Home House Judiciary Committee Conducts Hearing on Wikileaks – Watch the Video

House Judiciary Committee Conducts Hearing on Wikileaks – Watch the Video

The House Judiciary Committeemet today to discuss, among other things, Wikileaks and whether the organization and its boss Julian Assange have violated the United States Espionage Act.

The committee meeting was recorded by C-Span and video of the hearing is available.

In an extremely thorough examination, Trevor Timm of Legal As She Is Spoke, has made a very convincing case that Wikileaks has not broken the law.

Timm, the editor of the New York Law School Law Review, examines “the most commonly cited statute by those who advocate prosecuting Wikileaks…Section 793(e).”

“‘Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document…relating to the national defense…willfully communicates… the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it…[s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.'”

As made clear in the Pentagon Papers case, the word ‘communicates’ was never meant ‘to encompass publication’ or to affect the press.”

The witness list for the hearing included Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive at George Washington University; Geoffrey Stone, former dean of the University of Chicago Law School; and Ralph Nader for some reason.

Some legislators, most prominently Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have called for Assange to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

However, given the extreme uncertainty of the outcome they desire, Lieberman has introduced the SHIELD Act (Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination). On his website, Lieberman makes it 100% clear that this law was written not so much to protect the country, to make up for a gap in the existing law, as it is to go after and get Assange.

“(T)he SHIELD Act, would give the Administration increased flexibility to go after Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange by making it illegal to publish the names of human intelligence informants (HUMINT) to the United States military and intelligence community.”

The video of the meeting is actually interesting. It goes surprisingly far beyond the usual electioneering you see in these sorts of hearings, especially expected in one whose topic is so fraught. The majority of the legislators seem to actually care about the First Amendment, even when the speech it protects is odious to them. There is also a great deal of examination of the perils of over-classification of both diplomatic and military materials.

Was there anything in the hearing that you found particularly surprising? If so, please share it in the comments.

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