The First Amendment and Julian Assange

Benjamin H. Friedman 

If you needed evidence that there isn’t much of a constituency for the First Amendment these days, the hysterical bipartisan reaction to WikiLeaks’ latest document release should do the trick. Senators Joe Lieberman and Diane Feinstein view constitutional protection of speech as a mere speed bump on the road to prosecuting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for espionage. The Obama administration, now promising his prosecution, does not dissent. The Republicans calling Assange a terrorist (presumably based on a novel definition of terrorism as “things that harm the US government”) avoid even such minor gestures toward constitutional restraint. Acceptance of their previous claims that the government can kill whomever it designates a terrorist would moot debates about the speech rights of those so labeled.

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