Justice Department Hits Julian Assange With Espionage Act Charges – Testing First Amendment Limits

Julian Assange

The Justice Department on Thursday accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of violating the Espionage Act, testing First Amendment limits.

The DOJ previously hit Assange on a single count indictment of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, but on Thursday it was revealed the WikiLeaks boss was hit with an additional 18 charges.


The 18-count superseding indictment revealed Thursday is related to sensitive State Department cables Assange received from Chelsea (Bradley) Manning and subsequently made public.

The US government accused Assange of soliciting information from Manning, a former US Army Intel Officer who was convicted in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act.

“A federal grand jury returned an 18-count superseding indictment today charging Julian P. Assange, 47, the founder of WikiLeaks, with offenses that relate to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” the DOJ announced Thursday in a press release.

“The superseding indictment alleges that beginning in late 2009, Assange and WikiLeaks actively solicited United States classified information, including by publishing a list of “Most Wanted Leaks” that sought, among other things, classified documents.  Manning responded to Assange’s solicitations by using access granted to her as an intelligence analyst to search for United States classified documents, and provided to Assange and WikiLeaks databases containing approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables.”

The US government said the documents that Assange made public were classified at the Secret level, meaning their unauthorized disclosure could cause serious damage to United States national security.

John Demers, head of DOJ’s national security division argued against First Amendment defenders and said that Assange is “not a journalist,” and alleged that Assange “purposely published names he knew to be confidential human sources in warzones.”

Assange was arrested last month and removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he lived for 7 years after being given asylum — he is currently in prison in London for ‘jumping bail.’

Julian Assange faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.

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