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Is the Justice Dept. about to charge Assange with espionage?

| May 3, 2017 | Criminal Defense

Back in January, a WikiLeaks Tweet said that Julian Assange, the transparency group’s editor in chief, would agree to extradition to the United States if then-President Obama gave former Pfc. Chelsea Manning clemency.

He did. Now, the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice has announced it may charge members of WikiLeaks with violations of the Espionage Act, theft of government secrets, and/or conspiracy. Is Assange on the table?

Assange has been residing inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he is safe from extradition to the U.S. or to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault charges. In an effort to persuade Obama to grant some sort of clemency to Manning, WikiLeaks Tweeted, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”

Meanwhile, on April 13, CIA Director Mike Pompeo denounced WikiLeaks, saying it “walks like a hostile intelligence agency and talks like a hostile intelligence agency.” The CIA is the target of WikiLeaks’ latest document release, which purports to reveal cyber-tools used by the intelligence agency.

The Obama Administration disagreed strongly with those who approved of the leaks — and with those who wanted to charge WikiLeaks members for publishing leaked material. Although it considered charging members of the anti-secrecy group, ultimately it decided doing so would threaten the rights of the press, which are guaranteed by the First Amendment.

And, indeed, the Trump Administration’s threat to do so garnered a negative reaction from civil rights groups. “Prosecuting WikiLeaks would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations,” the ACLU Tweeted after the story broke.

The last release of data, of course, was a great many Hillary Clinton campaign emails — an event Candidate Trump apparently had no problem with.

“I love WikiLeaks,” Trump said at a campaign rally before the election. “It’s amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the Internet.”

Before the Department of Justice attempts to extradite Assange or charge any member of WikiLeaks, it ought to tell the CIA that nothing on the Internet is secret.

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