Congress moves to save journalism

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Thomas Massie (KY-04) introduced H.Res.1175, a resolution that defends the freedom of the press, noting that newsgathering activities and news organizations ability to acquire and publish information are protected under the First Amendment.

The resolution calls for the United States to drop all charges and efforts to extradite Julian Assange.

“Freedom of the press is a vital function of a free democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. Julian Assange published information that exposed lies and abuses of power at the highest levels of our government. His indictment under the Espionage Act sends a chilling message to every member of the media and all Americans,” said Gabbard. “U.S. government prosecutors now claim that any journalist or news organization that publishes classified material is liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act — which would have led to the indictment of the Washington Post for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. The Federal government’s prosecution of Julian Assange sets a dangerous precedent. All extradition efforts and charges under the Espionage Act against Julian Assange must be dropped now.”

“At a time when government officials claim the right to perform warrantless surveillance upon all American citizens, there is an urgent need to zealously guard freedom of the press and to demand government transparency and accountability. The ongoing attempts to prosecute Julian Assange threaten our First Amendment rights, and should be opposed by all who wish to safeguard our constitutional rights now and in the years to come. I join my colleague, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, in calling for an immediate end to all charges against Mr. Assange,” said Massie.

In 2010, Wikileaks disclosed a cache of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables, Guantanamo Bay detainee assessments, and U.S. military reports related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the disclosure of U.S. military documents that exposed war crimes against civilians in the Middle East.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to pursue charges against Julian Assange for publishing classified documents due to what Justice officials described as a “New York Times problem,” which would cause the prosecution of other news organizations and journalists who have published classified material.

On June 19, 2014, human rights and press freedom organizations sent a letter to then Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to close all criminal investigations into Wikileaks and Julian Assange due to concerns that “actions against Wikileaks undermine the commitment of the U.S. Government to freedom of speech.”

On April 11, 2019, the London Metropolitan Police Service arrested Julian Assange for outstanding warrants, including a provisional warrant at the request of the United States government.

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a March 2018 indictment against Julian Assange for violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

On May 23, 2019, a federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment adding 17 charges against Julian Assange for violation of the Espionage Act.

On June 10, 2019, the United States government submitted a formal request to the United Kingdom for the extradition of Julian Assange.

U.S. government prosecutors now claim that any journalist or news organization that publishes classified material is liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act, which would have led to the indictment of news organizations for the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Press freedom, human rights, and privacy rights organizations across five continents sent a letter to the government of the United Kingdom urging for the immediate release of Julian Assange, arguing US charges as “an unprecedented escalation of an already disturbing assault on journalism in the US, where President Donald Trump has referred to the news media as the ‘enemy of the people.’”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a consistent champion of whistleblowers throughout her time in Congress.

She has previously spoken in support of Julian Assange and applauded a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which determined that the warrantless telephone surveillance program that secretly collected phone records of millions of Americans violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The NSA program in question was exposed by Edward Snowden, who leaked details about it to the press.

In August, she was joined at a press conference by three medical experts, including a Department of Health employee whistleblower, exposing the lies coming from the Department of Health leadership regarding contact tracing efforts in Hawai’i. She has continued to demand answers and transparency from the State after the whistleblower’s exposure.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has also been an outspoken leader on freedom of speech and technology privacy issues. She has earned an A+ legislative scorecard rating from the Restore the Fourth and Fight for the Future.

Rep. Gabbard fought against U.S. intelligence agencies’ actions that threatened the privacy of American citizens. Drawing on her military service and constitutional protections, she admonished the National Security Administration for its sweeping collection of personal data, supported legislation to curtail it, and voiced her support for court decisions aiming to rein in executive overreach.

Rep. Gabbard stood up for internet neutrality and protection against corporate efforts to restrict Americans’ access to information, opposing legislation that would weaken the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to enforce free and open internet.

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