The United States government, through the Department of Justice, is seeking the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, according to a report from CNN. U.S. officials familiar with the matter say that Assange can no longer claim First Amendment protections. Prosecuting Assange has been a priority for the Department of Justice for many years, but under Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration, it was determined that such a prosecution would be too difficult to achieve. Now, Trump administration officials believe they have the charges necessary to proceed.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks, and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”
Last week, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in his first news conference since assuming the role at Langley, cited Wikileaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”—the first such accusation to come from an American official.
Wikileaks has made several damaging releases of classified U.S. intelligence information over the past decade, most notably with files provided by then-Army intelligence soldier Private Bradley Manning in 2010. Its founder, Julian Assange, has sought refuge within the Ecuadorean embassy in London after rape allegations against him led to a warrant for his arrest in Sweden. Ecuador has refused to forcibly remove Assange, despite requests from the U.S.
Wikileaks regards itself as a “multi-national media organization” that “specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption.” In 2016, it famously published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, exposing embarrassing internal politics that surrounded the campaign of Hillary Clinton for president.
Many in the national security community believe Assange and Wikileaks are agents for Russian intelligence.
Assange has compared his organization to news publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which routinely publish stories with what is considered classified information obtained through confidential sources.
It is not yet clear which charges are being prepared by the Department of Justice for Assange. But according to Director Pompeo, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an embassy in London. He’s not a U.S. citizen.”
Image courtesy of the BBC