Press freedom advocates denounced the claims advanced in the suit, arguing they would implicate journalists and newspapers that report on or publish classified information.
“[Eighteen] months after their crushing defeat at the hands of a game show host, Democrats have still published no public autopsy about why they lost or have collapsed at all levels. They did, though, just file a lawsuit blaming Russia and WikiLeaks for their loss.”
“It is hard to put into words how insane and self-destructive it is for any journalist to cheer the DNC’s theory: that someone can be liable by publishing or disclosing someone else’s secret information.”
—Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
That was how The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald reacted to news on Friday that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is suing the Russian government, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and WikiLeaks over what it claims was a “far-reaching conspiracy” to damage Hillary Clinton and hand the 2016 election to Trump.
Particularly alarming, say free speech advocates and journalists, are the DNC’s claims against Wikileaks, which is accused of “economic espionage” for publishing a trove of hacked emails from the DNC and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, denounced “some of these theories in the DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks” as “crazy,” as they would implicate journalists and newspapers that report on or publish classified information.
I know Assange is unpopular, but I hope everyone can see some of these theories in the DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks are crazy.
If it actually was accepted by a judge/jury, countless journalists would be liable for all sorts of campaign related reporting in the future. pic.twitter.com/Yh1904Uxul
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) April 20, 2018
Echoing Timm’s critique, Greenwald argued “it is hard to put into words how insane and self-destructive it is for any journalist to cheer the DNC’s theory: that someone can be liable by publishing or disclosing someone else’s secret information.”
When a commenter responded that there is a distinction to be made between publishing stolen material and publishing “leaks,” Greenwald responded: “Could you explain the difference to me? Were the Pentagon Papers “stolen” or leaked? How about the Snowden documents? How about Trump’s tax returns?”
In a tweet on Friday, WikiLeaks itself responded to the lawsuit, writing that “as an accurate publisher of newsworthy information WikiLeaks is constitutionally protected from such suits.”
In addition to the potential legal holes in the DNC’s arguments and the “dangerous” implications of the multi-million dollar lawsuit’s claims, critics also slammed the suit on pragmatic political grounds, arguing that the Democratic Party should be focusing its resources on taking back Congress with midterms rapidly approaching.
“It has been 17 months since the 2016 election. Democrats have just seven months to try to flip the House of Representatives in the midterm elections,” Splinter‘s Emma Roller noted in an article on Friday. “Investing in getting out the vote for the millions of Americans who stayed home on Election Day 2016 is an infinitely better use of the DNC’s time and money than this lawsuit is. Throwing more lawsuits and more money at the problem will never change what happened on November 8, 2016.”
Featured Image: Democratic National Party Chirman Tom Perez speaks as about 300 people rally to protest against President Donald Trump’s firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey outside the White House May 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)