Julian Assange Joins Whisteblowers to Discuss Snowden, Manning Case on Press Call

By Jennifer Moire 

Julian Assange called on the Obama Administration to do the right thing today, on the one-year anniversary of his asylum request at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, by immediately dropping the “immoral investigation” against Wikileaks.

A collection of high-profile whistleblowers, including the Wikileaks founder Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, famous for the leak of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, and whistleblower and former National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake, stood in solidarity with their counterparts Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning on a press call today to discuss the challenges of journalism in an Internet age.

The participants emphasized the threat to journalists , particularly those who publish online, who face charges under the Espionage Act for publishing facts about U.S. security in a post 9/11 world.

Much of the call was devoted to Edward Snowden, whom Assange confirmed he’s been in contact with, and who is rumored to be seeking refuge from Hong Kong to Iceland. Ellsberg said that the Snowden leak of classified NSA documents represented, “the most important in U.S. history.”

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Assange’s request for political asylum at the Ecuadoran embassy in London following Wikileaks publication of Bradley Manning‘s documents in 2010. The trial for Manning started two weeks ago while Assange continues to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The whisteblowers stood in solidarity today when they said that their circumstances establish precedent for making the crime of publishing national security information about the U.S. online is in the act of publication itself, thanks to the passage of the Patriot Act in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.

President Obama faced withering criticism for his continuation of George W. Bush’s policies of investigating journalists who publish leaked information from the group, which also included Human Rights Attorney Jennifer Robinson of the Bertha Foundation, James Goodale, Former General Counsel of The New York Times and Alexa O’Brien, who is covering the Manning trial.

Anyone publishing data in the Internet age should be concerned, O’Brien believes, and she went on to cite the words of Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who has expressed concerns over the Internet’s “culture of disclosure.” Rogers has said in the past that these disclosures have a “chilling effect” on the information sharing environment.

Goodale added that the “Obama Administration wants to make journalists clearly libel for what they do—gather the news.”

We know how the participants feel about the need to protect the work of journalists, but what about the Internet companies who are forced to turn over their data thanks to programs like Prism? Do they deserve any sort of protection and if so, who would protect them?

Readers, do you think companies such as Apple and Facebook should be forced to turn over data about users to the U.S. government?

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