First Amendment Groups Urge Protections In Aftermath Of WikiLeaks Document Release

December 22, 2010 3:41 pm

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ACLU And Others Publish Open Letter To Public Officials Addressing Proposed Legislation And Censorship

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of free speech organizations today sent an open letter to public officials cautioning against the prosecution of third party publishers for publishing leaked government documents and efforts to limit the rights of individuals to view the documents.

The letter, which was signed by 30 organizations, is in response to statements by some government officials who have questioned the right of newspapers to report on leaked documents and the right of government employees and others to read or even discuss them, as well as proposed legislation that would limit the free speech of legitimate news reporting agencies.

According to the letter, “[t]hese actions have created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among the general public.”

“The First Amendment clearly protects third parties who publish leaked information from prosecution. The government should not be expanding old laws or creating new ones with the express purpose of skirting the Constitution,” said Michael W. Macleod-Ball, ACLU Legislative Chief of Staff and First Amendment Counsel. “It is in controversial situations that our adherence to the principle of free speech is most important. Government censorship and prosecution of third parties for publishing truthful information are not the answer.”

The full text of the letter is available online at:

The ACLU recently submitted testimony for a congressional hearing on the constitutional issues surrounding the proposed prosecution of WikiLeaks for its publication of government documents and a proposal to expand the Espionage Act. That testimony is available online at:

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