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If the prosecutors decide to pin him down with a white-collar crime type of lawsuit, Assange’s actions must be examined just like any other white-collar crime lawsuit tried in the United States. In this context, one can make the argument that it is impossible to convict Assange of committing this type of legal violation because his actions did not conform to the three basic elements that define a white-collar crime.
A guilty verdict on the commission of white-collar crime requires the fulfillment of the following elements: 1) a non-violent act; 2) the act took place in a commercial setting; and 3) it was an act to defraud to make a profit (Benson & French, 2008). In this case, it is impossible to show evidence that the act committed by Assange was violent and that he did the act to earn a profit. Also, Assange was never placed in a commercial setting that enabled him to commit fraud.
The Espionage Act
It is crucial to point out that the Espionage Act of 1917 was created to thwart the handiwork of spies or saboteurs. Thus, this paradigm helps the court to interpret the said law. In this context alone, the prosecutors are facing an uphill battle in indicting Assange. Aside from the “state of war” element, there are at least three sections in the said law that may enable Assange’s legal team to mount a formidable defense (Dedman, 2013). The said sections are listed as follows:
- there is intent to harm the United States;
- there is intent to transmit to an unauthorized person that in turn negatively affects the position of the United States in the context of war;
- there is intent to transmit information for the benefit of any foreign government (Legal Information Institute, 2016).
It is inevitable for the defense team to deny that there was deliberate intent to harm the U.S. government.
On the other hand, one can make the argument that Assange was guilty of infringing the law regarding state secrets. It is also acceptable to make the argument that Assange made a conscious act to transmit sensitive information to unauthorized groups of people. Be that as it may, the prosecuting team is tending a weak position, because of the Espionage Act of 1917 was crafted with the idea that the United States was at war with another foreign power.
The Growing Support for Assange
The growing support is not about white-collar crime; it is in large part due to the need to protect the freedom of the press. In other words, Assange did not get the support of the masses because he was guilty of government harassment over a non-violent crime; the support he garnered was comparable to a preventive measure in the fight against a dangerous precedent. Therefore, his supporters are from the liberal-minded intellectuals fearful of the power of the government to squash the freedom of speech that was gloriously enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. It is not beyond the realm of logic to suggest that a significant number of his supporters are members of the press.
Assange’s legal defense based on First Amendment rights was never made as an afterthought. A deeper understanding and a favorable view of the website he created dubbed as Wikileaks, leads the analyst to conclude that it was established as a mechanism for the expression of the freedom of speech. Assange was motivated to criticize the shortcoming of the U.S. government, and to some extent, he succeeded in the said undertaking, because he made it known in the most public way possible.
Likelihood to be Perceived as Deviant
An objective consideration of the facts of the case makes it a difficult task for the DOJ to label Assange as a social deviant. As mentioned earlier, prosecutors were hampered by the historical backdrop of the Espionage Act, because this piece of legislation finds greater relevance when the U.S is in a “state of war” with another foreign power. The weakness in the prosecutor’s position is exacerbated by specific knowledge regarding the rationale behind the crafting of the U.S. Constitution.
There are at least three possible effects in the pursuit of justice. First, conservatives who are sensitive to the emergence of a powerful government would probably express a great deal of displeasure regarding the possible infringement on the U.S. Constitution. The legal bedrock of U.S. democracy was created after the American Revolution, and the major objective for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was to assure the public that appropriate measures were in place to prevent the emergence of a powerful government that may oppress the citizens of the United States.
Significant debates would arise with regards to First Amendment rights, and this would probably become the second effect on the pursuit of justice because this section of the Constitution forms part of the legal assurance that the government may never curtail the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.
Finally, a deeper discussion with regards to a less popular section of the First Amendment rights would probably become the third major effect of the DOJ’s pursuit of justice, because a closer examination of First Amendment Rights reveals another interesting provision: the right to seek redress from the government (Craft & Davis, 2016).
Benson, M., & French, J. (2008). White-collar crime. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.
Craft, S., & Davis, C. (2016). Principles of American journalism: An introduction. New York, NY: Routledge.
Dedman, Bill (2013). U.S. Wikileaks: Espionage and the First Amendment. Web.
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Legal Information Institute. (2016). 18 USC: Section 793 – gathering, transmitting or losing defense information. Web.