US hits Julian Assange with new charges
WASHINGTON — In a case with significant First Amendment implications, the U.S. filed new charges Thursday against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that accuse him of violating the Espionage Act by publishing thousands of secret and classified documents, including the identities of confidential sources for American armed forces and diplomats.
The Justice Department’s 18-count superseding indictment alleges that Assange directed former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history. It says the WikiLeaks founder damaged national security by publishing documents that harmed the U.S. and its allies and aided its adversaries.
The case comes amid a Justice Department crackdown on national security leaks and raises immediate media freedom questions, including whether Assange’s actions — such as soliciting and publishing classified information — are distinguishable from what traditional journalists do as a matter of course.
Justice Department officials sought to make clear that they did not view Assange’s actions as protected by the First Amendment.