Can Julian Assange be charged under the Espionage Act?

The Associated Press reports that the DOJ and other government agencies are looking for ways to charge WikiLeaks punk Julian Assange over his leaks of massive amounts of classified and sensitive information to “news” outlets like the “Newspaper of Record”:

WASHINGTON — A senior defense official says lawyers from across government agencies are studying whether it might be possible to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act. 

The official says lawyers from the departments of Justice, State and Defense are among those looking into how to handle the leaking of a massive number of national security and diplomatic documents to the WikiLeaks website and the site’s action in then posting them on the Internet. 

The defense official spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday to be able to discuss internal deliberations. He said lawyers are trying to determine whether the Espionage Act applies in this case, what individuals it might apply to and whether it’s possible to use it against the WikiLeaks organization.

At least one prominent First Amendment lawyer thinks the Espionage Act would apply to Assange:

On [NPR’s] Morning Edition, famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams told host Renee Montagne that it’s not The New York Times and other media outlets who face prosecution — it’s WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (and whomever gave him the material) who could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917.

And Assange, an Australian, may be his own worst enemy if he ever is brought before a U.S. court, Abrams said: “He has gone a long way down the road of talking himself into a possible violation of the Espionage Act.”


Well, with comments such as this, reported by The New Yorker in its lengthy profile of Assange back in June:

“He has argued that a ‘social movement’ to expose secrets could ‘bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality — including the US administration.’ “

The Espionage Act, Abrams told Renee, “is very broad.” But among the crimes it details is unauthorized possession of — or control over — classified information, if you have reason to believe that disclosure of the information could cause harm to the U.S.

Click here to read the Espionage Act.

I’m not sure what law applies here – I just hope they get the b*stard, and all who are aiding him.


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