Citing unnamed American officials, CNN reports that the United States is preparing charges to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent the last five years alive but clearly bored in Ecuador’s London embassy.
According to the network, authorities “believe they have found a way to move forward” in prosecuting Assange after years of wrestling with First Amendment concerns:
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 [Chelsea] 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.
In recent days, US officials have ramped up their rhetoric against Assange and his organization, which President Trump praised before last year’s election. Speaking at a Washington think tank last week, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called Assange “a narcissist who has created nothing of value” and “a coward hiding behind a screen,” saying, “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.”
Asked if putting Assange behind bars was a “priority” at a press conference on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke generally about prosecuting leakers, telling reporters, “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.”
Back in January, Assange promised to extradite himself to the US if then-president Obama granted clemency to Chelsea Manning. After Obama did just that, Assange backpedalled in record time. If today’s news is accurate, he’ll certainly be glad he did. [CNN]