Dershowitz Joins Legal Team for Wikileaks

Harvard Law School Professor Alan M. Dershowitz will join Wikileaks founder Julian P. Assange’s legal defense team, according to a Wikileaks statement released yesterday.

Dershowitz told The Crimson that he will serve in an advisory position and said he does not expect a more active role unless the U.S. were to prosecute Assange.

Assange’s head lawyer Geoffrey R. Robertson, who has worked with Dershowitz in the past, contacted the professor to work on the case.

Dershowitz has a history of participating in high-profile cases, including taking part on the “dream team” legal counsel that defended O.J. Simpson.

Assange’s Wikileaks organization has been under scrutiny around the world for releasing leaked documents from the U.S. State Department.

Though Assange is not facing charges in the U.S., he currently faces extradition charges in Britain related to a sexual assault investigation in Sweden.

In addition, Wikileaks will appear in American courts for the first time today in Alexandria, Va. regarding the Justice Department’s subpoena of all records of communication between Wikileaks and its supporters via the social networking site Twitter, which is anticipated to resist the order.

“This is an outrageous attack by the Obama administration on the privacy and free speech rights of Twitter’s customers—many of them American citizens,” Assange said in the Wikileaks press release that also announced the addition of Dershowitz to the legal team.

Dershowitz said he was interested in the case, which deals with the rapid dissemination of information via the Internet, because of its connection with “new media”—such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogging—and its relationship with the Fourth Amendment’s defense of privacy.

“Look at what the new media did in Egypt,” Dershowitz said. “The U.S. is trying to encourage new media in Iran, but trying to shut it down in the U.S. It is not just Assange’s First Amendment rights, but our First Amendment rights that need to be protected.”

In 1972, Dershowitz took on a similarly high-profile free speech case when he defended Senator Mike Gravel in the Supreme Court after Gravel read the Pentagon Papers—leaked top-secret documents detailing the military history of the Vietnam War—into the Congressional Record and then published the documents. The Papers were first leaked and published in the New York Times.

“Just because the incident is different than the ink on the paper in the New York Times, it is still the same issue,” Dershowitz said. “This case comes as close to the Pentagon Papers case as anything else so it is well within my area of expertise.”

“This case has to be fought in the courts, and in the courts of public opinion, diplomatically [and] politically,” Dershowitz added.

—Staff writer Caroline M. McKay can be reached at carolinemckay@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Zoe A. Y. Weinberg can be reached at zoe.weinberg@college.harvard.edu.

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