Officials are reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice may be preparing arrest charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who happens to be one of my personal heroes (but that's neither here nor there). The Washington Post reports that possible charges could include “conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act.”
The new Attorney General Jeff Sessions - of whom we are not fans - said at a Thursday press briefing:
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. 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.
Apparently they are serious. Per the Washington Post:
In a sign of the Justice Department’s seriousness in pursuing charges, the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia recently added a veteran prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Trump, to the case, officials familiar with the matter said. James Trump, who is also assigned to the case against Edward Snowden, won criminal convictions in 2015 against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was charged with leaking classified information to journalist James Risen.
(I assume there's no relation to Donald.)
Why is this a big deal? The ACLU put it succinctly in a tweet yesterday:
Prosecuting Wikileaks would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.
This reminds me of a funny little chapter in American history known as the Sedition Act of 1798, passsed by our second U.S. President John Adams. A quick history lesson:
…the Sedition Act, passed on July 14, gave Adams tremendous power to define treasonable activity including any false, scandalous and malicious writing. The intended targets of the Sedition Act were newspaper, pamphlet and broadside publishers who printed what he considered to be libelous articles aimed primarily at his administration. Abigail Adams urged her husband to pass the Sedition Act, calling his opponents criminal and vile.
The silver lining in that story is that strong opposition to the act paved the way for the election of one of our only good U.S. Presidents.
And the silver lining in this Assange story is that, apparently, all of the French presidential candidates have agreed to give Assange citizenship or asylum should they win the upcoming election.