Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a famed free speech advocate, says the WikiLeaks case takes him back to the days of Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, and that he is glad to be part of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team.
During an interview broadcast on WIOD radio in South Florida Tuesday, the First Amendment champion and Harvard Law professor said, “The Pentagon Papers case didn’t say that The New York Times wouldn’t be [punished] for publishing the Pentagon Papers, it just said that they wouldn’t prevent them from publishing it. They would then have to take a risk with the possibility of criminal prosecution. The Justice Department then wisely decided not to prosecute . . . Because it turned out that what was published really didn’t hurt the United States, even though the government said that the walls of Washington would crumble.”
Dershowitz asked how the First Amendment applies to the new electronic media, citing the fact that the Constitution’s framers “couldn’t have had in mind the Internet.”
He also mentioned possible implications regarding the Fourth Amendment, the right to privacy, citing an attempt on Tuesday to obtain “massive amounts of records, electronic records, of followers of . . . WikiLeaks.”
WikiLeaks stirred controversy in April when it released a classified helicopter video showing a U.S. attack that killed two Reuters journalists in Iraq. Since then, it has been publishing tens of thousands of U.S. military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and classified U.S. diplomatic cables, prompting charges against Assange.
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