The headline above could be something we’ll see in the not too distant future but actually occurred more than 200 years ago in the United States of America.
Prior to the 1800 presidential election, John Adams and his cronies in Congress made criticism of him to be unlawful. The executive branch of government actually threw violators in jail under what was called the “Alien & Sedition Act.”
Adams was facing Thomas Jefferson, the leader of a states rights political party calling itself “Republicans.” The second president of the USA repeatedly attacked the press that sided with the author of the Declaration of Independence, claiming newspaper stories critical of him were seditious writings. The act was repealed years later but not before it created such a chilling effect on the Fourth Estate and its role as government watchdogs.
History seems to be repeating itself today. The Justice Department yesterday charged Julian Assange with such “so-called” crimes as publishing secret or classified materials. Progressives have little love for what Assange did with stolen documents that Russia allegedly provided him against Hilary Clinton during the 2016 election. But the 17 charges under the Espionage Act against the WikiLeaks publisher have nothing to do with 2016 but with the year 2010 and Assange’s “active” role with the intelligence operative Chelsea Manning in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents.
Some commentators believe that the use of the Espionage Act for such charges may open the door to criminalizing activities that are crucial to investigative journalists. They could be arrested and imprisoned for reporting on such things as the Pentagon Papers or the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which was based on lies that lead to the major escalation of the Vietnam War.
Could such an action be used as a precedent against the media publishing a leaked version of the un-redacted and classified sections of the Special Counsel Mueller Report? Will someone be labeled a traitor for reporting what a whistle-blower with the Justice Department provides the Press? Particularly when such action would be deemed as efforts to insure re-election by a president?
Only time will tell.