000 stories in every newspaper around the world,” Assange added, saying the disclosures “sparked off” the Tunisian revolution, which ultimately led into the wave of Arab uprisings that has rocked the middle east.
Assange also told Raw Story that the 10,000 stories figure was on the low end of WikiLeaks’ estimation on the total press coverage they’ve inspired, and that the secrets outlet was continuing to distribute leaked U.S. State Dept. documents to a still-growing number of publications around the world.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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