CIA Director Says WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Has No Freedom Of Speech Protection Because He's Not A Citizen

Dawn Papple

Trump's Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo struck a nerve with social media users, pundits, and journalists from all areas of the political spectrum after he stated that Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks, has no First Amendment protection because he's not a U.S. citizen. Pompeo was speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies this month about Assange's declaration that he is protected by a right to free speech and freedom of the press.

Assange says that WikiLeaks is a news media organization and that documents published on WikiLeaks are provided by whistleblowers or concerned parties trying to expose corrupt actions of powerful corporations or governments.

"Quite simply, our motive is identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post -- to publish newsworthy content," Assange wrote in an article published by The Washington Post. "Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media. And we strive to mitigate legitimate concerns, for example by using redaction to protect the identities of at-risk intelligence agents."

Just a few days after Assange's article was published, CIA Director Pompeo referenced the article and said that Assange shouldn't mention the Constitution as affording him protection.

"Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He's sitting in an Embassy in London. He's not a US citizen," Pompeo said.

Assange's supporters were quick to point out that Assange simply said that WikiLeaks operates in a manner that is consistent with the U.S. Constitution, not that he could claim rights by it.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Last fall, U.N. Special Rapporteur David Kaye submitted to the General Assembly a report addressing a growing trend by governments of infringing on Article 19. Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, says that Pompeo's stance on Assange, if followed through on, would set a dangerous precedent.

"Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public," Wizner told CNN after the CIA director's statements. "Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations."

The CIA director called WikiLeaks"a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia" and said, "To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now."

"Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen."

"I have given up years of my own liberty for the risks we have taken at WikiLeaks to bring truth to the public. I take some solace in this: Joseph Pulitzer, namesake of journalism's award for excellence, was indicted in 1909 for publishing allegedly libelous information about President Theodore Roosevelt and the financier J.P. Morgan in the Panama Canal corruption scandal. It was the truth that set him free."

WikiLeaks recently published documents related to the CIA, including the most recent Vault 7 publication, the User Guide for the CIA's "Weeping Angel" technology, which is, according to WikiLeaks, an implant designed for Samsung F Series Smart TVs.

Mike Pompeo is perhaps best known in Congress as the lawmaker who introduced The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014, also known as the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" Act or the DARK Act.

[Featured Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivai/AP Images]