WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act in a case that is widely seen as a test of the First Amendment.
The New York Times reports that Assange was indicted “for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010.”
“The new charges were part of an expanded indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly raised the stakes of the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia,” The Times reports.
The report notes: “The case has nothing to do with Russia’s election interference in 2016, when Mr. Assange’s organization published Democratic emails stolen by Russia as part of its covert efforts to help elect President Trump. Instead, it focuses on Mr. Assange’s role in the leak of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables and military files by the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.”
The Justice Department did not explain its decision to charge Assange under the Espionage Act, the report notes.
“Although the indictment could establish a precedent that deems actions related to obtaining, and in some cases publishing, state secrets to be criminal, the officials sought to minimize the implications for press freedoms,” The Times adds. “They noted that most of the new charges were related to obtaining the secret document archives, as opposed to publishing them.”