Totally Wrong: Ron Paul stands up for Julian Assange | Andy Barr - POLITICO.com

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Ron Paul thinks that Julian Assange should get some form of protection as if he were media—or, more correctly, a journalist—as described in this article by Andy Barr. Paul says:

“This whole notion that Assange, who’s an Australian, that we want to prosecute him for treason. I mean, aren’t they jumping to a wild conclusion?” he added. “This is media, isn’t it? I mean, why don’t we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?”

My question is, just why wouldn’t we prosecute The New York Times if they pulled a similar stunt? The media—journalists—are not immune by protection of the Constitution to do things that are 100% illegal, which revelation of classified information certainly is, no more than any other citizen or group of citizens are.

Paul’s reasoning is faulty, too:

“In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth,” Paul said. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”

I cannot agree with his premise. Living in a “free” society does not guarantee any knowledge of “the truth.” For starters, there are laws in this society, so it is not totally free, and thank God for that. Second, the laws that we do have may only guarantee the right to seek the truth. And finally, the laws protect some of the truth from being found because failure to do so would damage the greater good of the society.

Also, it’s not “truth” that “people” are revealing: it’s classified information, which is protected by law, and it’s Julian Assange and his organization who are doing it.

If The New York Times pulled a similar stunt and wholesale revealed classified information, information which has been classified for reasons which are also dictated by our laws, the Times should certainly be prosecuted. First, the greater good would not have been protected by its acts. Second, and probably most damning, there is nothing journalistic or protected about the mere act of publication. In this case, the Times would merely be acting as publishers, and publishers have none of the special rights afforded journalists. Publication is not the same thing as journalism.

If, on the other hand, the Times had an informant who revealed classified information because doing so would help the greater good, and the Times further did its journalistic due diligence, corroborated the information if possible, and made a conscious decision that revelation of the classified information would be beneficial to the country, then they would most certainly not be prosecuted. Here, the Times would be acting as journalists—people who create, people who analyze, people who do not merely pump out quantities of paper for the sake of publication.

Need a concrete example? AT&T publishes the white pages. Are they journalists? What if AT&T published everybody’s Social Security numbers? Does AT&T deserve protections afforded journalists and to get off scot-free?

No. Emphatically, No. And neither does WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has dumped a bunch of data onto the web. They have not created, they have not analyzed, they have not corroborated, they have not investigated, they have not acted in any way like journalists.

Instead, they are merely publishers, facilitators of distribution, and are guilty. Guilty as hell. They do deserve to be brought up on charges of treason. And as leader of this rogue organization of traitors, Julian Assange should take the fall.

So get off your soapbox, Ron Paul. It’s rickety, rotten, and doesn’t support you or your position.

Update:

First, in a rather lively debate on Facebook (why do I put this stuff on there?), it has been pointed out to me that the government did indeed prosecute the Times for publication of the Pentagon Papers back in the early 70’s. The SCOTUS upheld the right to freedom of the press, but the court also essentially said that the government could suppress the press if the government met the burden of proof that the public good would be harmed. And in that case, “embarrassment” wasn’t exactly going to make or break the public good. So, if the government wanted to prosecute Assange, it could, press or not, but it would have to prove its case.

Second, Assange is afforded none of the protections of the Constitution because he isn’t a US citizen. Paul’s comparison of a clearly-protected organization, the Times, to a clearly not-protected person and/or organization should have been what I pointed out in the first place and would have saved many bytes on the intarwebs. His argument is therefore null and void.

Third, another person made a point that Assange couldn’t be charged with treason as he isn’t a US citizen (which is what made me think of the above). Not true. The US can charge anybody with anything anywhere anytime. Think Manuel Noriega. Whether the US succeeds in extraditing him for trial is a different matter entirely, but Assange doesn’t seem to have the greatest track record for picking citizenships to operate under. (Dude, if you’re going to attack the US, at least go to Switzerland to get a running start…)

And finally, somebody mentioned that as “finder of the information,” Assange was not obligated to protect the classified information, that he could do whatever he wanted to with it. Interesting that as citizens, I think, though I cannot find definitively, that we are all responsible for protecting classified information as best we can and cannot do with it what we will any more than we can traffic in stolen goods.

But as a non-citizen, he’s certainly not subject to our laws unless he breaks them from afar. I saw posted elsewhere that perhaps espionage is an appropriate charge then, in which case everybody’s using the wrong word, but the crime remains committed regardless of the name.

Of course, this too is mostly irrelevant to the discussion because Paul’s statement is predicated on a bad premise in the first place.

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