Raising questions about freedom of the press, federal prosecutors have indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act for publishing classified materials.
The government maintains that the secret information that Assange published led directly to the deaths of American human intelligence resources overseas.
“The charges were part of an 18-count superseding indictment against Assange, who was indicted on April 11 on a single charge that he conspired with former Army private Chelsea Manning to hack into the classified computer systems of the Defense Department,” Daily Caller reported.
Some, though, worry that the charges are a breach of freedom of the press since Assange claims to be a journalist. Many point out that Assange did not steal the information himself and only published it like any journalist would.
The case will be a major test of our Constitutional protections of the press.
Federal prosecutors, though, say that Assange aided and abetted the theft of the secret documents by encouraging the theft.
“Julian Assange is no journalist,” John Demers, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for national security, told reporters.
Zach Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Virginia, said that Assange is “not charged simply because he’s a publisher.”
The indictment does not cover the inside communications of the democrat Party that Assange published just prior to the 2016 elections.
The new indictment alleges that Assange conspired with Manning to steal classified government documents, including State Department cables and classified reports about the Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts.
“After agreeing to receive classified documents from Manning and aiding, abetting, and causing Manning to provide classified documents, the superseding indictment charges that Assange then published on WikiLeaks classified documents that contained the unredacted names of human sources who provided information to United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to U.S. State Department diplomats around the world,” prosecutors claim.
“These human sources included local Afghans and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents from repressive regimes.”
Assange is currently in British custody and U.S. officials have applied for his extradition.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.