According to a CNN report, the U.S. Justice Department is getting ready the charges to obtain the arrest of WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Julian Assange. To this day, U.S. authorities haven’t been able to build a case against the pro-transparency activist because of the First Amendment. But now they claim they found a workaround.
First Amendment Shielding Assange From Prosecution
The Justice Department has been investigating Assange since 2010, when his website WikiLeaks published a large dump of U.S. military secrets leaked by the former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Ever since, prosecutors have debated whether the First Amendment protected Assange from prosecution. Obama administration concluded that it is extremely hard to charge Assange because beside WikiLeaks other websites published the top-secret documents. One of the websites was The New York Times.
So, prosecutors had to put on hold any charges; but when they found that Assange also helped NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden publish the sensitive records he stole from the spy agency, they changed their mind.
Assange is currently protected by the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been living since August 2012, when he was granted asylum. He refuses to leave the embassy because British authorities will extradite him to Sweden where he is wanted over rape allegations.
U.S. officials now hope that a new government in Ecuador would expel the journalist, so they could arrest him. However, the presidential candidate who won the elections in Ecuador pledged to further protect Assange.
Pompeo Accuses WikiLeaks of Espionage
Last week, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said WikiLeaks activity went beyond the U.S. First Amendment. He accused the secret-spilling website of “directing” Manning to steal the confidential information to undermine the U.S.
It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,
the CIA chief said.
The U.S. intelligence community confirmed Moscow used the whistleblowing site to publish a huge dump of emails Russian hackers stole from Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. U.S. spies claim the move was designed to help Donald Trump win the election by undermining the nation’s election process. According to several intelligence reports, Russia used middlemen to pass along the compromising files to WikiLeaks.
Assange’s Arrest a ‘Priority’
Although Assange is currently untouchable, the Justice Department is preparing for his arrest. On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the activist’s arrest represents a “priority.”
We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,
He added that the WikiLeaks issue has gone beyond anything he and national security analystss have seen. Cyber security experts are shocked by the huge number of leaks published on the website, with many of them being ‘quite serious.’ Sessions said that when a case is made, “some people” would land in jail.
Assange’s attorney said that he isn’t aware of any charges brought against his client by the U.S. Department of Justice. The lawyer also said U.S. authorities have repeatedly refused to have any discussion at all on Assange’s status in a pending investigation.
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