US Unlikely to Prosecute Assange for Publishing Leaked Documents

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Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 03:25 PM


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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange runs little risk of being charged in the United States for having published hundreds of thousands of classified documents, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing unnamed US officials.

Assange's lawyer Barry Pollack noted the report but told AFP that the Justice Department has made no formal statement.

Assange "would welcome a formal and unequivocal statement from the Department of Justice that it has not brought charges against him," Pollack said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Justice declined to comment.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden to face questioning in two sexual assault cases.

He has insisted, however, that he is driven by fear that he will be extradited to the United States to face trial for WikiLeaks' publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents.

A US Army private, Bradley Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in August for passing 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks.

The Post, however, said the Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against Assange, even though a grand jury investigating the massive leak remains impaneled.

Government lawyers believed they could not prosecute Assange without also prosecuting US journalists and news outlets that had taken part in leaks, which they were not going to do, the Post said.

Assange would have to be prosecuted "for something other than publishing information -- like hacking into a network," former Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller told AFP.

"It appears that they never found that," Miller said, despite the nearly three-year-old grand jury investigation.

According to Miller, Assange's situation is similar to that of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who published leaked information provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Attorney General Eric Holder told the Post in an interview earlier this month that the Justice Department was still trying to repatriate Snowden but had no plans to prosecute Greenwald.

"Under the US law, it is absolutely a crime to leak classified information," said Miller.

"But publishing classified information is a much different question and no one has ever been charged with publishing classified information," he said.

Fay Brundage, a spokeswoman for the attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is responsible for the WikiLeaks investigation, said it was still ongoing.


© AFP 2014

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