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Assange: Is U.S. a Country From Which Journalists Now Need Asylum?

On the same day that AP president Paul Pruitt was asking the Obama Administration for a formal promise that it would not criminalize the practice of investigative journalism, a group of leakers, an embattled online publisher and others suggested that ship may have already sailed.

In a conference call with reporters, exiled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange marked his one-year anniversary in asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy by pointing to the pursuit of NSA leaker Edward Snowden and asking whether the U.S. was a country from which journalists must now seek asylum in relation to their work.

Daniel Ellsberg, who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers documents and was taken to court by the Nixon Administration under the Espionage Act (it ended in a mistrial), was also on the call. He said he thought the Obama Administration was indeed trying to criminalize investigative reporting.

Assange, Ellsberg and others expressed concern about the Justice Department's pursuit of Fox journalist James Rosen as a possible co-conspirator in the leak of classified info.

That was likened to Assange being considered a conspirator with Bradley Manning, the Army private who leaked documents to WikiLeaks, and if that were the case, the same conspirator could be applied to another publisher of the leaks: The New York Times.

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake said that "national security" has become the "state religion," whose invocation makes any "holding up to the mirror" of government conduct a criminal activity. "Any disclosures in the public interest are now considered to be a threat to the state and must be snuffed out," he said, pointing to journalists now being accused of aiding and abetting.

That, he said, jeopardizes the ability for journalism to speak truth to power.