Event Examines Wikileaks, Espionage Act, and the First Amendment



WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2011 – American University Washington College of Law will host an event on January 11, 2010 from noon – 2 p.m. titled “Wikileaks, The Espionage Act, and the First Amendment: The Law, Politics, and Policy of Prosecuting Julian Assange.”  The event is sponsored by the Program on Law and Government. 

The ongoing controversy surrounding WikiLeaks, its enigmatic founder Julian Assange, and its publication of hundreds of thousands of secret government documents raises a complex and interlocking set of legal and political questions about the line between government secrecy and free speech.   

This event will aim to answer questions like:

  • Can the government use the sweeping—but vague—Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute non-citizens for conduct that takes place outside the United States?
  • Does the Espionage Act even apply to individuals who simply retransmit information that is already in the public domain? Does the First Amendment protect the right of individuals to publish such information?
  • Does it protect the right of newspapers to do so? Is there a difference between disclosures of this information by WikiLeaks, as compared to the New York Times?
  • Should there ever be circumstances in which a federal statute (or the Constitution itself) protects the disclosure of secret governmental information the publication of which is in the public good?

A group of experts including both American University Washington College of Law faculty and the Washington legal community will take up these questions, among others, as they consider the case for (or against) prosecuting Julian Assange in a U.S. federal court.

The panel will be moderated by Stephen Wermiel, fellow in Law and Government and First Amendment expert. 

Panelists will include:

Bruce D. Brown, partner, Baker and Hostetler LLP
  • Abbe Lowell, partner, McDermott Will & Emery LLP
  • Daniel Marcus, fellow in law and government, American University Washington College of Law
  • Victoria Toensing, partner, diGenova & Toensing LLP
  • Steve Vladeck, professor of law, American University Washington College of Law

When: January 11, 2011

            Noon - 2 p.m.

Where: American University Washington College of Law

             4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20016, Room 603

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American University Washington College of Law

In 1896, American University Washington College of Law became the first law school in the country founded by women. More than 100 years since its founding, this law school community is grounded in the values of equality, diversity, and intellectual rigor. The law school’s nationally and internationally recognized programs (in clinical legal education, trial advocacy, international law, and intellectual property to name a few) and dedicated faculty provide its 1700 JD, LL.M., and SJD students with the critical skills and values to have an immediate impact as students and as graduates, in Washington, DC and around the world. For more information, visit wcl.american.edu.