First Amendment “powerhouse” Alan Dershowitz has joined Julian Assange‘s U.S. legal team and told Parker Spitzer last night that the U.S. government has announced that they are in the “preliminary stages of a criminal investigation…we have to assume WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange may be among the targets of that investigation.”
Dershowitz clarified that at the moment he is not Assange’s “official lawyer because he doesn’t need a lawyer in the United States and he has never done anything in the United States that would convey jurisdiction on an American court…so I’m working with the British lawyers on American aspects of the law, particularly the First and the Fourth Amendments.”
Here are the two key points of the American side of the investigation that will have much larger reverberations for the media world:
Should Assange essentially be treated as a one man equivalent to institutions such as the NYT? Dershowitz says absolutely. And moreover the U.S. government is applying a double standard.
We argue that the cutting-edge issue of this decade really is the application of the First and Fourth Amendments to the social media, to electronic journalism, to the new media. The United States is encouraging, of course, the new media in Iran, in Egypt, and other parts of the world and at the same time it’s obviously seeking to chill the use of those media by seeking the records of people who follow on Twitter or twit or use WikiLeaks.
Secondly, how worrisome is it that the government is subpoenaing Twitter for information in the hopes of connecting Assange with alleged WikiLeaker Bradley Manning? Very.
What we’re worried is not only about this particular application but the precedent it will set in the electronic context where you can get thousands, millions, perhaps tens of millions of pieces of information about individuals. And so it’s important so fight this battle for the Fourth Amendment and for the First Amendment at the earliest possible stage.
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