Julian Assange facing 18 count indictment for violating the Espionage Act

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador in London

In April of this year, Julian Assange was suddenly expelled from Ecuador’s embassy in London and taken into custody by British authorities. I say “suddenly,” but it was a long time coming – Assange was given asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, and they hated him and wanted him out for years. It’s believed that Ecuador reached some kind of deal with British authorities, and the British government reached a deal with the American government. That was always the endgame – American authorities wanted to prosecute Assange in some way for publishing the Dept. of Defense and Dept. of State material Chelsea Manning hacked and gave to Assange in 2010.

In 2010, Assange published the material without redactions on Wikileaks. The threat to Assange was always as a “publisher” of material, although there was a theory going around that he might have actively helped Manning with the hack. It’s also worth noting that when Wikileaks did the initial document dump, the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde and Der Spiegel also published information (some of it partially redacted) from the dump, in coordination with Assange and Wikileaks. Well… the endgame is fully here for Assange. American federal prosecutors have indicted him under the Espionage Act.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was charged Thursday with violating the Espionage Act by seeking out classified information, an escalation of the Trump administration’s pursuit of leakers that could have major First Amendment repercussions for news organizations. An 18-count federal indictment alleges that Assange worked with a former Army intelligence analyst to obtain and disseminate secret documents — actions similar to reporting work at many traditional news organizations. The U.S. government, though, sought to distinguish the anti-secrecy advocate from a reporter.

“Julian Assange is no journalist,” said John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security. He said Assange had engaged in “explicit solicitation of classified information.”

Press freedom advocates said the distinction being drawn by prosecutors offers little protection for journalists. Noted media lawyer Floyd Abrams said that Assange may be a “singularly unattractive defendant in a lot of ways” but added that the indictment “does raise deeply threatening First Amendment issues for journalists who cover national defense, intelligence activities, and alike.”

Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in a statement that the indictment was “a dire threat to journalists.”

The new indictment expands on a conspiracy charge previously brought against Assange over his interactions with Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who shared hundreds of thousands of classified war logs and diplomatic papers with WikiLeaks.

[From Washington Post]

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very concerned about the Espionage Act being used in this way and I can fully see how this case could set a dangerous precedent for the First Amendment, press freedom and literally any journalist covering American wars, the Pentagon or American military. That being said, so many chickens are coming home to roost with this one. The whole reason why Assange was so anti-Hillary Clinton is because he thought if Clinton was elected, he would be prosecuted in this way using the Espionage Act. That’s one of the ways in which he justified cozying up to Russian operatives and allowing Wikileaks to be weaponized as a tool to get Trump elected. So basically, Assange was a big reason why Trump got elected and now the Trump administration’s Justice Department is going to prosecute Assange to a crazy degree AND use Assange to wage war on the free press. Maybe Assange was always a fascist, I don’t know. But he certainly made his bed.

Ecuadorian Embassy where Julian Assange has claimed refuge since 2012

Photos courtesy of WENN and Backgrid.

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39 Responses to “Julian Assange facing 18 count indictment for violating the Espionage Act”

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  1. duchess of hazard says:

    Sweden really should get him first, tbh. I would hope our government hands him over to Sweden first, but ehh.

  2. LolaB says:

    On a lighter note, I thought he was wearing a Hand of the King pin on his shoulder.

  3. ByTheSea says:

    When Wikileaks first came out, I thought it was a good thing–a way to force the government to be transparent. But what made me uncomfortable was the indiscriminate way they dumped information, so that active military personnel in sensitive operations were exposed and endangered.

    I don’t see this as analogous to attacks on the press, because the press, as far as I know, hasn’t gone after and leaked classified information the way Asange did.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I agree. And the “obtaining” part of these charges is the hacking of gov’t systems to get the information.

      The freedom of press is so important, but so is the safety of our intelligence sources in war zones. There is a fine line to be walked here and I am scared of how it will play out.

    • jwoolman says:

      But attacking the press and removing freedom of the press is exactly what Trump wants to do. He’s been saying so at least since 2016. He wants to go after journalists. He wants to make it illegal for them to say things he doesn’t like, and he’s infuriated by all the “leaks” by his terrified staff. That’s the only reason for all this while his pet Attorney General heads the DoJ.

      Before, Trump seriously talked about changing laws so he could sue uncooperative media into oblivion. Now he can do more. He definitely wants to go after everybody he perceives as an “enemy” and this attack on his beloved Wikileaker (tossing Assange under the bus) is simply a way to get the ball rolling. He chose an unpopular jerk for starters, assuming everybody would be okay with it and wouldn’t bother defending the jerk.

      It has nothing to do with justice or concern about classified materials. Trump is the biggest leaker of classified info himself, both in public and while chatting every night with his friends on his unsecured phone. It has everything to do with Trump wanting to shut up journalists he doesn’t like. He operates by intimidating anybody he can’t buy off.

      And don’t think for a moment that his talk about essentially being President for Life is a joke. He is protected from indictment only while he is POTUS, and that is one new fact that did penetrate his thick head. That’s why he is talking about having more terms rather than the legally mandated two-term limit, and not giving up power if not re-elected.

      They could legitimately charge Assange for hacking and already had indictments against him for that. This espionage thing is just an attempt to erode freedom of the press and set the stage for going after Trump’s “enemies”.

    • Betsy says:

      And I believe Assange encouraged Manning and gave her (does one say “him” when she was him at that point or is it “her”?) suggestions on how to hack. Wikileaks is hand in glove with Russia, the country that has been been attacking us for years. That’s not journalism, that’s espionage.

  4. mycomment says:

    the slippery slope…

  5. Rapunzel says:

    This douche deserves the book being thrown at him. However, I’m terrified about overreach w/regards to the espionage act. The Trump admin. is going crazy, and yesterday, Trump ordered AG Barr to declassify all the material related to the “spying” Hillary’s campaign committed against his campaign. I put spying in quotes cause it’s nonsense. But Lord knows we don’t need Assange creating precedence for Trump to use to try and lock Hillary up in time for 2020. Which I guarantee he really wants to do. This stuff with Assange is no coincidence.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      ” Trump ordered AG Barr to declassify all the material ”

      This is a TERRIFYING move. As we know, Barr picks and chooses information in order to manipulate and misdirect. Goodness knows what kind of myths he will spin now.

  6. aiobhan targaryen says:

    I don’t like that so many people are framing this as a first amendment issue. This accused rapist helped steal documents from the government and then published them online. He is accused of consipiring with Chelsea Manning to break passwords and steal top secret documents. Hacking is not protected under the first amendment. This is a federal crime and it is being treated as such.

    He is not a publisher of a legit source of news. He isn’t a hero or a whistleblower. What he did was unethical and against what journalism is about. He is a racist, sexist, POS thief who is finally getting what he deserves for the lives he ruined in pursuit of “transparency”. Anyone who is trying to victimize that racist piece of garbage needs to check themselves. They also need to go check on Reality Winner.

    I am so glad more people are seeing him and Greenwald for the mediocre and partisan hacks that they really are.

    • Jane says:

      Him being an accused rapist, racist, or sexist has nothing to do with whether he should be prosecuted. We prosecute actions, not character. He published documents that showed the horrific things that our government did. The fact that your more concerned about hacking than the actual information that came out is alarming. How else would this information come out? The government was just going to hand it over? The government was holding innocent people in Guantanamo Bay for years w/o charges? You really think the government was gonna leak that willingly? If hacking needed to be done to exposed the human rights abuses done to accrual people, so be it. That is what you call a whistleblower

      • Wow says:

        I don’t understand how the content of what he exposed is being overlooked. We are talking about war crimes and human rights violations… i guess all that shouldn’t be seen as important because he exposed the DNC, Which was also being shady as hell and holds a ton of responsibility for getting trump elected.

        Exposing our governments war crimes and abuses isn’t treasonous, its patriotism.

      • aiobhan targaryen says:

        Lol. Your first sentence is so white it is blinding. And if you aren’t white and writing this comment you need to wake the hell up.

        Where do I start with your comment. Simply put: yes it does. How can you not see how his bias against white women, against minorities, against anyone not a white man can cloud how he goes about uncovering the facts? Journalists are supposed to investigate, cultivate sources, follow the facts. Acting with a blatant disregard for the civilians caught in the crosshairs is not what a journalist or a legitmate publication should ever do. They also do not commit crimes while trying to uncover crimes. It is almost as if you have never heard of investigative journalism at all. While you are up on your soap box, I need to remind you why Assange was in the embassy: to avoid questioning regarding a sexual assault. Not because he was afraid of the US government coming after him for what he did with those documents, but because he did not want to talk to Swedish authorities about a sexual assault.


        You are coming off as a berniebot.

        First, Julian Assange is not a patriot as he is not American.

        Second, if he was all about transparency, he would have released all the documents he had on the republicans as well as the democrats. He only released what he had on the dems and left every bit of the rethug’s secrets in the closet. His excuse for not going after donald dump and the rethugs was because he basically thought donald dump was a joke. If he is all about transparency, why not expose everyone and not just Hilary and the Dems? Jokes on him he is being prosecuted by the joke’s government.

      • Megan says:

        @aiobhan +1,000

      • Jane says:

        Yup, I’m white. Forget my Indian heritage, being Muslim, an immigrant, but yes I’m so white. 🙄 Assange may be biased but he released leaks that showed the government commuting human right abuses in Guantanamo Bay. Those prisoners were POC. I know shocker. He was publishing things that would make the white men that run the government look atrocious. Besides this conversation had nothing to do with race. The documents published were the governments own writings. Regardless of his bias, the government did those things and the public had a right to know about. Your concern is about the fact that Assange is a horrible person who dared to these things. People are multifaceted. Assange can be racist and sexist and still be whistleblower. The people who were exposed in the leaks committing acts of human right abuses. Or does that not matter to you. Real people were being hurt and your angry at the fact that instead of going the traditional method of waiting months and months of investigation while real peoples lives were getting ruined, he took a shortcut. Your priorities show where your concerns lie. On Assange character as opposed to the actual things that came out. Assuage may or may not be a rapist. It can be argued that he fled because the Swedish government wanted to shut him up and a fake claim was the best way to do it. No one can’t argue that this is not something the government would do considering all the leaks showing what they were already doing. Or he could be an actual rapist. Who knows? But if I was exposing the government, and they tried to shut me up with a fake rape trial, then I hide too. But keep continuing about how terrible Assange is while saying nothing about the actual things he exposed. Gaslighting at its best.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Assange exposed intelligence sources in war zones. The people whose lives were at risk were civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan who had been providing information to the US.

      • aiobhan targaryen says:

        I am a black american woman who is used to the American government shitting all over her people. It has been going on for over 400 years. Did I win the oppression olympics?

        You sound white-especially when you say “it has nothing to do with race”. Race is interwoven into everything that we do. How we view the world, how the world views you etc.

        What don’t you understand about what he has done? He did not do it to help Muslims or to help anyone really. He did it to try to hurt the US government. He has not helped a Muslim, not one Muslim.

        While you are trying to make your point you are also leaving out all of the people HE hurt. He has hurt many Muslim LGBTQ men and women with these leaks, Some of whom were rape survivors. Not to mention the translators and other Muslims who were working with the US government in those countries. They have families too and lives that were ruined because of his actions. His acts are not for the greater good of anything. Those men are still in Gitmo. The rape victims he exposed were revictimized by their private business being exposed and being outed when they may have wanted to keep it secret. Gitmo should be closed and sites like it should never be allowed to spring up again. But you cannot excuse one crime for another.

        Yes, one of my main priorities is to make sure criminals get treated like fucking criminals. You are delusional if you think you are morally superior to me by dismissing the actions of and supporting someone who is accused of sexual assault just because you think he is attacking the big bad American government. You are trying to guilt me by talking about the victims in Gitmo but dismissing the LGBTQ victims he exposed and the women accusing him of sexual assault. HOW SWAY? The audacity of you to even try to make this argument is just astounding.

        If he did not commit those rapes, why not work with the authorities to refute the claims? There is no reason to run and hide if he did not commit those assaults. The women he is accused of assaulting are real people. The civilians he exposed are real people too. Rape is also a human rights abuse.

        It can also be argued that your argument is bullshit. It would not be the first time someone supported a trash man. He is not nor will he ever be a whistleblower. Chelsea Manning could be considered a whistleblower. Reality Winner is a whistleblower. He is a trespasser, thief, and Russian prop. Like I posted earlier: why not release all of the documents he had on the dems AND the rethugs. Not one or the other but both parties. Why won’t either you or WOW answer that question?

      • Dina says:

        “Race is interwoven into everything that we do. How we view the world, how the world views you etc.”

        Yes, this is particularly clear when you consider how Americans treat the horrific brutality the US continuously unleashes on POC worldwide – how easily they compartmentalize it, view it as a mostly unimportant aspect of a complicit politician’s record, whataboutit it (“but the other side did X!”), rationalize it, etc. – including so, so many Democrats of all races, half of whom now have a favorable view of GWB and still react with defensive hostility to critical discussions of Obama & Clinton’s foreign policy and the carnage that resulted.

        These war crimes the US commits against black and brown foreigners mostly matter in how they play domestically for/against our political opponents or our side.

        You might say it’s a mindset so American it’s blinding.

  7. adastraperaspera says:

    Assange was never a journalist, and evidence to prove this is going to come out. Wikileaks is also going down, because they are now exposed as a subsidiary of the Russian armed forces that exists to destroy western liberal democracies. Media organizations are going to have to come to terms with their own complicity in publishing stolen, weaponized material that was targeted to steal elections. These are all illegal actions and may even end up being considered acts of war.

    • Jane says:

      If publishing truths of our own country can bring down democracies, we were never a democracy to begin with. The job of media is to hold government accountable, not continue covering up atrocities committed by said government. Publishing documents that should have never been classified because the only reason for “classification” was because the acts being committed were illegal and if the public knew there would be outrage. If publishing truth is considered an act of war, then its no wonder we have so many pointless wars at this point in time of history

      • Megan says:

        Stealing documents and then creating a specific narrative by taking things out of context and selective editing them should never be confused with whistleblowing.

      • Jane says:

        So in which context is imprisonment of innocent people in Guantánamo Bay acceptable to you?

      • Megan says:

        @Jane – Your point is nonsensical. US media began documenting Illegal detentions and the use of torture at Guantanamo and black ops sites in 2004, two years before Wikileaks was founded and six years before the documents from Manning were released.

      • Jane says:

        And Assange exposed the continued treatment of those in Guantanamo Bay, including that of journalist. (I’m assuming we still all believe in freedom of speech) Your point was that things were taken out of context. Still waiting for the answer in which context is Guantanamo Bay holding prisoners is okay. Or video of civilians and journalist being murdered in Iraq. Or Syria files showing how the western works worked with the murderous Syrian government to kill civilians. Or is that less important than the fact that the information was obtained by hacking?

      • Megan says:

        @Jane – Again, everything you have mentioned is information that journalists and human rights organizations had documented years before the Manning leak. It may have come to your attention for the first time in 2010, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t in the public domain. Wikileaks broke their own protocol by working directly with Manning and then released information without regard to the life and safety of those on the ground to feed its narrative about the US. Trying to accuse me of being indifferent to human rights violations because I was aware of them years before you were is just gross and inappropriate.

      • Dina says:


        The release of the “Collateral Murder” video was the first time the sequence of events that led up to the 2007 Baghdad airstrikes deaths was revealed to the public (and the press, whose previous requests for the full video had been stonewalled by the Pentagon).

        And of course, documenting something is only half the battle – the other is making any public impact with that information. The video was certainly the first time the airstrikes came to the attention of the vast majority of the public, given the massive worldwide coverage the leaked footage received (unlike the sketchy & incomplete account reported by journalists in 2007) and the valuable discussion/controversy re: the legality & ethics of what had occurred.

    • jwoolman says:

      Yes, but I highly doubt that any of that is a motivation of the Trump Administration. Trump benefitted from Assange’s associations with the Russians and often professed his love of one-sided Wikileaks. Trump is tossing Assange under the bus now only because he has no more use for him except as a means to attack the media that infuriate him. Trump has kept “enemies lists” for decades. He wants to set legal precedents to go after his “enemies”.

      Trump’s target is the US media and freedom of the press. That is all he cares about. Hacking indictments against Assange should stand, but the espionage indictments have to be recognized for what they really are. Trump’s next target won’t be a sleazy hateful jerk like Assange.

  8. OriginalLala says:

    I wonder if he will ever be held accountable for the sexual assaults?

  9. Nina Simone says:

    Lock his ass up!

  10. sara6 says:

    As a society we have to learn that “Assange isn’t a journalist” isn’t a true statement. Journalism isn’t like other careers where you have to pass a test or join an association like lawyers or nurses. You can’t use that argument because many famous journalists have no journalism degree but instead have degrees in the issues they cover like science, political science etc. The govt is going to have a hard time making that argument in court if Assange’s lawyers are good. It’s just ironic that the guy he helped win is now the head of the govt charging him with crimes no one has ever been charged with in America.

    • Megan says:

      Journalism is nonpartisan and without bias. Assange has had a political agenda from day one and has manipulated the release of stolen documents to forward that agenda.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        He’s a propagandist.

      • jwoolman says:

        Megan – there are plenty of biased journalists and news media. Fox News, anyone?

        Anyway, dealing with non-objective journalists has always been a continuing struggle. It’s pretty easy to spot the reliable vs unreliable sources of news, though.

      • Nic919 says:

        Fox News doesn’t have journalists but propangandists outside of Shep Smith and Chris Wallace.

    • aiobhan targaryen says:

      UM… NOPE. There are journalism schools and they do have to past tests to get degrees. They also have associations and unions.

      American Press Institute. …
      Asian American Journalists Association. …
      Association of Health Care Journalists.
      National Association of Black Journalists

      Yes, you can be an English major and work as a journalist. Same for biology majors working and writing about their field in the WP or NYT but Assange is neither of those things. He is just illegally obtaining documents and then releasing them. Nothing else. That is the laziest “journalist” I have every heard of. Most of the stuff that was taken had no real value anyway and he outed civilians who were already being victimized without any thought to their safety. Please explain the journalistic merit associated with exposing the names of America’s Afghan and Iraqi informants or rape victims names and addresses.

      Conspiring to hack into American intelligence systems to expose state secrets is not what journalists do. Assange helped Chelsea crack a Defense Department password so she could secure as many classified documents as possible. That sort of conduct is not something a journalist should ever do. He isn’t being charged with publishing the papers. He is being charged with helping steal them.

    • jwoolman says:

      I wonder if the U.K. will just send him along to Sweden when he is released from U.K. prison, since the Swedes seem to be reopening the rape cases. If so, then the decision to extradite to the US will be made by Sweden.

      I don’t know how either the UK or Sweden feel about freedom of the press and whether they feel espionage describes what Assange was doing. But if they have qualms about the espionage claims, those indictments might keep Assange from being extradited to face the hacking charges.

  11. NsDnot says:

    JANE and wow, thanks for your comments. Countless journalists have already confirmed Assange’s actions in cultivating a source is SOP for them. ACLU and its lawyers also have insightful comments on this. He certainly exposed war crimes; naked capitalism has links to those horrible videos in a recent blog;watching them again gives you a good sense of why they want to set an example with him.

    Assange is a shitbag of a person and should face justice in Sweden for what he did to those women but it’s obvious these espionage charges are an attempt to limit press freedom. Very worrying. However much we all agree Assange is repulsive on so many levels, we need to focus on the *precedent* this sets, not on the person. They know how unlikeable he is and that’s why they’ve gone all out with charging him.

    • HELEN says:

      +1 to everything NSDOT said, also to what WOW and JANE said. will never forget watching the video manning released of U.S. soldiers callously and cold-bloodedly murdering iraqi civilians and journalists. mainstream media outlets shamefully (and expectedly) declined to inform the public about these crimes. imagine what else is hidden.

      • Nsdnot says:

        +1 Helen. Eli Lake in Bloomberg explains how these latest charges criminalise the mere receipt of classified information. 1984,here we come.