Is CNN Chris Cuomo right about Clinton's emails: "it's different for the media"?

In 2016, CNN reporter Chris Cuomo, said about Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails:

Also interesting is remember…it’s illegal to possess the stolen documents. It’s different for the media. So everything you learn about this, you’re learning from us…let’s take a look at what is in there.

That is, I could not download and read the emails from Wikileaks, but I could listen to Cuomo as he download and read them to me.

  1. Is it legal for citizens to possess hacked emails?

  2. Is it legal for CNN to possess hacked emails?

Law Asked by Paul Draper on December 27, 2020

3 Answers

3 Answers

Just a guy's answer is good. Sadly I blew my reputation points on fast questions and loose legal reasoning and can't comment on it so I'll just add some additional info here.

It is still open as to whether it's different for the Media™. An argument can be made that the Constitution does not protect classes of people, but rights to all. In which case anyone who takes classified material for the purpose of disseminating it to the public has the same protection as a corporate media conglomerate.

If Assange ever goes on trial there will probably be a debate over whether Wikileaks qualifies as press. There is also the issue of independent journalists being beaten up by police while identified corporate media personalities are spared. That has not been litigated either as far as I know. Seems almost like a violation of equal protection to be honest, though. If someone is spending his time engaged in journalistic activities but is not afforded the same rights as a CNN employee just due to his lack of success.

Answered by Oliver on December 27, 2020

Chris Cuomo is wrong: the media are not different. For details, see this column by First Amendment specialist Eugene Volokh.

My original answer was also wrong. Well, not wrong, but irrelevant. My answer was irrelevant because the hacked emails Cuomo was talking about do not involve national security. By focusing on the national security angle, I answered a question nobody asked.

To make matters worse, in his comment on IKnowNothing's answer, politely pointed out my mistake fourth months before I made it.

Answered by Just a guy on December 27, 2020

The Espionage Act of 1917 makes it a crime to hurt the US by collecting or communicating information that would harm the national defense. Nobody, other than government employees have been successfully prosecuted for disseminating unlawfully leaked classified information. Until the supreme court rules we cannot know.

Speculation: Freedom of press could trump the statute and protect Cuomo, but it would not protect an ordinary citizen. Maybe if they talked about it on their YouTube channel?

Answered by IKnowNothing on December 27, 2020

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