It has been reported in the media (e.g. RT, BBC) that the US has requested the extradition of Julian Assange from the UK to stand trial for the charge of conspiracy to intrude into a computer system (I hope I'm getting the wording correctly here).

Now, regardless of other possible charges ("sealed indictments" etc.) - what is the history of journalists/publishers being charged with this offense or similar ones regarding their interaction with sources? Are there binding precedents at the national level? Have any courts considered the constitutionality of such charges in various situations? Or of the means in which the government obtains evidence about seemingly private conversations of journalists and their sources?

Note: This question is about the USA, not the UK.


The PressGazette has a brief but illuminating article which gives information on :

...over 64 journalists arrested in the UK between April 2011 and October 2014) including 25 former News of the World journalists and 25 from the Sun.

The majority of these were for unlawfully intercepting communications, intercepting mobile phone voicemail messages without lawful authority, and conspiring to intercept communications, and conspiring to intercept telephone communications - which are directly relevant to the this case.

There have been quite a number more (those were in a 30 month time span) so yes, there is certainly precedent.

Your further questions about constitutionality, and government access to private conversations should, in my opinion, be raised as separate questions.

Whether or not there is precedent for extradition is a separate issue - 2 previous high profile cases (Lauri Love and Gary McKinnon) both ended with no extradition after public pressure and various relevant circumstances including their autism and nationality.

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  • I'm not sure about the relevance, both because those are breaches of UK law, and because, from what I gather, Assange is not supposed to be charged with any of these particular offenses. Also, I was asking about precedent in court rulings, not police arrests. – einpoklum Apr 12 '19 at 15:07
  • Gary and Lauri were both going to be extradited to be charged under US law. – Rory Alsop Apr 12 '19 at 16:55
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    And remember, the charges are nothing to do with journalism, and everything to do with illegal hacking. – Rory Alsop Apr 12 '19 at 16:55
  • That would the prosecution's position, which you seem to be adopting. – einpoklum Apr 12 '19 at 18:27
  • Honestly, hes adopting them, because they are correct. Why should the U.S. let people hack us? – Putvi Apr 12 '19 at 19:06

United States v Ivanov appears to be directly relevant

The fact that a person is, or claims to be as in Assange’s situation, a journalist does not give them the right to ignore the law. It is against US law to gain (or conspire to gain) unauthorised access to a protected computer system.

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    @einpoklum journalists have no special privileges that allow them to break the law - the answer says this. – Dale M Apr 12 '19 at 22:33
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    @einpoklum no, they don’t. A journalist cannot trespass or break into a computer network because of journalistic freedom. – Dale M Apr 12 '19 at 22:54
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    @einpoklum are you seriously suggesting that journalists should be above the law because if they aren't then carrying out their profession would be inconvenient? That's a really bad opinion... – user4210 Apr 13 '19 at 1:17
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    @einpoklum are you really suggesting that journalists can declare themselves above any law they wish because "journalism"? That's a worse opinion. In the US, the "freedom of the press" is very much linked to the freedom of speech, not the freedom to be above any other law Congress shall pass. Journalists can be both journalists and criminals, and the former should never grant them the right to be the latter without consequence. A journalist cannot break & enter, cannot bribe, cannot steal, cannot hack into a computer system. None of those laws abridge the freedom of the press. – user4210 Apr 13 '19 at 8:05
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    @einpoklum - I think you are just misunderstanding the meaning of "freedom of the press" – Rory Alsop Apr 13 '19 at 8:56

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