Jim Acosta on the Julian Assange Case

Jim Acosta was promoting his book “Enemy of the People” about defending the First Amendment @ the Newseum (the First Amendment museum) in Washington DC, when I asked him about the Julian Assange case.

Here’s a complete transcript:

May I?

You have your video camera there so this one’s gonna be a doozy.

Well we’ll see.

Go ahead sir.

Just before your book came out something happened that the Washington Post, the New York Times, and many Pulitzer Prize winning journalists have recognized as an existential threat to the Free Press.

What are your thoughts on the Trump administrations’ use of the controversial Espionage Act to indict the Wikileaks founderJulian Assange, for publishing classified information in the early 2010’s that exposed war crimes, informed the public, and didn’t harm anyone?

I’m probably not gonna give you a satisfactory answer. But I’ll do the best I can. I’ve been asked this question before.I take it from your question and enthusiasm that you may be a Julian Assange supporter or a Wikileaks supporter. Perhaps that’s not the case and you’re just asking the question. I don’t know.

In general I support anybody speaking truth to power.

I appreciated and that thank you very much. I do think — and forgive me if you don’t agree with me on this. I do think what happens with us and my press pass case is slightly different than what happened with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. And I try and talk about that for a few moments but I don’t want to drag it on out forever and ever and then everybody else doesn’t get a chance to get their questions asked but I’ll do the best I can.

My understanding about the Julian Assange situation is that you know he is being charged not just for trying to speak truth to power and trying to reveal things. He’s in trouble for other things.

EDITORS NOTE: 17 of the 18 charges against Assange are for essential journalistic activities: obtaining and publishing government secrets.

And you know what we’ve seen during the 2016 campaign where there were contacts between WikiLeaks and Russian operatives.

That I think takes Wikileaks and Julian Assange into sort of a different category than is a straight news organization — straight publisher of news around the world.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wikileaks thus far has a perfect record of publishing “straight news” having never published false material.

Now I’m not saying that I’m rendering a verdict on Julian Assange. I should — I think you should have this day in court. I think we should see what the facts are see what they’re presented and you know let it court let that process play out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Assange would likely not receive a fair trial under the Espionage Act. The intent of the leaker, the value of leaks to the public, and the lack of harm caused by the leaks have been ruled irrelevant, and are therefore inadmissible in court.

I do think that there is a value in whistleblowers. No question about it. I do think that there is a value in people inside the government dealing with journalists to shine a light on government secrets. No question about it. I mean during the writing of this book you can imagine how their Trump folks who were deeply fearful of speaking on the record. We got a couple folks to speak on the record with me most of them wanted to speak on background.

I talked to a national security official with the Trump administration who told me that he didn’t know whether or not President Trump was pursuing US interests and it was concerned about some of the things that he was doing in terms of his dealings with Vladimir Putin.

This is official obviously would not be able to talk about those kinds of things on the record. He would be in a lot of trouble but we need that kind of information so I do understand what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks — what the spirit of what they’re trying to do — but I can’t sit here and endorse everything that they’ve done and the tactics that they used to go about presenting the information that they gather to the world. And I hope you kind of appreciate where I’m coming from on that. That’s really all I have to say about the topic.

But I was specifically asking — thank you thank you for your response. But specifically I asked about the [charges] under the Espionage Act.

Not allegations of you know Russian collusion which the Mueller Report said —

Obviously federal laws should not be used to punish journalists and publishers of information. But I can’t — I can’t on the fly here interpret what is going on in the Julian Assange case they give you a satisfactory answer that’s gonna make you feel like as though I’m siding with you.

Should journalists or be put in prison for publishing classified information? That’s the question — just for publishing classified information? That’s the question. That was the question.

Let me think about that. I appreciate the time. Thank you.

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