The U.S. Department of Justice may be planning to bring criminal charges against anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, according to numerous reports.
Sources with knowledge of the matter, who reportedly spoke with CNN and The Washington Post, claim the case surrounds numerous leaks such as recent documents on the CIA’s hacking abilities as well as military files leaked by Chelsea Manning back in 2010.
Charges could include theft of government property, conspiracy or violations of the Espionage Act.
“Prosecutors in recent weeks have been drafting a memo that contemplates charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization…” The Post writes. “The memo, though, is not complete, and any charges against members of WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, would need approval from the highest levels of the Justice Department.”
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last week, CIA Director Mike Pompeo indicated the US would step up its role against leakers – specifically citing WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
Wikileaks “directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States,” Pompeo stated.
“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
At a press conference Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said efforts to combat leakers were a “priority” for the Department of Justice.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on bringing charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange pic.twitter.com/NY5xOHDEgq
— Mikael Thalen (@MikaelThalen) April 20, 2017
“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” Sessions stated. “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. So yes, it is a priority. 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.
Attorneys for Assange on Thursday said they have not been contacted on the matter.
“We’ve had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr. Assange,” Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Julian Assange, told CNN. “They’ve been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr. Assange’s status is in any pending investigations. There’s no reason why Wikileaks should be treated differently from any other publisher.”
It is currently unclear if WikiLeaks’ publication of DNC documents and emails from Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta will be included.
Assange has remained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London without charges for the last five years.