Thu | Jun 20, 2019

US charges WikiLeaks founder with publishing classified information

Published:Thursday | May 23, 2019 | 3:34 PM
In this May 1, 2019 file photo protesters demonstrate outside court where Julian Assange will appear in London. The Justice Department has charged Assange with receiving and publishing classified information. The charges are contained in a new, 18-count indictment announced May 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. filed new charges Thursday against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, accusing him of placing the United States at risk of “serious harm” by publishing thousands of secret and classified documents, including the names of confidential sources for American armed forces.

In an 18-count, superseding indictment, Justice Department prosecutors allege that Assange directed former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.

The case presents immediate questions about media freedom, including whether the Justice Department is charging Assange for actions — such as soliciting and publishing classified information — that ordinarily journalists do as a matter of course. Department officials said Thursday they believe Assange strayed far outside First Amendment protections.

The new Espionage Act charges go far beyond an initial indictment against Assange made public last month that accused him of conspiring with Manning to crack a defence computer password. 

Wikileaks caused particular harm by publishing the names of people who helped American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. diplomats around the world.

The new indictment says Assange conspired with Manning to obtain and disclose classified national defence documents, including State Department cables and reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prosecutors say his actions “risked serious harm” to the United States.

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