It was widely expected that today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on WikiLeaks would center around ways to legalize the censorship of WikiLeaks and other media outlets for covering the embarrassing release of State Department cables. The reality was quite a bit more subdued.
Instead, the committee heard from a number of experts that there were major constitutional issues related to any possible move against WikiLeaks, and warnings against “rash” actions against the whistleblower. Committee members likewise repeatedly cited the importance of the First Amendment, a refreshing attitude considering most recent comment has centered around jailing and or assassinating WikiLeaks members.
At the same time the Justice Department was there, doing what the Justice Department does, which is arguing for massive increases in power. Today, they insisted that charging WikiLeaks would have no impact on freedom of the press because they are “fundamentally different” from the traditional media. Of course neither the First Amendment nor federal law makes any distinction between traditional media or anyone else, and freedom of the press doesn’t simply mean freedom of the traditional, approved-of press.
Despite officials being riled up about the WikiLeaks, Vice President Joe Biden also reported today that the leaks have done “no substantive damage” to US foreign policy. Quite the contrary, he insists only that some are “embarrassing.” This too may give the House pause, as it seems like dramatically curtailing personal freedom to spare Biden et al some embarrassment is going to be a tough sell.