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posted by martyb on Friday May 24 2019, @11:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the One-man-takes-on-US-Government;-who-will-prevail? dept.

Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising First Amendment Issues

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.

The new charges were part of a superseding indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly expanded the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia.

[...] On its face, the Espionage Act could also be used to prosecute reporters who publish government secrets. But many legal scholars believe that prosecuting people for acts related to receiving and publishing information would violate the First Amendment.

That notion has never been tested in court, however, because until now the government has never brought such charges. The closest it came was indicting two lobbyists for a pro-Israel group in 2005 who received classified information about American policy toward Iran and passed it on. But that case fell apart after several skeptical pretrial rulings by a judge, and the charges were dropped.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like The New York Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.

Also at BBC, CNBC, USA Today, and Reuters

Previously: Inadvertent Court Filing Suggests that the U.S. DoJ is Preparing to Indict Julian Assange
U.S. Ramping Up Probe Against Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Says
Wikileaks Co-Founder Julian Assange Arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
Julian Assange Sentenced to 50 Weeks in Prison for Bail Breach
Swedish Prosecutor to Reopen Julian Assange Investigation

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @01:54PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @01:54PM (#847058)

    If they had waited for his extradition, , they could have more easily laid these charges plus ask for the death penalty.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Friday May 24 2019, @02:15PM (3 children)

    by takyon (881) <> on Friday May 24 2019, @02:15PM (#847071) Journal []

    The former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr believes the prison sentence faced by Julian Assange if he were extradited to the US “changes the game” almost as much as a capital punishment charge, and could “test the patience” of its allies including Australia.

    [...] As well as capital punishment, the US-UK extradition treaty also excludes “political offences”. While that definition is not clearly defined, Carr said the charges against Assange could be viewed as “thoroughly political”.

    “Sweden and the UK would not allow extradition were the offence one that would attract capital punishment and they also rule out extradition where the crime was said to be ‘political’,” he said. “It could be that convicting someone for life who exposed war crimes and other abuses is seen as thoroughly political.”

    Incompetence? Looks like Sweden will get first swing at him.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @05:25PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @05:25PM (#847187)

      You mean he will be convicted of Rape in Sweden? So will he get the mandatory 40 hours of community service?

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @08:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24 2019, @08:19PM (#847332)

      good thing trumpy is in office or the state socialist authoritarians wouldn't care about assaange's possible sentence.

  • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Friday May 24 2019, @06:19PM

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Friday May 24 2019, @06:19PM (#847263) Journal

    Most likely because the lawyers at DoJ (or the White House, or both) feel like arguing the conspiracy about hacking (of which Assange's lawyers would indeed argue) is too thin a reed to get him into the U.S. clutches.

    From what I've read there's a possibility that Assange was just shining Manning on about being able to help hack the codes. Whether that reaches the threshhold of being an overt act [] is what could be arguable. Unless there is some proof that Assange then turned stuff over to "his guy" to help crack the codes (which appears to be the only overt act in furtherance of the crime) then I think there's probably grounds to protest that no conspiracy existed. Cops can lie.... so why can't journalists?

    In passing, Donald Trump seems to be an expert at understanding what conspiracy is and isn't now.

    That Assange did what he did quite stupidly, no doubt. But maybe something stronger is needed to force the extradition doors open.

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