Noted First Amendment attorney Alan Dershowitz
, who Tuesday announced he will advise the WikiLeaks legal team, says potential U.S. litigation against founder Julian Assange or his associates reflects a double standard on the use of social media. In a CNN interview, Dershowitz said while the United States praises the use of new media in the quest for Middle East democracy, it is seeking to stifle WikiLeaks.
The Justice Department Tuesday defended in a Virginia federal court demands for the Twitter records of three Assange associates, and announced the preliminary stages of a criminal investigation, without naming specific targets. Dershowitz noted on CNN’s “Parker Spitzer” the assumption is the focus is on WikiLeaks and Assange.
“We argue that the cutting-edge issue of this decade really is the application of [the First Amendment] to the social media, to electronic journalism, to the new media,” said Dershowitz. “We're worried not only about this particular application but the precedent it will set in the electronic context, where you can get thousands, millions, perhaps tens of millions of pieces of information about individuals, and so it's important to fight this battle … at the earliest possible stage.”
Host Eliot Spitzer asked Dershowitz whether his case would center on the argument “that Julian Assange stands in shoes no different than those of The New York Times or any newspaper that published these same documents? He received them, somebody gave them to him, and the mere publication of this information cannot be a criminal act.”
Dershowitz acknowledged that would be his probable line of argument.
“The United States is encouraging, of course, the new media in Iran, in Egypt, and other parts of the world and at the same time it's obviously seeking to chill the use of those media by seeking the records of people who follow on Twitter … or use WikiLeaks,” he said. “And so we think that a double standard is being applied – you know, rights for me but not for thee.
“Now obviously, nobody is talking about publishing the names of spies, satellite codes, things that have traditionally, both the newspapers and responsible people, withhold publication,” Dershowitz said.
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