War on Journalism
The famous Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward made his career publishing government secrets. But today he could go to jail for publishing government secrets. Because the Trump administration has issued the first indictment in history charging a publisher for publishing government secrets.
That publisher is Wikileaks’ former editor in chief, Julian Assange. He now faces life in prison for leaks he published back in 2010, from Private Manning, that revealed war crimes and government lies.
Many have the wrong impression that Assange was simply indicted for hacking. But the reality is 17 of the 18 counts against Assange are for obtaining and disclosing classified national defense information, like Bob Woodward—or any journalist that dares to investigate and expose government secrets.
The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winner, Barton Gellman, explains:
“Assange is charged with asking for information, with receiving information, and with publishing information…Those are exactly the things that I do.”
Woodward’s executive editor at the Washington Post, Martin Baron, says “with the indictment of Julian Assange, the government…is criminalizing common practices in journalism” and “undermines the very purpose of the First Amendment.”
Pulitzer Prize-winner James Risen told the Post, “This is unlike we’ve ever seen before.” This is serious threat to future of the country because without a press that’s free to shine light on government secrets, democracy dies in darkness.
Because as Bob Woodward explains in his own online investigative journalism class: “You can’t cover foreign affairs or intelligence issues and not get into classified information.”
Bob Woodward has obtained and disclosed so many government secrets that he can laugh about a time when the Director of the CIA, Bill Casey, threatened to put him in jail for it.
“At one point Casey said ‘You’re publishing too many government secrets we’re gonna prosecute you. We’re gonna send you to jail’.”
But it’s no longer a laughing matter.
If the Trump administration is successful prosecuting Julian Assange for seeking and sharing information that revealed war crimes, exposed government lies, and didn’t harm anyone, it will set a dangerous precedent. And the next Bob Woodward may share the same fate.
There’s no doubt government should worry about keeping some thing secret. But what’s the thing that we should worry about the most?
My answer is secret government.