The U.S. Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed the lawsuit last year, The DNC sued the Russian government, the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and several other individuals alleging a conspiracy to steal and disseminate emails 20,000 DNC emails WikiLeaks published July 22, 2016. A U.S. judge has now dismissed the case. A victory for Wikileaks, Julian Assange, and Trump.
On 30 July, federal judge John G. Koeltl dismissed the lawsuit and argued that while Russia was the culprit it could not be sued under US law. Moreover, he noted that Wikileaks, like any other medium in the world, is entitled to publish information and documents received. This also applies to illegally acquired information as long as Wikileaks or the publishing medium was not involved in the illegal acquisition itself.
If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documentsJudge G. Koeltl
concerning theDNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.
He ruled that WikiLeaks was fully entitled to publish the Democratic National Congress (DNC) emails and no law was broken. While the Russian government evidently was behind the theft of DNC emails, Trump campaign associates and Wikileaks “did not participate in any wrongdoing in obtaining the materials in the first place.”
There is a significant legal distinction between stealing documents and disclosing documents that someone else had stolen previously.Judge G. Koeltl
Referencing the Supreme Court case that upheld the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, the judge wrote that “the First Amendment prevents such liability in the same way it would preclude liability for press outlets” that published illegally obtained materials.
Important ruling for Julian Assange
The judgment is also of the highest relevance for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The U.S. authorities want his extradition from London with reference to his allegedly criminal Wikileaks activities. However, these do not seem to have been criminal after this judgment. Consequently, Jen Robinson, a member of Assange’s legal team, described the judge’s ruling as an “important win for free speech”:
Both representatives of the Trump campaign and representatives of Wikileaks celebrated the verdict as a victory. A strange alliance in victory. For the Democrats, on the other hand, this is also a political defeat. This is also because Judge John G. Koeltl is a Clinton Appointee and therefore can probably not be attributed to republican camps.