Assange faces possible arrest as US mulls charges against WikiLeaks

India Ashok
Julian Assange arrest

Julian Assange may soon face arrest as the US government reportedly mulls charging Wikileaks members over recent CIA Vault 7 leaks and takes a second look at the 2010 leaks of diplomatic cables and military secrets.

Although US prosecutors have previously struggled to determine whether the First Amendment would prohibit Assange's prosecution, they now reportedly believe that there may be a way to move forward. A manhunt for WikiLeaks sources has also been launched by the CIA and the FBI.

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Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that US authorities have already prepared charges to seek Assange's arrest.

However, the Washington Post reports that a memo drafted by US prosecutors considering charges against WikiLeaks members is yet to be completed. The charges could reportedly include violating the Espionage Act, theft of government property and conspiracy.

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Meanwhile, Assange remains ensconced in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living under political asylum since 2012.

'Wikileaks is a publisher'

"We've had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr. Assange," said Assange's lawyer, Barry Pollack.

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"They've been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests that they let us know what Mr. Assange's status is in any pending investigations. There's no reason why Wikileaks should be treated differently from any other publisher."

The Washington Post quotes Pollack as saying, "The fact of the matter is — however frustrating it might be to whoever looks bad when information is published — WikiLeaks is a publisher, and they are publishing truthful information that is in the public's interest.

"Democracy thrives because there are independent journalists reporting on what it is that the government is doing."

The US government's move toward prosecuting Assange indicates a shift for President Trump, who in the past has lauded WikiLeaks. The CNN quoted US Attorney General Jeff Sessions as deeming Assange's arrest to be a "priority".

CIA target Assange

CIA director Mike Pompeo also took aim at WikiLeaks and Assange during a speech last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia," Pompeo said.

"We can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for," he said, adding that this protection "ends now".

Assange responded to Pompeo's comments by claiming that the CIA had launched a preemptive strike on WikiLeaks.

"The reason Pompeo is launching this attack is because he understands we are exposing in this series all sorts of illegal actions by the CIA, so he's trying to get ahead of the publicity curve and create a preemptive defence," Assange said.

It remains unclear whether US prosecutors are also looking into WikiLeaks' role in the DNC email leaks, which US authorities previously concluded Russian hackers had stolen.

The US Justice Department and the FBI are yet to comment on the matter.

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