The Justice Department just unveiled an 18 count indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in eliciting classified documents that exposed USA government sources in the Middle East.
In an 18-count, superseding indictment, Justice Department prosecutors allege that Assange directed former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history.
Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in a United Kingdom jail for skipping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.
However, Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national-security official, countered: "Julian Assange is no journalist". "With the indictment, the "leader of the free world" dismisses the First Amendment - hailed as a model of press freedom around the world - and launches a blatant extraterritorial assault outside its border, attacking basic principles of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world".
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CPJ has since covered the Democratic National Committee's lawsuit against WikiLeaks and the potential dangers posed by the initial count of computer hacking leveled against Assange in April.
Assange published the documents on WikiLeaks with unredacted names of sources who gave information to United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The indictment calls out Assange's repeated solicitations of specific sensitive data, including both unclassified but non-public sources and explicitly classified data.
The US also alleges that that Assange encouraged Manning "to continue her theft of classified documents and agreed to help her crack a password hash to a military computer".
The DOJ, however, made it clear during a news birefing today that it does not consider what Assange does as journalism.
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Assange was arrested on April 11, after Ecuador revoked his political asylum and United Kingdom police seized him from the Latin American country's embassy in London.
Assange was indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917, which was passed with the intention of prohibiting interference in military operations.
"The government had its own reasons for why it needed to keep that secret [but] it would certainly be nice if it were to make a public statement to the effect that we're concerned about the fate of Julian Assange and the impact of this extradition attempt on investigative journalism in Australia and worldwide".
He was subsequently sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail conditions when he took refuge in the embassy.
At least three counts of the indictment charge Assange with creating a "grave and imminent risk to human life" through the publication of unredacted documents that included the names of individuals who had assisted the U.S.in conflict zones. Although the indictment points to examples where Assange's publication of classified records exposed and might have endangered people named in them, the charges do not hinge on this detail. She served seven years of a 35-year sentence before being granted clemency by Barack Obama. But she was sent back to jail earlier this year for refusing to cooperate with the investigation into Assange.
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