Press Release

U.S. law professors call on DOJ to drop Assange prosecution

February 14, 2024 — More than 35 American law professors have co-signed a letter imploring U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to “uphold the First Amendment” and drop the DOJ’s efforts to extradite Julian Assange. The letter comes less than a week before Julian Assange returns to court in London as the UK High Court considers his final attempt to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom. Press freedom organizations and human rights groups have been sounding the alarms over the prosecution as a landmark threat to the First Amendment right to publish.

“We are united in our concern about the constitutional implications of prosecuting Assange,” the law professors write. “We believe the Espionage Act charges against him pose an existential threat to the First Amendment.”

Signatories include both active and retired law professors from across the United States, including Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur, and James Goodale, former lead counsel at the New York Times.

Goodale told the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which helped organize the letter:

“Based on my experience, which includes serving as The New York Times’ general counsel when the Nixon administration tried to indict a journalist under the Espionage Act for publishing the Pentagon Papers, I am confident that a successful prosecution of Julian Assange would lead to similar charges against journalists from newspapers like the Times when they uncover secrets that embarrass officials. This would be absolutely disastrous for press freedom in the United States.”

Seth Stern, director of advocacy for Freedom of the Press Foundation, said,

“Scholars, lawyers, media publishers and activists all agree that the prosecution of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act is sure to lead to prosecutions of journalists for doing their jobs. It seems the only people who disagree are the DOJ. It’s time for them to finally drop this dangerous prosecution. Whether you love or hate Julian Assange, if he comes first, a journalist you do like may come next.”

Read the full letter here.