Ramifications of the case: WikiLeaks v United States

Hello again distinguished readers,


We’re less than a week away from the courtsession and this will be the final time I address you before Thursday.

Let me start by saying that I would be completely oblivious if I didn’t realize that this case has major ramifications. That’s why I’m overseeing it right?

For reiteration purposes, in my last blog post, you heard me speak of my beliefs and original thoughts regarding the case. You know my feelings on prior restraint and how “Prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”wikileaks

This case will set a new standard for what is and isn’t allowed to appear on these so called “gossip sites.” Is WikiLeaks considered a reliable news source? That ground will be covered as well. Julian Assange and his lawyer will have the term “prior restraint” put to the test at its greatest extent.

The United States is a proud nation. You could spend five minutes within its borders to realize that. My assumption of the most heavily hit on topic will be that of national security. Will all these “leaks”, if allowed to continue, be seen as a threat to national security? Can we, as a nation, risk information that may potentially cause our downfall in order that prior restraint may be sustained?

Before you even say it, I know. You already know my feelings and thoughts regarding prior restraint against the press. You know I released the Pentagon Papers and how I handled the infamous Watergate scandal.

Let me make myself clear to you. No matter what my prior rulings and actions have been, I will never head into a case with my mind predetermined. I will listen to all of the facts, ask questions accordingly, and make a ruling, as always, in accordance with the Constitution.

This case has ramifications that can and will impact our nation and its security. You saw what happened with Bradley Manning and the release of that information.

If the ruling ends in favor of WikiLeaks and Assange, then so called gossip sites will be allowed the freedoms it has at the moment. People like Manning could, in theory, release information against the law and find themselves in trouble (because Manning was tried in military court). However, the information will still be released without restraint.

If the ruling ends against WikiLeaks, then the press and other gossip sites will have to deal with a bit of prior restraint, and major leaks will be shut down before they are allowed to happen.

We as a jury will rely on our knowledge of the Constitution and guidance of questions asked in order to make our decision on this case.

Looking forward to a very eventful Thursday afternoon.




Wikileaks v. United States – Case Outline

Hello readers,


Today, I’m here on behalf of a very serious case that I am going to oversee and rule on.

An Australian man named Julian Assange founded an organization called WikiLeaks. This organization spans across the globe and its purpose is to collect secrets and publish them online. All of these news leaks and classified information are given by anonymous sources.

As you can imagine, this can get very messy, especially if those leaks are classified government and military information.


Julian Assange on the cover of Time magazine

Some examples of secrets having been revealed have come in the form of footage from a 2007 airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were killed, the Afghan War Diary, and the Iraq War Logs.

All of the above were previously not available to the public, mainly due to the fact that they were documents about the Afghanistan conflict, the mapping of over 100,000 deaths by insurgents in Iraq, and files about prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Bradley Manning (now known as Chelsea) was the culprit of the biggest leak of information in American military history, and is now being tried in a military court.

In my last post, I went over my views on the First Amendment. The issue at hand here directly relates to that.

Before I head into this case, I need to consider whether the constitutional freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment, is subordinate to a claimed need of the executive branch of government to maintain the secrecy of information.

In simple terms, are some files meant to be kept secret? Does the security of our nation and military depend on secrecy?

Prior restraint and balancing the public’s right/need to know national security issues will be the main focal point.

As I dig into this a little more, let’s have a look at the definition of prior restraint.

Prior restraint, at its most basic definition, is defined as “government prohibition of speech in advance of publication.”

I will now turn directly to the famous Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart case in which I stated, “Prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

I will also refer to the Watergate scandal (United States v. Nixon) as well. This was one of, if not the most impactful moment of national security and the presidency in our country. I ordered the release of the White House tape recordings to the prosecutor and it led to the resignation of President Nixon.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “This is a military issue Warren, it’s different.”

You may be right. When you think of something like Manning’s case, I wouldn’t blame you if the Espionage Act is the first thing that came to your mind.

I will conclude with this. My statement on prior restraint is one of the pillars of my time on the bench. I would become a hypocrite if I backed out on what I firmly believe.

If something Mr. Assange wanted to post on WikiLeaks truly had an impact on the well being and security of the United States of America, to the point where we were threatened on a national level, then action must be taken.

As for now, I hold firm on my conviction that prior restraints are the least tolerable infringements on our First Amendment rights.



Ethical Challenge 3: September 18th

Now, we may all not be valiantly digging through garbage for our jobs as journalists, but whether we are publishing or not, we are all faced with ethical challenges throughout life. In the instance of Thursday’s lecture, we took a look upon graphic images of victims of the MH17 crash. This dealt with the never ending battle of “how far is too far?” when trying to determine whether to publish a picture or not.

I refer back to the picture of the dead baby Nicole ran after the horrendous Oklahoma City bombings. I echo Nicole’s sentiment in that if there was a lasting image to be displayed after all of that, that picture was on the money.

Regarding the crash, the only picture that I would’ve ran is a large scale picture of the bodies in a group. I say this because the terms “airplane crash” and “mass death” should be enough of a wake up call that we shouldn’t need a visual image of a singular person that was killed or even one that was still in his/her chair. However, if there was a picture to be run, a shot of a group of bodies should hammer home a lasting image about how horrifying this event was. I attribute desensitization as a big reason as to why a shot of unidentifiable bodies won’t completely freak people out, while at the same time open their eyes a little more to the situation.

My last comment will refer to this thought of a “lasting image.” If you remember the picture of the man falling head first from the World Trade Center, it’s a hard one to forget. This is a true challenge for journalists in my opinion. How to provide a lasting image for the reader without crossing the line of ethics.

The First Amendment: The Freedom That I Could Live Without

A few days ago, I gave you an introduction about myself and, in that introduction, I told you about my thoughts on the First Amendment and how I’ve impacted the history of it.

Today, I am answering a question that caused me to go into a great deal of thought.

“Which freedom in the First Amendment could I live without?” FirstAmendment

To answer this, I’m going to go with a process of elimination.

Given my dealings with Lemon v. Kurtzman (see previous post), I believe that we need freedom of religion. I stood up for the press in the case of the Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, so I have very strong feelings regarding that freedom. Freedom of speech is essential to our nation. This, in my opinion is one of the things that make up the backbone of our country.

My more prominent freedom of speech cases involve Miller v. California, Memoirs v. Massachusetts, and Bethel School District v. Fraser. 

In the Miller case we ruled that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment, based of a prior ruling in the Memoirs case. In the Bethel case, I stated that students can be restricted from speech that is considered lewd and indecent.

Down to two, freedom of assembly and freedom of petition. Both important and both great parts of the First Amendment, but I believe that, if necessary, we could do without freedom of petition.

I turn to a case I dealt with in 1977, the National Socialist Party v. Village of Skokie.

Skokie, Illinois is a prominent Jewish community. The National Socialist Party (known as the Nazi Party) wanted a permit to march in the heavily populated Jewish area. The Skokie Board of Commissioners required marchers to post a $350,000 ordinance bond. They also passed another ordinance banning the distribution of printed materials that promote hatred of groups or people.

The Nazi group argued that these laws were unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking. Why or who on earth would allow Nazi’s to march in a Jewish community? Wouldn’t there be horrendous feelings brought into play? Violence even?

Nevertheless, ethics didn’t come into play. It’s the Constitution that rules. The end ruling was that the Nazi Party couldn’t be prevented from marching. It was a very close vote, 5 votes to 4 for the Nationalists. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the Party a stay of the district court’s injunction.

Freedom of petition is very important, don’t get me wrong on that. But, as I stated before, I had a process of elimination and, in a close call, I think the nation could do without petitioning its government.

If there’s anything to be learned from this blog, its that all the freedoms that the First Amendment provide are great and should not be taken for granted.

Until next time readers, so long.


Burger 1

Hello everyone. Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Warren Burger. You may know me as the fifteenth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Sept. 19, 1907, I became the fourth of eventually seven Burger children in my family. If you want to know the definition of a working-class family, look no further than mine. Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, wasn’t always easy. My father, Charles, was a cargo inspector for the railroad and a traveling salesman. My mother, Katherine, was a homemaker. Things were especially tough when I had to pick up a newspaper delivery job at the age of nine to help with family finances.

Although I was busy and had a lot of worries as a young boy, I had time for fun as an athlete. I competed in hockey, football, track, and swimming.

After high school, I had to work even harder because I worked for an insurance company while taking night classes at the University of Minnesota. The St. Paul College of Law called my name soon after and the rest is history.

After graduating with honors from the St. Paul College of Law in 1931, I became more and more involved in Republican politics.  I was a big factor in the nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 because of my delivery of the Minnesota delegation. The following year, Eisenhower returned the favor and made me assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Departments Civil Division. Two years later, he nominated me to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

My 13 years on the Court of Appeals were eventful to say the least. People said that I was a “law-and-order” judge when it came to the rights of the criminally accused. My big issue was with the Fifth Amendment. The courts were going in the favor of criminals left and right and it was an impediment to justice.

Fortunately, it was because of this motto that President Richard Nixon named me Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. At the age of 61, I was Chief Justice and it was the hope of President Nixon that I was to rid the Supreme Court of liberalism left by the Chief preceding me, Earl Warren.

My court upheld the 1966 Miranda decision requiring police to fully explain a person’s rights upon arrest and we even ruled against the Nixon Administration’s hopes to invalidate the need for a search warrant in cases of domestic surveillance in United States v. U.S. District Court (1972).

Arguably my most famous moment as Chief came in 1974.

President Nixon was in the middle of the infamous Watergate scandal and my court unanimously gave him the order to release White House tape recordings revealing damaging evidence.

In the aftermath of all of this, Nixon shocked the nation and resigned as President of the United States.Burger 2

Before I conclude my introduction, I want to touch briefly on my workings with the First Amendment. My court’s rulings helped form a lot of the First Amendment law you live today.

In 1971 during the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, I stated three things regarding legislation about religion. First, I said that the statute must have a secular legislative purpose. Second, I stated that its principal or primary effect must be one that neighter advances nor inhibits religion. Last, I proclaimed that the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

I dealt with obscenity in Miller v. California (1973), gag orders on the press in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart (1976), and prohibiting student speech that is vulgar and lewd in Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986).

Putting a stamp on arguably the most important Amendment is one legacy that I’m very proud of. It is also something that I will touch on in my next blog post.

As for now I will say have a great weekend and I will touch base with you all again very soon.