Time could be running out for Julian Assange
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for years.
Julian Assange’s future just got a little less certain.
On Thursday, CNN reported — citing "officials familiar with the matter" — that U.S. authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder.
The charges, and the full status of the case, are currently unclear, but the news doesn’t sound promising for Assange.
A Justice Department investigation into Assange and WikiLeaks dates back several years, to at least 2010, when the site published diplomatic cables and military documents obtained by Chelsea Manning.
Under Obama, the Justice Department did not charge WikiLeaks, on the basis that it would be akin to prosecuting a news organization for publishing classified information. It also wrestled with interpretations of the First Amendment and the fact that other newspapers including the New York Times published material.
In Trump’s department, however, the case — which was never formally closed — has been reexamined. A memo drafted by prosecutors includes possible charges of conspiracy, theft of government property, and violating the Espionage Act, the Washington Post reports. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said Thursday that Assange’s arrest was a "priority."
WikiLeaks responded to the news in a tweet, asking supporters to contribute financially to his defense.
It’s unclear if prosecutors are looking at WikiLeaks’ role in publishing DNC emails or those of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, both of which are believed to have been hacked by the Russian government.
In January, Obama cleared the way for Chelsea Manning’s release from prison — due to be effective May 17, 2017. The news came just a few days after WikiLeaks promised that Assange would agree to U.S. extradition if such clemency was granted. That tweet, which Assange might now be regretting, is still up. However, Assange — who’s still living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London with his cat — quickly backpedalled from the claims.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
More recently, WikiLeaks unleashed a new document dump aimed at exposing the CIA’s hacking techniques. It claimed the CIA could access encrypted messages on WhatsApp and Signal and even hack into your car (but not your microwave).
Last week, CIA director Mike Pompeo said that WikiLeaks "directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States." He called it a "non-state hostile intelligence service."