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Top New York Times Lawyer: Prosecuting WikiLeaks Would Be ‘Unpopular, Wrong, Unsuccessful’

A top lawyer for The New York Times said Tuesday that prosecuting WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for publishing leaked documents “would set a terrible precedent for journalists,” Courthouse News reports.

During a panel titled “The Law of Leaks” at the Ninth Circuit’s annual judicial conference, David McCraw, deputy general counsel for The New York Times, told federal and circuit judges in attendance that Wikileaks and Assange should be afforded the same protections as a traditional journalist, referring to the publisher and its founder as “colleagues”:

“Do I wish journalism was practiced in a certain way, like it is with The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal? Of course. But I also think new ways of publishing have their value. Our colleagues who are not only challenging us financially but journalistically have raised an awareness that there are different ways to report,” McCraw said.

“But if someone is in the business of publishing information, I think that whatever privilege happens to apply – whatever extension of the law that would apply – should be there. Because the question isn’t whether he’s a journalist. It’s that instance was he committing an act of journalism.”

Another attorney on the panel, Barry Pollack, who’s representing Assange in an ongoing criminal investigation in the Eastern District of Virginia, spoke about Wikileaks in the context of the recent indictment of the ’12 Russians’ and how what’s been alleged is no different than what any other publisher does on a daily basis:

“If you read the indictment that just came out on Russians and you look at what Organization Number 1, which is clearly WikiLeaks, is alleged to have done in that indictment, it is doing exactly what The New York Times and The Washington Post do every day of the week,” Pollack said. “He [Assange] is communicating with a source, the source provides him with information, he publishes that information.

“There are no questions about the truthfulness or accuracy or authenticity of that information. And then he encourages the source to give him more information. He says ‘don’t give it to my competitors, give it to me. This story will have more impact if I publish it.’”

Both panelists doubted whether any publisher, including Wikileaks, could be indicted for publishing leaks, with McCraw adding:

“Prosecutions of journalists would be difficult,” McCraw said. “I think they’d be unpopular, I think they’d be wrong, and I think they’d be unsuccessful. I see this PR campaign against the press as almost an alternative to legal measures.”

The fight has just begun and could heat up quick – with recent news that Ecuador may be handing over Assange to British authorities soon.

Will MSM outlets like The New York Times come to WikiLeaks’ defense to protect its own interests?

Read more about this story at Courthouse News

READ MORE WIKILEAKS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Wikileaks Files

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