US calls Julian Assange actions dangerous even as judge notes no victims

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives in Canberra

By Simon Lewis and Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that Julian Assange's actions put lives at risk even as the judge who accepted the WikiLeaks founder's guilty plea to resolve his case noted that no victims had been identified.

A State Department spokesperson was repeatedly asked by reporters to give examples of harm caused by the WikiLeaks releases but did not provide any. The spokesperson said the department's involvement in the resolution of Assange's case was very limited.

Assange landed to an ecstatic welcome in Australia on Wednesday after pleading guilty to violating U.S. espionage law in a deal that sets him free from a 14-year legal battle.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ramona V. Manglona in the U.S. territory of Saipan accepted Assange's guilty plea on Wednesday. Assange had agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal count, according to filings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

While Washington has often called Assange's actions reckless and claimed they put its agents at risk, the judge noted that the United States could not identify any personal victim from them.

"There's another significant fact - the government has indicated there is no personal victim here. That tells me the dissemination of this information did not result in any known physical injury," the judge said.

The State Department spokesperson reiterated the U.S. position when asked about the judge's comments.

Assange's supporters say he is a hero who was victimized because he exposed U.S. wrongdoing and alleged war crimes, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq in a 2010 publication of documents.

"The State Department did an extraordinary amount of work when we found out that these cables were going to be published to get people out of harm's way," the department's spokesperson said.

The State Department said the Justice Department acted independently in the case.

The spokesperson added that there was some limited coordination between the State Department and the Australian government recently.

"There was some small coordination role between our embassy and the Australian government just in the past few days but this was other than that a law-enforcement matter handled through law-enforcement channels," he told reporters.

Australia had been advocating for the release of Assange, an Australian citizen. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had lobbied for years to free the WikiLeaks founder.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Kanishka Singh and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler and Rod Nickel)