The Justice Department has indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for revealing government secrets under the Espionage Act. The indictment charges Assange with 16 counts of receiving or disclosing material leaked by then-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2009 and 2010.
The 17 additional charges unsealed Thursday go further, accusing him of one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history. Prosecutors say Assange asked for and received hundreds of thousands of secret government documents including military reports and State Department cables in violation of the act.
The DOJ charges quickly drew alarm from media organizations and others. The groups are concerned that the Justice Department is charging Assange for actions that ordinary journalists do routinely in their jobs. The American Civil Liberties Union and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press were among the organizations and individuals calling the charges a grave threat to press freedom.
“For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information. This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment,” said Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project in a statement.
Meanwhile, Edward Snowden a former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower, reacted in a tweet saying that Justice Department has declared “war” on journalism after accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of violating the Espionage Act.
The Department of Justice just declared war––not on Wikileaks, but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media. https://t.co/a5WHmTCDpg
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) May 23, 2019