Julian Assange, of Manning and Wikileaks infamy, has been indicted on violations of the Espionage Act in addition to the existing charges pending against him.
Naturally, the NLMSM is in an uproar over this putative attack on a free press.
…reignited debate over whether pursuing Mr. Assange for publishing classified information could lead to other cases against journalists who receive government secrets.
There are a couple of things on the NLMSM’s artificial dudgeon, though. One is that a free press also has to be a responsible press—which includes respect for the law and acceptance of the consequences where the press engages in civil disobedience. We’re all big boys and girls, though, the press’ and the Left’s contempt for us notwithstanding. We’re fully capable of recognizing irresponsibility when we see it and disdaining pseudo-journalism when it’s presented.
The larger thing, though, is the role of law in our nation. We’re either a nation of laws, or we are not. We’re all equal under law, or some of us get special treatment—descending us into rule by law instead of rule of law.
The laws regarding receiving stolen goods are quite clear: that’s a crime, and the recipient(s) on conviction go to jail. Except when it’s a journalist who receives the stolen property. See, for instance, the news outlet that received and published the stolen Ellsberg papers, along with the hue and cry over holding Julian Assange—who’s not even a journalist, for all that he pretends to be—to the consequences from his having received the documents Manning had stolen and sent to him.
A free press requires journalists be allowed to break the same laws the rest of us must obey? What’s the value of a press that cannot be trusted, that demonstrates its lawlessness by freely receiving stolen goods and profiting from the receipt by publishing the stolen material?
Here’s an alternative—a bare minimum of movement of the NLMSM back within the reach of the same laws the rest of us must obey.
Upon receipt of the stolen material, the news outlet and the receiving journalist must immediately return the originals of the material to the robbed entity and identify to law enforcement the person(s) and/or entity from which the material was received. Upon return, the news outlet would be free to publish based on its copies of the stolen material.
Should the journalist or news outlet refuse, the journalist (or the news outlet’s chief editor, if the receiving journalist cannot be clearly identified) should be jailed until the originals are returned and the delivering person/entity identified.
Of course, overriding the above is whether the stolen material is classified (the Manning theft, for instance). In this instance, the material and the receiving news outlet and its personnel would be subject to laws pertaining to (mis)handling classified material.