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Washington (CNN)US authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, US officials familiar with the matter tell CNN.
The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.
Prosecutors have struggled with whether the First Amendment precluded the prosecution of Assange, but now believe they have found a way to move forward.
During President Barack Obama's administration, Attorney General Eric Holder and officials at the Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn't alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning. Several newspapers, including The New York Times, did as well. The investigation continued, but any possible charges were put on hold, according to US officials involved in the process then.

The US view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents.
Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking to avoid an arrest warrant on rape charges in Sweden. In recent months, US officials had focused on the possibility that a new government in Ecuador would expel Assange and he could be arrested. But the left-leaning presidential candidate who won the recent election in the South American nation has promised to continue to harbor Assange.
Last week in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went further than any US government official in describing a role by WikiLeaks that went beyond First Amendment activity.
He said WikiLeaks "directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States."
"It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia," Pompeo said.
US intelligence agencies have also determined that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish emails aimed at undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton, as part of a broader operation to meddle in the US 2016 presidential election. Hackers working for Russian intelligence agencies stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and officials in the Clinton campaign and used intermediaries to pass along the documents to WikiLeaks, according to a public assessment by US intelligence agencies.
Still, the move could be viewed as political, since Assange is untouchable as long as he remains in the Ecuadorian embassy, and Ecuador has not changed its stance on Assange's extradition.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Thursday that Assange's arrest is a "priority."
"We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks," he said. "This is a matter that's gone beyond anything I'm aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. 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.
"We've had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr. Assange," said Assange's lawyer, Barry Pollack. "They've been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr. Assange's status is in any pending investigations. There's no reason why Wikileaks should be treated differently from any other publisher."
Pollack said WikiLeaks is just like the Washington Post and the New York Times, which routinely publish stories based on classified information. WikiLeaks, he says, publishes information that is in "the public's interest to know not just about the United States but other governments around the world."
Assange has also compared WikiLeaks to a news media organization that uses documents provided by whistleblowers to expose the actions of governments and powerful corporations.
"Quite simply, our motive is identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post -- to publish newsworthy content," Assange wrote in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post. "Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media. And we strive to mitigate legitimate concerns, for example by using redaction to protect the identities of at-risk intelligence agents."
In his speech last week, Pompeo rejected that characterization and said Assange should not be afforded constitutional free speech protections.
"Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He's sitting in an Embassy in London. He's not a US citizen," Pompeo said.
Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that based on CNN's reporting, "I'm glad that the Justice Department has found a way to go after Assange. He's gotten a free ride for too long."
King said Assange has "caused tremendous damage to our national security, put American lives at risk."
This story has been updated to clarify Pompeo's comment about free speech protections.
 
Posts: 5122 | Location: Fort Heathen, Texas | Registered: February 25, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Just because you can,
doesn't mean you should
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I think making a case in a courtroom will be very tricky.
The government will have to expose a lot of dirty laundry to make their case and who knows what else Assange could have in reserve.
Finding jurors that don't have at least some mistrust of the government will be challenging too.
 
Posts: 3142 | Location: North GA | Registered: August 22, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Step by step walk the thousand mile road
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Why prosecute Assange?

It won't close Wikileaks.
It won't undisclosed documents about the unconstitutional behavior and programs of our intelligence and military communities.
Frankly, I'd rather leakers publish the information. That way you know what's out there and can act accordingly. Not possible if a Snowden or Manning simply put the documents up for sale on Alibaba and then didn't tell the world what they sold to the Chinese or Russians or NORKORs.....



Nice is overrated

And people wonder why I carry a SIG P320

Death to Terrorists
 
Posts: 25299 | Location: Loudoun County, Virginia | Registered: May 17, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Political Cynic
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it may be a way to get him out of the embassy where he's been holed up

prosecution may not be the final goal



Peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather when you have your foot firmly on the enemies neck

"I'm only myself when I have a guitar in my hands." - George Harrison


 
Posts: 44514 | Location: Arizona | Registered: January 16, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Leave the gun.
Take the cannoli.
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Charge him? He should be given a medal. His years of leaks gave rise to those of a more conservative reduced-government ideology. Without Wikileaks, Sessions would not be AG and Hillary would be in charge.
 
Posts: 5164 | Location: New England | Registered: January 06, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Why can't our government fix the leaks? If Wikileaks can get the information why wouldn't an enemy of the United States be able to get to it?
I think the people responsible for the information that was leaked should be held accountable. Didn't state department emails get published much to the embarrassment of Clinton and Obama? It's a top down problem.
 
Posts: 676 | Location: Western Washington AC | Registered: August 19, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Sig2340:
...Frankly, I'd rather leakers publish the information. That way you know what's out there and can act accordingly...

The Libertarian in me agrees with you wholeheartedly, but suppose a leaker got ahold of the list of your state's CCW's home addresses and published it? I'm sure we can all think of something we don't want anybody to know, whether it's about us personally, or something security-related.

We tend to paint with a broad brush too often, I think.


--------------------------
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
-- H L Mencken
 
Posts: 6551 | Location: Illinois farm country | Registered: November 15, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
I believe in the
principle of
Due Process
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quote:
Originally posted by gasche:
Why can't our government fix the leaks? If Wikileaks can get the information why wouldn't an enemy of the United States be able to get to it?
I think the people responsible for the information that was leaked should be held accountable. Didn't state department emails get published much to the embarrassment of Clinton and Obama? It's a top down problem.


They didn't seem embarrassed over the official ones the State Department was forced to release.

The hacked ones were DNC and party ones, not official government stuff, hence were not, could not be, classified.




Luckily, I have enough willpower to control the driving ambition that rages within me.

When you had the votes, we did things your way. Now, we have the votes and you will be doing things our way. This lesson in political reality from Lyndon B. Johnson

"Some things are apparent. Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible." - Justice Janice Rogers Brown
 
Posts: 41303 | Location: Texas hill country | Registered: July 04, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Step by step walk the thousand mile road
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quote:
Originally posted by newtoSig765:
quote:
Originally posted by Sig2340:
...Frankly, I'd rather leakers publish the information. That way you know what's out there and can act accordingly...

The Libertarian in me agrees with you wholeheartedly, but suppose a leaker got ahold of the list of your state's CCW's home addresses and published it? I'm sure we can all think of something we don't want anybody to know, whether it's about us personally, or something security-related.

We tend to paint with a broad brush too often, I think.



That already happened. More than once.

The anti-gun Roanoke Times did this a few years back, then other anti- gun groups and media outlets followed suit. My name and address were published.

And it didn't take a leaker. All of them gained access via a FOIA request to an anti-gun Commandant of the Virginia State Police.

I took advantage of it, sending a letter to the Times and then publishing an announcement in a local paper that because they did this, I was now going to assume the fact I own and carry a gun was public knowledge and I would assume any attacker or home invader knew this, and I would respond accordingly (i.e., I assume the attacker must be knowledgeable and intent on doing me grave bodily harm).

It took a while to get our legislature to put an end to FOIA requests for this information.

So, turn the actions against them. It is the best defense.



Nice is overrated

And people wonder why I carry a SIG P320

Death to Terrorists
 
Posts: 25299 | Location: Loudoun County, Virginia | Registered: May 17, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Oh stewardess,
I speak jive.
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Bradley, not Chelsea, but that's another matter.

As for Assange, going after him is pointless and misguided and won't solve a thing.
 
Posts: 20375 | Registered: March 12, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
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quote:
Originally posted by Sig2340:

...It took a while to get our legislature to put an end to FOIA requests for this information...

In other words, your legislature agreed that releasing sensitive information was wrong, but in the meantime you had to take aggressive proactive steps to protect yourself from the results of the original release.

You made my point. There's a cost in exposing secrets, and it is borne by those keeping them.


--------------------------
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
-- H L Mencken
 
Posts: 6551 | Location: Illinois farm country | Registered: November 15, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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