On Wednesday officials claimed the Department of Justice is ready to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
(WASHINGTON, DC) Officials reportedly claim the Department of Justice is ready to file arrest charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Press advocates warn that if the US goes after the pro-transparency publisher, they could go after other news outlets as well.
On Thursday, CNN and the Washington Post cited unnamed US officials as having information that the US has prepared charges to make arrests related to WikiLeaks publishing tens of thousands of military documents leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
CNN specifically reported WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in a small room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2010, was the subject of forthcoming arrest charges.
The Post reported multiple members of the WikiLeaks group were being targeted as prosecutors draft a memo laying out the charges. Possible charges include “conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act.” However, officials told the Post that the memo is still incomplete, and would need authorization from the highest levels of the Justice Department.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked about the priority of dealing with the “scourge” of WikiLeaks at a press briefing on Thursday. Sessions said that the Justice Department considers his arrest a "priority."
"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,” Sessions said. “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 signaled he was going after Assange in a speech he gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, where he said WikiLeaks had “directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information. And it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations.”
“It’s time to call our WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” Pompeo said.
Matthew Miller, a former DOJ spokesman, tweeted Thursday: “Unless they have found something new, there is no way to do this without prosecuting reporters. There's a reason we didn't go there.”
Barry Pollack, an attorney for Assange, claims that the Justice Department has not informed him of any of the potential charges.
"We've had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr. Assange," Pollack said, according to CNN. "There's no reason why WikiLeaks should be treated differently from any other publisher."
In a recent Op-Ed published by the Washington Post, Assange said that the motive of WikiLeaks is “identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post — to publish newsworthy content.”
“Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media. And we strive to mitigate legitimate concerns, for example by using redaction to protect the identities of at-risk intelligence agents,” Assange wrote.
On Thursday, the WikiLeaks Twitter account tweeted that top French presidential candidates “all vowed to give Assange and/or Snowden citizenship or asylum.”
French presidential candidates Melenchon, Le Pen, Asselineau and Hamon have all vowed to give Assange and/or Snowden citizenship or asylum.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 20, 2017