The DOJ's apparent decision to treat leakers differently than publishers is a "distinction of necessity," added Joshua Bressler, a First Amendment lawyer with Bressler Law in New York. It's legally realistic to expect prosecutions of leakers, who've taken information in violation of their agreements with the government "whether or not you sympathize with their political views," he said.
But Assange did not have the same restrictions, he said.
"It is difficult not to treat Assange as a journalist in this context, irrespective of his motivation," Bressler said. "It then becomes difficult to selectively prosecute those who have chosen to publish. You have traditional media stalwarts who've decided to share this information, and it becomes inviable to single Assange out."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.