Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has joined the legal defense team for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
The announcement–which came via a Tweeted press release Monday afternoon–took place a day ahead of the first showdown over Wikileaks in a U.S. courtroom: a hearing set for Tuesday in Alexandria, Va. on a request the Justice Department made for information about Twitter accounts maintained by three Wikileaks supporters.
“I’m serving as the legal consultant to them on American aspects of the issue, which at the moment is limited to the efforts to get this material,” Dershowitz told me.
Asked why he got involved in the matter, Dershowitz said he sees important freedoms at stake in the battle and he rejects claims by government official that Assange shouldn’t be considered a journalist.
“Assange is a journalist. He’s a new kind of journalist. He represents the newest wave of journalism,” Dershowitz said. “I’m currently in this case because I believe that to protect the First Amendment we need to protect new electronic media vigorously.”
Records about acounts maintained by Assange and Wikileaks itself were requested in the same court order directed to Twitter, but Assange is not fighting those requests, according to the Wikileaks press statement.
“Mr Assange will not himself be intervening in the action against Twitter because as an Australian who has committed no criminal act on US territory, he claims that the American courts have no jurisdiction over him,” the release said. “The head of his UK legal team, Geoffrey Robertson QC, has brought in Alan Dershowitz, the distinguished Harvard Law Professor, as part of the team to advise on the US Attorney General’s actions.”
Legal analysts said that the decision by Assange not to join in the legal challenge to the Twitter order was likely to preserve Assange’s claims to a lack of jurisdiction, if the U.S. does bring criminal charges in the future.