Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > USA: Julian Assange charged by Justice Department for violations of 1917 (...)

USA: Julian Assange charged by Justice Department for violations of 1917 Espionage Act

Saturday 25 May 2019, by siawi3


Julian Assange charged by Justice Department for violations of 1917 Espionage Act

WikiLeaks founder is charged in a new 18-count federal indictment under controversial World War I-era law

Nicole Karlis

May 23, 2019 11:08PM (UTC)

On Thursday, federal prosecutors accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, a highly controversial law long viewed as dangerous by civil libertarians. Assange is being charged with an 18-count indictment for “alleged complicity in illegal acts,” by the Department of Justice, including the alleged assistance he gave to Chelsea Manning. The charges were made by a grand jury in Northern Virginia. The DOJ had previously indicted Assange only on one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

These charges raise significant questions about the limits of the First Amendment, and what protections the news media and publishers of classified information have under it. The Justice Department is apparently taking the position that Assange is not a journalist, although it does not dispute that he is a publisher.

According to NPR, U.S. Attorney Zach Terwilliger said, “The United States has only charged Assange with publishing a narrow set of classified documents. Assange is not charged simply because he is a publisher.”

John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, asserted that Assange “no journalist,†according to the Washington Post. He added that Assange had engaged in “explicit solicitation of classified information.â€

WikiLeaks tweeted shortly after the new charges were announced, calling the verdict “madness.â€

“It is the end of national security journalism and the first amendment," WikeLeaks said on Twitter.

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower now living in Russia. said that this case will decide the future of journalism in the United States.

“The Department of Justice just declared war,†Snowden tweeted. “Not on Wikileaks, but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media.â€

In a series of tweets late on Thursday, the ACLU described these charges as “a direct assault on the First Amendment” and “an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism.”