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Witness raps WikiLeaks grand jury proceedings, evokes Pentagon Papers

House: takes
the Fifth

After about an hour exercising his Fifth Amendment rights at a grand jury proceeding believed to be probing the unauthorized disclosure of confidential U.S. Government documents by WikiLeaks, David House emerged from the federal district court in Alexandria, VA, and declared that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to regulate journalism in the nation.

"The same climate of intimidation that surrounded the Pentagon Papers trial persists to this day as the DOJ seeks to limit the freedoms of the Fourth Estate, using the pretense of alleged violations of the Espionage Act," he said in a prepared statement delivered outside the courthouse.

"The show trial that is now underway in Alexandria, VA, has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for regulating the media," he maintained. "Using Nixonian fear tactics that were honed during the Pentagon Papers investigation, the DOJ is attempting to dismantle a major media organization — WikiLeaks — and indict its editor, Julian Assange."

He asserted that the DOJ is rounding up academics, students and journalists in Cambridge, MA, with the goal of forcing them to testify against WikiLeaks and its partners — the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and El Pais.

He also claimed that the government has illegally searched and seized his laptop computer in an attempt to identify, target and ensnare WikiLeaks supporters based in Cambridge.

"It is my conviction that the American people must call for a cessation of the Department of Justice’s politically motivated harassment," he added.

House, who is founding member of Bradley Manning Support Network, appeared before the Grand Jury shortly after 10 a.m. on June 15. Bradley Manning is a member of the U.S. military accused of leaking the confidential government documents to WikiLeaks.

After House took the stand, an argument ensued over whether or not he could take notes during his testimony. A recess was called until 4 p.m. to iron out that issue. When the court reconvened, House was allowed to take notes, but chose to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in response to questions posed to him by the government, according to a posting at the Support Network's website.

Since Grand Jury proceedings are conducted in secret —  not even a witness's attorney is allowed in the room where they are held —  information on them can be difficult to confirm. However, it has been suspected that the U.S. government had convened a Grand Jury to issue charges against Assange since last December when the attorney for the boss of WikiLeaks, Mark Stephens, aired the prospect in an interview with David Frost broadcast on Al-Jazeera.

Those suspicions gained credence when the government began issuing subpoenas in May to witnesses to appear before a Grand Jury in Alexandria.