Like A Condom, The First Amendment Can't Always Protect You
by Ann Coulter
First of all, I feel so much more confident that the
TSA's nude photos of airline passengers will never
be released now that I know the government couldn't
even prevent half a million classified national
security documents from being posted on WikiLeaks.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will be getting around
to WikiLeaks' proprietor, Julian Assange, just as
soon as they figure out which law the New Black
Panthers might have violated by standing outside a
polling place with billy clubs.
These legal eagles are either giving the press a lot of disinformation
about the WikiLeaks investigation or they are a
couple Elmer Fudds who can't find their own butts
without a map.
Since Holder apparently wasn't watching Fox News a few weeks ago, I'll
repeat myself and save the taxpayers the cost of
Holder's legal assistants having to pore through the
federal criminal statutes starting with the A's.
Among the criminal laws apparently broken by Assange is 18 U.S.C.
793(e), which provides:
"Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control
over any document, writing, code book, signal book,
sketch, photograph, (etc. etc.) relating to the
national defense, ... (which) the possessor has
reason to believe could be used to the injury of the
United States or to the advantage of any foreign
nation, willfully communicates (etc. etc) the same
to any person not entitled to receive it, or
willfully retains the same (etc) ...
"Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten
years, or both."
As is evident, merely being in unauthorized possession of classified
national security documents that could be used to
harm this country and publishing those documents
constitutes a felony.
There's no exception for albinos with webpages -- or "journalists."
Journalists are people, too!
Depending on the facts adduced at trial, there are about a half-dozen
other federal laws that might apply to the WikiLeaks
document dump, including 18 USC 641, which provides
that any person who "receives" or "retains" a "thing
of value of the United States" knowing "it to have
been embezzled, stolen, purloined or converted" is
also guilty of a felony, punishable by up to ten
years in prison.
Classified information is valuable government property.
The entire public discussion about prosecuting Assange has been
neurotically fixated on the First Amendment, as if
that matters. Is Assange a "journalist"? What kind
of journalist? Who is a "journalist" in the world of
Assange's lawyer, naturally, wraps his client in the First Amendment,
saying Assange "is entitled to First Amendment
protection as publisher of WikiLeaks."
Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who wants Assange prosecuted -- bless her
patriotic Democratic heart -- has responded to
Assange's free speech defense by saying, "But he is
no journalist: He is an agitator intent on damaging
our government, whose policies he happens to
disagree with, regardless of who gets hurt."
All this is completely irrelevant.
New York Times reporters are agitators intent on damaging our
government, and they're considered "journalists."
That doesn't mean they have carte blanche to hunt
endangered species, refuse to pay their taxes or
embezzle money. The First Amendment isn't a Star
Trek "energy field" that protects journalists from
phasers, photon torpedoes, lasers, rockets and
It's possible for the First Amendment to be implicated in a case
involving national security information, just as
it's possible for the First Amendment to be
implicated in a case involving the Montgomery County
(Ala.) public safety commissioner.
This isn't that case.
The government isn't trying to put a prior restraint on Assange's
publication of the documents, as in the Pentagon
Papers case (though it probably could have). It
wouldn't be punishing Assange for his opinions. The
government wouldn't be prosecuting Assange to force
him to give up his sources -- and not only because
we already know who his source is (a gay guy in "an
awkward place"), but because it simply doesn't
Assange would be prosecuted for committing the crime of possessing and
releasing classified national security documents
that could do this country harm. The First Amendment
has no bearing whatsoever on whether Assange has
committed this particular crime, so whether or not
Assange is a "journalist" is irrelevant.
The problem here is that people get their information from the media,
which is written by journalists, and journalists
have spent the last half-century trying to persuade
everyone that laws don't apply to them.
If a fully certified, bona fide, grade-A "journalist," rushing to get a
story, swerves his car onto a sidewalk and mows down
20 pedestrians, he's committed a crime. It doesn't
matter that he was engaged in the vital First
Amendment-protected activity of news-gathering.
If Paul Krugman shoots his wife because she's talking too much when
he's engaged in the First Amendment activity of
finishing another silly column about the economy,
he's committed a crime.
Journalists can't run red lights, they can't print Coca-Cola's secret
formula, they can't torture sources for information,
and -- as Gawker Media recently discovered when it
published a story on the new iPhone before it was
released -- journalists can't misappropriate lost
Fox News' Alan Colmes said he checked with Fox News legal analyst
Andrew Napolitano, who told him there's no case
against Assange because the government can't punish
"the disseminator of information." They should have
been on Gawker's legal team!
If Assange had unauthorized possession of any national defense document
that he had reason to believe could be used to
injure the United States, and he willfully
communicated that to any person not entitled to
receive it, Assange committed a felony, and it
wouldn't matter if he were Lois Lane, my favorite
As I have noted previously, the only part of the criminal law that
doesn't apply to reporters is the death penalty, at
least since 2002, when the Supreme Court decided in
Atkins v. Virginia that it's "cruel and
unusual punishment" to execute the retarded.
Also, journalists can slander people at will. That ought to make them
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