Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Justice Department weighs a criminal case against WikiLeaksThe Justice Department weighs a criminal case against WikiLeaks

Washington Post
August 18, 2010

In an interview this year with the New Yorker, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange acknowledged that his practice of posting largely unfiltered classified information online could one day lead the Web site to have "blood on our hands."

The Pentagon has all but alleged that this day has come. Last month, with little or no screening or verification, WikiLeaks posted 76,000 classified government documents about the war in Afghanistan, including some that contained information that could be used to identify Afghans who have cooperated with the United States. The safety of these individuals and their families may now be in danger, according to the Pentagon, which has demanded that Mr. Assange hand back the original documents and permanently take down the information from his Web site. Mr. Assange has said that he has another 15,000 or so related documents that he intends to post.

The Defense Department may have little leverage over Mr. Assange, an Australian who spends much of his time in Iceland, Sweden and Belgium. But the Justice Department is said to be considering charges against him for violation of the Espionage Act. That law is intended to punish individuals who spy on the United States on behalf of a foreign power, but it is so broad and so vague that it has been misused in recent years against individuals with no connection to spying. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last year wisely dropped such a case against two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He should not now make the mistake of trying to hammer Mr. Assange with the same flawed tool.