CNN: It Is Illegal For Voters To Possess Wikileaks Material

2000px-flag_of_minnesota-svg_-10-e1476639955707There was an interesting segment on CNN last week where CNN anchor Chris Cuomo reminds viewers for it is illegal for them to “possess” Wikileaks material and that, as a result, they will have to rely on the media to tell them what is in these documents. The legal assertion is dubious, but the political implications are even more concerning. Polls show that many voters view the media as biased and this is a particularly strong view among supporters of Donald Trump who view CNN and other networks openly supporting Clinton or attacking Trump. More importantly, the mainstream media has reported relatively little from the Wikileaks material and has not delved deeply into their implications, including embarrassing emails showing reporters coordinating with the Clinton campaign and supposedly “neutral” media figures like Donna Brazile, formerly with CNN, allegedly slipping advance question material to Hillary Clinton. The credibility of the media is at an all-time low and most voters hardly feel comfortable with this material being reported second-hand or interpreted by the mainstream media. So is it really illegal for voters to have this material?

Cuomo was about to discuss embarrassing emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s inbox but he stopped to remind viewers “remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents,” Cuomo says. “It’s different for the media, so everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us.”

First, the criticism of Cuomo as trying to keep people from reading this material (which is damaging to Clinton) seems a bit far-fetched. It is more likely that he felt obligated to disclose the uncertain legal status of such documents. However, he overstated the case in my view.

It is true that possession of stolen items is a crime and documents can be treated as stolen items. However, this material has already been released and it is doubtful that downloading widely available material (particularly in a matter of great public interest) would be seen as prosecutable possession. Whoever had original possession has released them widely to the public like throwing copies out a window by the thousands. Whatever crime is alleged, it will be directed at the original hacker and not the public. Just downloading and reading public available material is unlikely to be viewed as a crime unless you use material to steal someone’s identity or commit a collateral crime. Otherwise, possession of the Pentagon Papers would lead to the arrest of tens of thousands of citizens.

More importantly, most people do not download these documents but read them on line and there is no actionable crime in reading the material from any of the myriad of sites featuring the Wikileaks documents.

Cuomo is right about status of reporters being clear and protected. In Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the media is allowed to publish material that may have been obtained illegally and declared a law unconstitutional to the extent that it would make such media use unlawful. The Court reaffirmed the need to protect the first amendment interests and took particular note of the fact that the material was a matter of public interest:

“The Court holds that all of these statutes violate the First Amendment insofar as the illegally intercepted conversation touches upon a matter of “public concern,” an amorphous concept that the Court does not even attempt to define. But the Court’s decision diminishes, rather than enhances, the purposes of the First Amendment, thereby chilling the speech of the millions of Americans who rely upon electronic technology to communicate each day.”

While technical arguments could be made that downloading is a form of possession of stolen documents, it is a dubious argument when the material is widely distributed and a matter of public interest. The weight of the existing case law militates heavily against the legal threat described on CNN.

153 thoughts on “CNN: It Is Illegal For Voters To Possess Wikileaks Material”

  1. Is it any wonder that someone, like Chris Cuomo, with so much to hide, himself, would feverishly support banning the dissemination of such damning facts and documents? This entitled Kennedy wannabe has been the beneficiary of such deference, where his crimes have been ignored and swept under the rug. Instead, we are inundated with ancient tapes of a middle aged guy, arrogantly boasting of his supposed prowess, with no evidence of any actual crimes. Chris Cuomo, on the other hand, did, purportedly, commit a multitude of crimes, but we’re not supposed to talk about those. Not supposed to even know that they exist. Illegally drag racing on a public road, driving while intoxicated, leaving the scene of an accident. . .or Chris. . .so many crimes. . .so little time. . .

  2. @Dave, October 18, 2016 at 8:03 am

    “Why is not Putin hacking the republicans (sic)? Why do we not see the guest lists for their parties?”

    One credible answer that must have escaped you is, of course, that Putin isn’t hacking eitherparty’s emails. Is this one of those accusations that you hope will become true for many people if it’s simply repeated often enough?

    What about the evidence for the leaker’s having been Seth Rich, the DNC IT staffer who was murdered shortly after the leaks were published by Wikileaks?

    ✔ @wikileaks
    ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.”

      1. Gotta love semantics – ” tit for tat” , ” quid pro quo” , in plain speak = bribe

  3. One thing that’s really illegal is to “fix” your investigation Mr. Comey.

    The next set of e-mails is at wikileaks twitter.

      1. No one takes the NY Times seriously anymore now we know their stories are vetted by the Clinton Machine. To be sure some Trump supporters are white supremists, misogynists, etc. but there are also infiltrators funded by the DNC who specifically try to instigate violence. I have yet to meet a mean-spirited Trumpster, but I know many scary HRC supporters.

        1. Imagine those Trump supporters are nice to you as long as you are not Muslim,Mexican or black.

        2. Whether or not you like the content of the NYT many of the best journalists in the world work for the NYT Breitbart represents just how far down the sewer journalism has fallen

          1. NYT is owned by Carlos Slim – one, if the richest man in Mexico. Of course he wants HRC to win. I get my information from a wide variety of sources including the alt right AND the alt left. NY Times is done. Once the liberal elitist baby boomers who subscribe to that rag die off it’s history.

            As far as the Trumpsters all you can do is throw out nonsense. Actually the majority of my friends who are voting for Trump are military (current & retired), mechanics, engineers, bar keeps, lawyers, brick layers, doctors, plumbers and school teachers. So sure there may be a David Duke or several in the “basket of deplorables” but they are far outnumbered by ordinary, decent working folk from all stratas of society concerned about the future of this nation.

  4. We get the government we ignorantly deserve. Perhaps viewing the government as the weapon it has become people might finally realize the danger is not inherent in the gun but the people behind it.

    1. You mean the global corporatocracy? Trump is right – the US needs a “Brexit” – our government does work on behalf of the citizens.

    1. You’re silly Dave. If Putin wants to influence anything, he doesn’t want Clinton’s WWIII there. He probably realizes that American casualties don’t mean much to her and that she would sacrifice anything to consolidate her position, even if it means pushing this to the brink. Quit being partisan and think for yourself, you’re a smart guy.

    2. WOW, the press is “all in” for Clinton! And I thought the Russians were for Trump.

      Exposing the deep state of America is America’s problem. It’s not Russia’s e-mails. It’s people who are “leading”, have “lead” and claim to deserve “leading” us who are saying these things.

      Citizens need to understand what our govt. is really doing. Personally, I don’t care if Putin gave the e-mails and a rose to Assange. There is no proof of that. There’s plenty of proof that the govt. is fixing things all around us, in secret.

      I want the truth.

    1. If any Hillary supporters even think of trying to defend her, the Democrat Party or Press, just shut up.

      I dont even want to hear your bulls**t excuses.
      Stuff em where the sun dont shine.

      “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical to get for the thing to pass.”-
      Jonathan Gruber

      At least the Republican voters are trying to clean their house out from the corrupt. The Democrats are just doubling down on the corruption and filth.

      1. McConnell and Ryan are still holding court with the pro TPP lobbyists and will be well after the election.

    1. The full RSVP list for Benenson’s gathering is shown in an attachment on a separate email:

      This is an off-the-record cocktails with the key national reporters, especially (though not exclusively) those that are based in New York. Much of the group includes influential reporters, anchors and editors.

      The goals of the dinner include:
      (1) Give reporters their first thoughts from team HRC in advance of the announcement
      (2) Setting expectations for the announcement and launch period
      (3) Framing the HRC message and framing the race
      (4) Enjoy a Frida night drink before working more

      TIME/DATE: As a reminder, this is called for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 10th .

      There are several attendees – including Diane Sawyer – who will be there promptly at 6:30 p.m. but have to leave by 7 p.m.

      FOOD: This will include cocktails and passed hours devours.


      1. ABC – Cecilia Vega
      2. ABC – David Muir
      3. ABC – Diane Sawyer
      4. ABC – George Stephanoplous [sic]
      5. ABC – Jon Karl
      6. Bloomberg – John Heillman [sic]
      7. Bloomberg – Mark Halperin
      8. CBS – Norah O’Donnell
      9. CBS – Vicki Gordon
      10. CNN – Brianna Keilar
      11. CNN – David Chalian
      12. CNN – Gloria Borger
      13. CNN – Jeff Zeleny
      14. CNN – John Berman
      15. CNN – Kate Bouldan [sic]
      16. CNN – Mark Preston
      17. CNN – Sam Feist
      18. Daily Beast – Jackie Kucinich
      19. GPG – Mike Feldman
      20. Huffington Post – Whitney Snyder
      21. MORE – Betsy Fisher Martin
      22. MSNBC – Alex Wagner
      23. MSNBC – Beth Fouhy
      24. MSNBC – Phil Griffin
      25. MSNBC – Rachel Maddow (TBD)
      26. MSNBC – Rachel Racusen
      27. NBC – Savannah Gutherie [sic]
      28. New Yorker – Ryan Liza [sic]
      29. NYT – Amy Chozik [sic]
      30. NYT – Gail Collins
      31. NYT – Jonathan Martin
      32. NYT – Maggie Haberman
      33. NYT – Pat Healey [sic]
      34. PEOPLE – Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
      35. POLITICO – Glenn Thrush
      36. POLITICO – Mike Allen
      37. VICE – Alyssa Mastramonoco [sic]
      38. VOX – Jon Allen

      1. Bloomberg/MSNBC – Jonathan Alter
      2. Buzzfeed – Ben Smith
      3. CBS – Gayle King
      4. CBS – John Dickerson
      5. MSNBC – Ed Schultz
      6. MSNBC – Joe Scarborough
      7. New Yorker – David Remnick
      8. Tina Brown
      9. UNIVISION – Maria-Elena Salinas
      10. YAHOO – Matt Bai

      1. CNN – Jake Taper [sic]
      2. CNN – Jeff Zucker
      3. Huffington Post – Arianna Huffington
      4. Huffington Post – Sam Stein
      5. NBC – Chuck Todd
      6. NYT – Carolyn Ryan
      7. CNN – Erin Burnett
      8. NPR – Mike Oreskes
      9. MSNBC – Mika Brzezinski
      10. MSNBC – Thomas Roberts
      11. MSNBC – Andrea Mitchell
      12. NY Post – Geofe Earl [sic]

      HRC TEAM RSVP (14)
      1. John Podesta
      2. Robby Mook
      3. Huma Abedin
      4. Marlon Marshall
      5. Amanda Renteria
      6. Jennifer Palmieri
      7. Kristina Schake
      8. Jesse Ferguson
      9. Nick Merrill
      10. Karen Finney
      11. Jim Margolis
      12. Joel Benenson
      13. John Anzalone
      14. Mandy Grunwald

      The RSVP list for the event at Podesta’s home reads:

      1. It’s the George Goebbels Pravda Awards Banquet with all members in attendance! The Clinton Propaganda Dream Team. No wonder I no longer own a TV.

      2. Why is not Putin hacking the republicans? Why do we not see the guest lists for their parties?

        1. Pull up the guest lists on Wikileaks – I’m pretty sure you will find many “old guard” Republicans attending Clinton Machine events – Bush I & II, Chertoff, Meg Whitman, Armitage, Scowcraft, Will, Paulson, Kagan, Salter, etc.

          The common denominator? All globalists pushing the TPP/TTIP/TiSA

      3. “18. Daily Beast – Jackie Kucinich” This jumped out at me. Sure enough, Dennis’ daughter. Wow, has she strayed far from home.

        While she is busy trying to deny voter fraud:

        Her daddy is talking about the politization of the US justice system:

  5. There’s no clear difference between downloading a document and reading it online. Anything someone views on the Web has, in effect, been downloaded to their computer.

    The distinction that Mr. Turley makes between downloading and reading online is largely imaginary.

    1. One difference that is not imaginary has to do with cut and paste of entire articles where it is listed as copyrighted or not written as copy and share. If you quote partial segments they should give the original source location and credit to the originator. Example: “Why should i trust you , You are a reporter.” is a line from one of Tom Clancy’s novels. The discovery of the speed of light is not only attributed to Einstein but also the observation that it often varies. with a list of instances. It is not a solid constant.” Your imagination did not serve you well whereas a simple wikpedia search
      Permission to reproduce and modify text on Wikipedia has already been granted … of individual articles as long as such reproduction and modification complies with … A copy of the GNU Free Documentation License is included in the section … under which copyrighted works may be legally utilized without permission
      2) to use (another’s production) without crediting the source … of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules) … someone else’s expression of ideas or information without permission. … $2,500 from copyrighted material, he or she may face up to $250,000 in fines and up to ten years in jail.

      The reason of common politeness should be enough.

  6. Israel’s sum total (true) significance to the USA is zero, zilch, bupkus, nada, nothing.

    For naive goyim: A verse from the Talmud, the holiest of all Jewish holy books: ”’Even the best of the gentiles deserve only death.”

    Per the Rabbis, a Roman Centurion named Pantera paid Mary for sex and fathered Jesus. At one time the Pope banned the Talmud for its anti-Christ hatred and bigotry. When a latter Pope reneged and allowed the Rabbis to republish the Talmud, the Rabbis assigned the code name Pantera for Jesus. Another Talmudic verse: “Pantera, son of the whore Mary, suffers in excrement for eternity.”

    Judaic Spielberg produced Shindler’s List. In the movie, a Judaic gives a special gift to German Schindler, w/alleged Talmudic verse inscription: “If you save one person, you save the whole earth.” Spielberg received special accolades for this verse in the movie. For naive goyim, the true Talmudic verse reads: “If you save one Judaic, you save the whole earth.”

    1. As a learned Talmudic scholar you must certainly know the chapter and verse locations so that we with second rate educations would have no trouble finding them? Quotes without locations are something like Churchill winning a Shakespeare contest. Winston was famous for winning those until his friends found out when he ran out of originals he made them up. כתוב עברית אם תרצה.. or if not English will do.

      1. In my personal dealing,including extensive business dealings I always found Orthodox Jewish Adherents to be more respectful of Christians than Secular Jews, much more in fact. I also encountered secular and Reformed Jewish Adherents who spewed out some pretty vile descriptions of Orthodox Jews but only a fraction of the reverse. True only a few were Haredi, but most were very sincere Orthodox. I don’t quote the Talmud because I don’t know much about it, or the Koran for that matter.

  7. @Joseph Jones, October 17, 2016 at 10:59 pm
    “For members who believe the US has justifiable interest in demanding another ME ‘regime change’ in Syria, please list prior such US actions in the ME w/good outcome for the US? And by what law is the US military in Syria? What interest has the US in Syria?”

    The following State Department memorandum attempts to rationalize the USG’s efforts, on behalf of the Rothschild proxy state, Israel, to overthrow the democratically elected government of Syria:

    “UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05794498 Date: 11/30/2015 RELEASE IN FULL

    “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of
    Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.

    “Negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program will not solve Israel’s security dilemma. Nor will
    they stop Iran from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program — the capability
    to enrich uranium. At best, the talks between the world’s major powers and Iran that began in
    Istanbul this April and will continue in Baghdad in May will enable Israel to postpone by a few
    months a decision whether to launch an attack on Iran that could provoke a major Mideast war.
    Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war may seem unconnected, but they are. [Emphasis added]

    “For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of
    both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about — but cannot talk about — is
    losing their nuclear monopoly.
    [Emphasis added]

    “An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would not only end that nuclear monopoly but could also prompt other adversaries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to go nuclear as well. The result would be a precarious nuclear balance in which Israel could not respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.

    “If Iran were to reach the threshold of a nuclear weapons state, Tehran would find it much easier
    to call on its allies in Syria and Hezbollah to strike Israel, knowing that its nuclear weapons
    would serve as a deterrent to Israel responding against Iran itself.

    “Back to Syria. It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in
    Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack,
    which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its
    proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria.

    “The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well
    why defeating Assad is now in its interests. Speaking on CNN’s Amanpour show last week,
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that ‘the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to
    the radical axis, major blow to Iran…. It’s the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the
    Arab world…and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic
    Jihad in Gaza.’

    Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease
    Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States
    might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that
    military action could be warranted.

    “Right now, it is the combination of Iran’s strategic alliance with Syria and the steady progress in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program that has led Israeli leaders to contemplate a surprise attack — if necessary over the objections of Washington.

    “With Assad gone, and Iran no longer able to threaten Israel through its, proxies, it is possible that the
    United States and Israel can agree on red lines for when Iran’s program has crossed an
    unacceptable threshold. In short, the White House can ease the tension that has developed with
    Israel over Iran by doing the right thing in Syria.”

    1. You’re right, they don’t work out, and will not. But man, you can make a killing in all this (no pun intended) if you’re part of the defense industry. Times couldn’t be better! And looking forward to the orders needed to sustain a new cold war! Betting get in on the stock now before it goes through the roof!! Woooohooooo!

  8. It doesn’t seem as though the political class or their media arm are trying very hard to hide the corruption any more. They are discovering low approval ratings don’t do much to their bottom line. They’ll still get their votes, viewers will still watch and the only thing we’ll have confirmed is that the American people do not have a majority line that government or the media shall not cross. And as long as we accept being “basketized”, then they have us right where they want us.

  9. It’s perfectly fine, legal, and acceptable, we even encourage Israel to actively determine outcomes of US elections. (Congresscriters visit and pay homage to Netenyaho…then-Sec. Clinton and Obombya said US has “unbreakable bond” w/Israel…in the last couple weeks State Dept. Uber-Neo-Con/Dep. Sec. Susan Rice described US-Israel relationship as “ironclad”….both statements spit on G. Washington’s warning that all “foreign entanglements” must be “temporary” in his Farewell Address.)

    But whoa, let the gates of hell swallow Putin and Russia whole if they tell the US public the truth of our third world banana republic status Re. the Democratic Party wholly owning most of the MSM.

    No, I’m not a Rep. Party shill. Ban both major parties from national elections for at least a half C.

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