Comey: Wikileaks Is Criminal Because They Don't Call Us Before Publishing (Watch)

James Comey took the stand this morning to discuss the FBI, Donald Trump, and Russia. As expected there was much reporting done about the main focus of the discussion.

However, there was a very interesting nugget among the reporting that will likely go nearly totally unreported by the mainstream media. That nugget was related to Wikileaks, and why Wikileaks does not deserve First Amendment protection while outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal do.

During Comey's exchange with Senator Ben Sasse, Comey struggled to separate standard establishment journalistic outlets from Wikileaks with a bunch of interesting assertions and comparisons. Comey essentially argues that U.S. reporters (it's unclear what he thinks of major foreign reporters like AFP or The Guardian) call the government and ask if it's safe to report a story before doing so. Because Wikileaks doesn't do that, they're criminals.

Comey also insists that the difference between good journalists and Wikileaks is that Wikileaks has an intent to harm the United States. There are many who would argue the same thing about Fox News or (on the other side) The New York Times. It's unclear who gets to be the judge of intent here.

You can read the exchange below:

Ben Sasse: Do you believe any of WikiLeaks disclosures have endangered American lives and/or put at risk American interests?

James Comey: I believe for both have been the results of some of the releases.

Sassse: Can you help me understand why Julian Assange has not been charged with a crime?

Comey: Well, I don't want to comment on the particular case because I don't want to confirm whether or not there are charges pending. He hasn't been apprehended because he's inside the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.

...

Sasse: At what point [does] an allegedly journalistic organization crosses the line to become some sort of a tool of foreign intelligence? There are Americans, well-meaning, thoughtful people who think that Wikileaks might just be a journalistic outfit and you explain why that is not your view?

...

Comey: It's a important question --all of us care deeply about the First Amendment and the ability of a free press to get information about our work and publish it ... to my mind it crosses the line when it moves from being about trying to educate a public; instead just becomes about intelligence porn -- frankly just pushing out information about sources and methods without regard to interest -- without regard to the First Amendment values that normally underlie press reporting and simply becomes a conduit for the Russian intelligence services or some other adversary United States just to push out information to damage the United States. And I realize regional people, as you said struggled to draw a line but surely there's conduct that so far to the side of that line, we can all agree is nothing that even smells journalistic about some of this conduct.

Sasse: So if you could map that continuum. There are clearly members of the IC that have at different points in the past leaked classified information that is an illegal act correct? ...When American journalists court and solicit that information, have they violated any law by asking people in the IC to potentially leak it?

...

Comey: At least in my lifetime, the Department of Justice's view has been newsgathering legitimate news reporting is not covered, is not to be investigated or prosecuted as a criminal act. That's how it's thought of.

Sasse: So investigative reporter taking advantage of and celebrating the liberties that we have under the First Amendment at the Washington Post start the Omaha world Herald or the Lincoln Journal Star at the New York Times trying to talk to people in the IC and get the maximum amount of information that they possibly can out of them to inform the public is not the burden of an American journalist to discern whether or not the number of the IC is leaking information that might be classified. The journalist can legitimately seek information and it's not their job to police the member of the US IC that leaks classified information has broken the law.

Comey: The clear legal obligation rests on those people who are in the government in possession of of intelligence in classified information is not the journalist burden. Our focus is and should be on the leakers, not those that are obtaining it as part of legitimate newsgathering.

Sasse: So I wanna hear this part one more time...American journalist who's seeking this information differs from Assange and WikiLeaks how?

Comey: In that there's at least a portion -- and people can argue that maybe there's conduct that WikiLeaks has engaged in the past that's closer to regular newsgathering, but in my view, a huge portion of WikiLeaks's activities has nothing to do with legitimate newsgathering, informing the public, commenting on important public controversies, but is simply about releasing classified information to damage the United States of America.

People sometimes get cynical about journalists -- American journalists do not do that -- they will almost always call us before they publish classified information and ask us is there anything about this is going to put lives in danger? If it's going to jeopardize government people, military people or -- or innocent civilians anywhere in the world, they then work with us to try and accomplish the important First Amendment goals by safeguarding those interests. This activity -- WikiLeaks -- involves no such considerations whatsoever. It's what I said to intelligence porn just push it out in order to damage.

Wanna read more on this? Check these out: Explosive: Wikileaks Julian Assange Says "War Is Just Commencing" (more); Who is Robert Mueller? About The New Special Counsel For Trump/Russia (more); SHOCKER: Wikileaks Posts Macron Email Leak Docs, Confirmed By Macron Campaign (more); Greenwald Offers Warning To Media: Charging WikiLeaks A Step Toward Jailing Mainstream News Orgs (more).

And here are some more related articles: What's Happening To WikiLeaks? CIA Threatens 'Private Intelligence Service,' Things Heat Up (more); Once and for all: Podesta Emails Were NOT Released By RT Before Wikileaks (more); Wikileaks Releases Explosive #Vault7: Was CIA Hacking Trump's Twitter? (more).

A few more: Is Pamela Anderson Hooking Up with Wikileaks' Julian Assange? (more); RIP Wikileaks? Ecuador Elections Could Mean The End For Julian Assange (more).

CSPAN