“Federal authorities are investigating whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group’s release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act, sources familiar with the inquiry said Monday…

“Former prosecutors cautioned that prosecutions involving leaked classified information are difficult because the Espionage Act is a 1917 statute that preceded Supreme Court cases that expanded First Amendment protections. The government also would have to persuade another country to turn over Assange, who is outside the United States…

“Holder was asked Monday how the United States could prosecute Assange, who is an Australian citizen. ‘Let me be very clear,’ he replied. ‘It is not saber rattling.’…

“[W]hen it comes to Assange, Jeffrey H. Smith, a former CIA general counsel, said: ‘I’m confident that the Justice Department is figuring out how to prosecute him.'”

***
“Mr. Assange is clearly trying to protect himself from such an indictment by inviting the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel to be his co-publishers. Newspapers used to understand that the right of the First Amendment implied some publishing self-restraint. But as publishers ourselves, we nonetheless worry that indicting a bad actor like Mr. Assange under an ambiguous statute would set a precedent that could later be used against journalists.

“One alternative would be for Congress and the Administration to collaborate on writing a new statute aimed more precisely at provocateurs like Mr. Assange. At a minimum, the Administration should throw the book at those who do the leaking, including the option of the death penalty. That would probably give second thoughts to the casual spy or to leakers who fancy themselves as idealists.

“For all of his self-justification as an agent of ‘pure’ transparency, Mr. Assange is not serving the interest of free societies. His mass, indiscriminate exposure of anything labeled secret that he can lay his hands on is a hostile act against a democracy that is fighting a war against forces bent on killing innocents. Surely, the U.S. government can do more to stop him than send a stiff letter.”

***
“First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a ‘journalist,’ any more than the ‘editor’ of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a ‘journalist.’ He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?

“What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?

“Most importantly, serious questions must also be asked of the U.S. intelligence system. How was it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?”

***
Via the Right Scoop.