The Justice Department has indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act after previously only indicting him on one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
The charges reportedly relate to Assange’s connection to former U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning who was convicted of violating the Espionage Act in 2013.
Because the Espionage Act usually applies to government employees like Manning, free-speech advocates are alarmed by the move to use the law against Assange.
Assange’s WikiLeaks called the act “the end of national security journalism and the first amendment.”
This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the first amendment. https://t.co/wlhsmsenFw
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 23, 2019
Fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden said, “The Department of Justice just declared war – not on Wikileaks, but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media.”
The Department of Justice just declared war––€”not on Wikileaks, but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media. https://t.co/a5WHmTCDpg
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) May 23, 2019
Many journalists from both sides of the political aisle have noted the dangerous precedent set by the decision as seen in the following tweets:
All those who spent the last 2+ years proclaiming to be so very concerned about attacks on a free press will now have to decide whether they really meant it, or whether – due to feelings about Assange – they will cheer the Trump Administration’s frontal assault on press freedom: https://t.co/4yW1DB58wP
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 23, 2019
He’s being charged under the Espionage Act, as we all suspected, in what will surely be a death blow to the first amendment.
— Cassandra Fairbanks (@CassandraRules) May 23, 2019
Dems who want revenge on Assange for 2016 are cheering the Trump DOJ inventing a brand new theory to criminalize journalism. Even though the new indictment again has nothing to do with 2016. Certain segment of bootlicking Trump sycophants also joining the celebration. Sick
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) May 23, 2019
NEWS: Prosecutors are charging Julian Assange with the espionage act in an 18 count indictment. These new charges are crossing over into very dangerous territory. The espionage act could be used against reporters who publish critical information. https://t.co/SE1uCVOp0L
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) May 23, 2019
To be clear:
The only “plan” involved here with the Assange indictment is the plan to put Assange behind bars forever
This isn’t some secret plot
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) May 23, 2019
If only we held media outlets, US members of Congress, Secretary of State and high up FBI officials up to the same standard as Julian Assange when it comes to classified info we might have some dignity back in DC.
— Kambree Kawahine Koa (@KamVTV) May 23, 2019
Trump is doing well to follow in Obama’s footsteps.
Drone strikes, commando raids, espionage act indictments.
Assange was right, they are going to lock him up and throw away the keyhttps://t.co/fo4QG5eWp2
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) May 23, 2019
Julian Assange exposes Hillary Clinton’s role in arming head-chopping Al-Qaeda jihadists both in Libya and Syria -> faces up to 170 years in prison on 17 charges.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton -> roams free, does media, gets book deals and receives never-ending celebrity treatment. pic.twitter.com/zHFkVco8Ge
— Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo) May 23, 2019
The Espionage indictment of Assange for publishing is an extremely dangerous, frontal attack on the free press. Bad, bad, bad.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) May 23, 2019
This is a deliberate effort to establish a precedent that can be used to prosecute journalists for doing their jobs and publishing information that embarrasses the government or exposes wrongdoing. https://t.co/xPGAn4QZCg
— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) May 23, 2019
The war on Julian #Assange is now a war on all. Eighteen absurd charges including espionage send a burning message to every journalist, every publisher. The target today is #Assange. Tomorrow it will be you on the New York Times, you on the BBC. Modern fascism is breaking cover.
— John Pilger (@johnpilger) May 23, 2019
Folks seem not to understand the issue on the Assange indictment. It is not about Assange, who I hold in deep contempt. It is about reporters’ ability to disclose information that the government – often for bad reasons – wants to keep hidden and that the public should know.
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) May 23, 2019
Put simply, the Trump admin’s unprecedented charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century.
— Freedom of the Press (@FreedomofPress) May 23, 2019
Today the Trump DOJ becomes the first administration to ever charge a publisher with *espionage* — an assertive, unprecedented legal crackdown on the traditional rights and protections for publishers.
That is a legal fact, regardless of one’s views of Julian Assange.
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) May 23, 2019
There is no way to dodge the direct implications of the Assange indictment for every journalist who covers military, diplomatic or intelligence affairs. Read this thread on why “this is a worst-case, nightmare, mayday scenario.” https://t.co/XxPO1tXZSE
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) May 23, 2019