Pros­e­cu­tors tak­ing aim at Wik­iLeaks

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — Two me­dia re­ports on Thurs­day said US pros­e­cu­tors are pre­par­ing or closely con­sid­er­ing charges against the anti-se­crecy group Wik­iLeaks, in­clud­ing its founder Ju­lian As­sange, for re­veal­ing sen­si­tive gov­ern­ment se­crets.

CNN re­ported au­thor­i­ties are pre­par­ing to seek As­sange’s ar­rest. The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported pros­e­cu­tors are weigh­ing charges against the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s mem­bers af­ter the Obama-era Jus­tice Depart­ment de­clined to do so.

Pos­si­ble charges in­clude con­spir­acy, theft of gov­ern­ment prop­erty and vi­o­lat­ing the Es­pi­onage Act, the news­pa­per said, though any charges would need ap­proval from high-rank­ing of­fi­cials in the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

The move comes just weeks af­ter Wik­iLeaks re­leased nearly 8,000 doc­u­ments that it says re­veal se­crets about the CIA’s cy­beres­pi­onage tools for break­ing into com­put­ers, cell­phones and even smart TVs.

It pre­vi­ously pub­lished 250,000 State Depart­ment ca­bles and em­bar­rassed the US mil­i­tary with hundreds of thou­sands of logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.

CIA di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo last week de­nounced the group as a “hos­tile in­tel­li­gence ser­vice” and a threat to US na­tional se­cu­rity.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions told re­porters on Thurs­day that As­sange’s ar­rest is a pri­or­ity as the Jus­tice Depart­ment steps up ef­forts to pros­e­cute peo­ple who leak clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia.

“We’ve al­ready be­gun to step up our ef­forts and when­ever a case can be made, we will seek to put some peo­ple in jail,” Ses­sions said.

Their con­dem­na­tion of Wik­iLeaks dif­fered sharply from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s past praise of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Be­fore last year’s elec­tion, Trump said he was happy to see Wik­iLeaks pub­lish pri­vate, po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing emails from Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign man­ager, John Podesta.

Trump was less thrilled about the re­lease of CIA tac­tics, which the White House said was dif­fer­ent be­cause it in­volved in­for­ma­tion about se­cre­tive na­tional se­cu­rity tools.

The Post said it wasn’t clear whether pros­e­cu­tors are also look­ing at Wik­iLeaks’ role in the Podesta case.

As­sange’s at­tor­ney, Barry Pol­lack, said au­thor­i­ties have not ap­prised him of the sta­tus of their investigation.

Po­lit­i­cal asy­lum

As­sange, an Aus­tralian, has resided the last four years in Ecuador’s em­bassy in Lon­don. He re­ceived po­lit­i­cal asy­lum af­ter skip­ping bail to avoid ex­tra­di­tion to Swe­den, where he is wanted in con­nec­tion with a rape al­le­ga­tion.

As­sange has said Wik­iLeaks acts in the name of lib­erty and pri­vacy.

The Post re­ported that Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieved pros­e­cut­ing Wik­iLeaks would be sim­i­lar to pros­e­cut­ing a news or­ga­ni­za­tion for pub­lish­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

“The Depart­ment of Jus­tice should not be treat­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of truth­ful in­for­ma­tion as a rea­son for a crim­i­nal investigation of the pub­lisher,” Pol­lack said.

Ju­lian As­sange, Wik­iLeaks founder

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