The Next Bob Woodward Could Be Muzzled by the Assange Verdict
The charges brought against the WikiLeaks founder would criminalize good reporting
The U.K. extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now in its third week, but you would hardly realize it if you read only mainstream news outlets. Despite the fact that most of the major newspapers in the United States vehemently condemned the Trump administration’s charges against Assange as a threat to press freedom, there has been a worrying lack of coverage of the case.
Yet it also happens that the one person who so perfectly exemplifies the danger of the charges against Assange is someone who’s been the source of countless front-page stories for the past two weeks: America’s most famous reporter, Bob Woodward.
Woodward has dominated news coverage this month with the release of Rage, which contains material from 18 previously unreleased interviews with President Trump. But if the precedent the Trump administration is seeking in the Assange case existed at the start of Woodward’s career, he certainly wouldn’t be reporting on what the president secretly told him about Covid-19 or the many other revelations in his new book.
The Case Against Julian Assange Is a Threat to Journalists Everywhere
Any precedent set for his news-gathering activities could be used against news outlets that report on Trump
In fact, Woodward’s legendary investigation into Watergate, which made him the household name he is today, likely never would have gotten off the ground. Richard Nixon would not have been forced to resign. Instead, Woodward and his former Washington Post reporting partner Carl Bernstein would be in jail. And if the two legendary journalists somehow managed to avoid prosecution during the Nixon era, Woodward could have been prosecuted at countless other points in his career.
I made this point when I testified as an expert witness on behalf of the defense in the Assange hearing two weeks ago, but given the stakes, it’s worth explaining further here.
Assange is charged with well over a dozen counts under the Espionage Act — the 100-year-old law First Amendment…