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Thread: Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

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    Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

    Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

    Mr Assange took refuge in the embassy seven years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

    The Met Police said he was arrested for failing to surrender to the court.

    Ecuador's president Lenin Moreno said it withdrew Mr Assange's asylum after his repeated violations of international conventions.

    But Wikileaks tweeted that Ecuador had acted illegally in terminating Mr Assange's political asylum "in violation of international law".

    Profile: Julian Assange
    Timeline: Julian Assange saga
    Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: "I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK.

    Image Copyright @sajidjavid@SAJIDJAVID
    Mr Assange, 47, had been in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation - which he denied and was later dropped.

    But he still faces a lesser charge of skipping bail in 2012 and he says this could lead to an extradition to the US for publishing US secrets on the Wikileaks website.

    Scotland Yard said it was invited into the embassy by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum.

    Mr Assange would remain in custody at a central London police station, before appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court "as soon as is possible", the statement added.

    Ecuador 'reached its limit'
    The Ecuadorean president said the country had "reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange" after he intervened in the internal affairs of other states.

    Mr Moreno said: "The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents.

    "This and other publications have confirmed the world's suspicion that Mr Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states."

    Image Copyright @wikileaks@WIKILEAKS
    It comes a day after Wikileaks said it had uncovered an extensive spying operation against its co-founder at the Ecuadorean embassy.

    There has been a long-running dispute between the Ecuadorean authorities and Mr Assange about what he was and was not allowed to do in the embassy.

    Ecuador court throws out Assange lawsuit
    BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said that over the years they have removed his access to the internet and accused him of engaging in political activities - which is not allowed when claiming asylum.

    He said: "Precisely what has happened in the embassy is not clear - there has been claim and counter claim."

    Mr Assange will initially face UK legal proceedings but could be extradited to the US over the Wikileaks revelations, he added.

    UK foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan said the arrest followed "extensive dialogue between our two countries".

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    On 11 April, whistleblower Edward Snowden put in plain terms the terror of what Julian Assange’s arrest really means. Former CIA employee Snowden rose to international prominence in 2013 after leaking documents showing that US and UK governments were indiscriminately spying on their citizens.

    “A dark moment for press freedom”
    Snowden wrote:

    Edward Snowden

    Images of Ecuador's ambassador inviting the UK's secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of--like it or not--award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.


    Replying to @Ruptly
    BREAKING: #Assange removed from embassy - video

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    03:35 - 11 Apr 2019
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    Snowden points out that the WikiLeaks team has won many awards for its reporting. These include:

    The Economist New Media Award (2008)
    The Amnesty New Media Award (2009)
    The Sam Adams Award for Integrity (2010)
    The National Union of Journalists Journalist of the Year (Hrafnsson) (2011)
    The Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal (2011)
    The Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism (2011)
    The Voltaire Award for Free Speech (2011)
    The International Piero Passetti Journalism Prize of the National Union of Italian Journalists (2011)
    The Privacy International Hero of Privacy (2012)
    The Global Exchange Human Rights People’s Choice Award (2013)
    The Brazilian Press Association Human Rights Award (2013)
    The Kazakhstan Union of Journalists Top Prize (2014)
    The arrest
    Aside from a breach of bail (see a timeline of his case here), Assange’s arrest concerns an extradition request from the US. The now unsealed indictment alleges that Assange is guilty of ‘conspiring to commit computer intrusion’. It claims that Assange helped whistleblower Chelsea Manning crack passwords in order to make it more difficult to identify her as the source of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs.

    The Iraq war logs showed that US and UK officials lied about having no official statistics on deaths. The leaks identified over 66,000 civilian deaths from 2004 to the end of 2009. They also revealed that the US military indiscriminately gunned down over a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters media staff.

    The Afghanistan war documents, meanwhile, showed that the US-led coalition forces killed hundreds of civilians. They then attempted to conceal their conduct. The documents also revealed the US-led coalition’s widespread use of death squads and drones to kill suspects without trial.

    ‘Unlawfully detained’
    In response to Assange’s situation, the former WikiLeaks editor has many international organisations defending his human rights. Recently, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention reiterated a ruling it made in 2015. It concluded that the UK government was ‘arbitrarily detaining’ Assange and demanded that the authorities allow him to leave. The Conservative administration tried to appeal the UN ruling but failed, and has since then ignored it.

    WikiLeaks is an independent media organisation that specialises in publishing information from whistleblowers that it deems to be in the public interest. The publisher has also released documents on governments across the world, including the US, Iran, Kenya, and China, as well as on the UK far right.

    In short, Snowden is spot on that this is fundamentally about press freedom. Washington is trying to crush a dissident journalist for revealing its crimes. This is an attack on the world’s right to knowledge; and we must resist it as such.

    Featured image via the Guardian/ YouTube and CBS This Morning/ YouTube

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    The end of Julian Assange’s lengthy stay in the Ecuadorian embassy on Thursday morning looks set to end in an extradition flight headed the wrong way.

    When he was pictured being carried out of the embassy by police officers, most speculation focussed on whether Assange would be on his way to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault that, while not active, could be reopened. It was these charges that had pushed Assange to seek asylum from Ecuador after losing appeals against extradition in 2012.

    However, it quickly emerged that Swedish prosecutors had no knowledge of the arrest, and the Metropolitan Police confirmed they were acting on behalf of US authorities.

    The US Department of Justice later released a statement saying that they were pursuing Assange “in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer”.

    The indictment alleges that, as head of Wikileaks, Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning to leak information

    Those leaks shone a light on the actions of the US across the world, exposing the true civilian death toll in Iraq, the existence of secret death squads in Afghanistan, widespread corruption among America’s allies and much more besides.

    The stories were reported carefully though newspapers and journalistic organisations across the world including the Guardian and the New York Times.

    Manning was jailed for 35 years, and only released after seven years in 2017 as a result of a pardon from President Barack Obama. She is currently back in jail for refusing to testify at the Grand Jury hearing seeking Assange’s prosecution.

    Now, rather than facing the serious allegations of sexual assault in Sweden, Assange is set to be prosecuted for exposing some of the US’s grubbiest secrets.

    Of course he has done his public image no favours by not only hiding from the sexual assault allegations, but also getting involved in disseminating the emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee that dealt a blow to Hilary Clinton’s 2016 run for president.

    Which brings us round to Donald Trump.

    The greatest fear is that this isn’t about Assange at all, but instead a way of opening up a new front in Trump’s war on the media. The indictment appears to be narrowly focused on hacking, which has led some to conclude that it is not a direct attack on the free press. But it is now inevitable that most leaks will involve access to information held on a computer, and hacking legislation in the US (and the UK) is so broadly drawn that it is not difficult to see a case brought against Assange being used to open up avenues to go after leakers and those they leak to, most often the press Trump so hates.

    Perhaps the most vicious irony in all this is by launching a prosecution over the actions of Wikileaks a decade ago, the US is helping to cast Assange in the martyr role he so craves. That might be a small consolation to him if he does end up in a US jail, but it won’t be much comfort to the free press.

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    Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange could face a renewed investigation into an allegation of rape in Sweden.

    Assange, 47, who had been granted asylum in Ecuador's London embassy for seven years, was arrested on Thursday.

    Swedish prosecutors said they were examining the case at the request of the alleged victim's lawyer.

    The US also wants to extradite him from the UK over his alleged role in one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets in 2010.

    Australian-born Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in the US for his alleged role in one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets in 2010, which could result in a prison term of up to five years.

    Lawyer Elizabeth Massi Fritz said she would do "everything we possibly can" to get the investigation reopened in Sweden.

    Now that he has been expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces extradition to the United States over a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

    But he took refuge in the embassy in the first place because two women accused him of sex crimes.

    In 2010, a Swedish woman initially referred to in the press as Miss A said that Assange had tampered with a condom during sex with her on a visit to Stockholm, essentially forcing her to have unprotected sex. She has since spoken publicly under her name, Anna Ardin. Another woman, referred to as Miss W, said that during the same visit, Assange had penetrated her without a condom while she was sleeping.

    Assange denied the allegations, but a court in England, where he lived at the time, ruled that he should be extradited to Sweden to face investigation. So he sought political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy. Eager to bolster its reputation as a defender of free speech (and probably to make things inconvenient for the US, with whom it was feuding), Ecuador granted Assange’s request, and he remained in the embassy until this week.

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    NEW YORK (AP) — After the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, his lawyer was quick to characterize it as an assault against the rights of journalists all over the world who seek to uncover secrets.

    But was it quite that clear? Does WikiLeaks do journalism, or is it something else?

    The answer wasn’t evident when the organization burst into public consciousness at the top of this decade with the release of government documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems even less so now.

    Launched in 2006 as the vision of Australian computer hacker Assange, WikiLeaks produced raw data, not stories — things like Sarah Palin’s personal emails or membership rolls of neo-Nazi organizations. The thousands of memos, cables and other documents about U.S. war efforts revealed when Assange allegedly conspired with Chelsea Manning to break into a Pentagon computer took WikiLeaks to another level. Some viewed Assange as a hero, others as a traitor.

    Either way, it was a heady time. WikiLeaks was considered a new type of news organization, fueled by the power of the Internet and democratization of information.

    “There is a desperate need for our work,” WikiLeaks member Sarah Harrison explained in a 2016 column in The New York Times. “The world is connected by largely unaccountable networks of power that span industries and countries, political parties, corporations and institutions. WikiLeaks shines a light on these by revealing not just individual incidents, but information about entire structures of power.”
    The organization’s methods can be — and sometimes are — seen as a threat to the journalism’s traditional gatekeepers of power. But journalism has encompassed many traditions over the decades and centuries.

    WikiLeaks has been an influence in two positive trends for journalism over the past decade, says Lisa Lynch, a journalism professor at Drew University who has written about the organization. It emphasized the importance of data-driven journalism, an increasingly valuable tool. Since WikiLeaks was often willing to work with traditional outlets in how it released data, it encouraged news organizations to cooperate more in chasing stories. The 2016 “Panama Papers” investigation that revealed the offshore financial havens of political leaders showed what can happen when journalists team up.

    Despite utopian ideals, though, real life is more complicated.

    Information isn’t always merely information; government files can reveal wartime informants and put people’s lives in danger. And information can be weaponized through decisions about what to reveal and what not to reveal. For example: Many people saw Assange’s decision to publish the private emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman as a sign of coziness with Russia and a contributing factor in Donald Trump’s election as president.

    Yet some of history’s most prominent journalists have been advocates as well, and have expressed clear points of view.

    Upton Sinclair, a progressive “muckraker” in the early 20th century, made no secret of the fact that his expos? of the meatpacking industry, “The Jungle,” was an attempt at jump-starting reform. “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach,” he wrote later. Today, news outlets across the political spectrum, from The National Review to Mother Jones, from Fox News to MSNBC, are considered to be journalism — albeit delivered from a distinct vantage point.


    Add into the mix the rise of blogging and social media, which permit anyone with an internet connection to use the term “journalist” and be immediately and globally amplified, and the result is ambiguity about who is a journalist and who isn’t.

    In that environment, Assange, too, presents an ambiguous image.

    “I had trouble seeing him as a journalist from the start,” said Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin, a frequent writer about the media. “But he certainly was a publisher. It turns out he was not just any old publisher, he was a publisher with a distinct angle. And his angle is anti-democratic.”

    Certainly Assange, a prickly personality who may never be forgiven by many Democrats for WikiLeaks’ role in the 2016 election, doesn’t cut a sympathetic figure. Does that disqualify him from the mantle of journalist, though?

    “People feel very differently about WikiLeaks now than they did in 2010,” Lynch said. “There’s no doubt about that. I feel very differently about WikiLeaks now. But that doesn’t mean I’m not just as concerned about what happens to WikiLeaks going forward.”

    She added: “If we start drawing boxes around who is or isn’t a journalist in court and the conversation becomes about the way WikiLeaks used information, then we might end up with unintended consequences.”

    David Boardman, dean of Temple University’s communications school and chairman of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said one key thing sets WikiLeaks apart from news organizations: the accusations that Assange acted illegally with Manning to obtain the war documents.

    “I consider it something different,” said Boardman, the former executive editor of The Seattle Times. “I don’t consider it a journalistic organization.”

    Boardman considers the U.S. government’s case against Assange, as it is now outlined, as narrowly based upon his actions with Manning and thus not threatening to journalists. Others consider this a narrow reading of the case — one fueled, perhaps, by a discomfort with Assange’s methods and the idea of whether he should be considered a journalist at all.

    Journalist Glenn Greenwald, himself no stranger to controversies about the release of information, tweeted Thursday: “If you’re a U.S. media star who has spent two years claiming to be so concerned about press freedoms over Trump’s mean tweets about your friends, but don’t raise your voice in protest over this grave attack on press freedom, take a hard look in the mirror.”

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    JULIAN Assange was arrested in a way that ensured he wouldn't be able to press a mysterious panic button he claimed would have 'devastating consequences' to the Ecuadorean embassy.

    The WikiLeaks founder is currently facing decades behind bars in the US after cops dramatically hauled him out of the embassy in Kensington, west London yesterday.

    Assange's relationship with his hosts steadily declined over his seven-year stay in the embassy, with bizarre reports regarding his behaviour and personal hygiene emerging since his arrest.

    He was said to have smeared his own poo all over the building's walls in a protest and annoyed staff by skateboarding late at night.

    Now it has been revealed that his swift arrest was designed to stop him pressing an emergency panic button.

    Ecuador's foreign minister Jose Valencia said audio recordings from a few months ago captured Assange threatening ambassador Jaime Merchan with pressing the button which would have "devastating consequences" for the embassy if he was arrested.

    British authorities were told about the threat — which cops acted on by not allowing Assange to return to his room in the embassy during his arrest to carry out any secret plans.

    But it's not yet clear what was meant by the panic button threat.

    The US Department of Justice has indicted Assange in connection with the publication of damaging classified Iraq war files - which it called "one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history."

    This carries a maximum sentence of five years - but it's believed Assange will be levelled with dozens more charges once he arrives in the states.

    Among them, he could be accused of espionage - a crime that can carry a 20-year sentence.

    A hairy and dishevelled Assange spent 2,487 days holed up in the west London embassy to avoid sex assault claims in Sweden.

    He feared being sent to the States - where he was wanted over an alleged hacking conspiracy with whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    During that time his health has deteriorated as a result of a lack of sunlight, a WikiLeaks source told the Mirror.

    In court yesterday, the 47-year-old was blasted a "narcissist who can't get beyond his own self interest" as he was found guilty of skipping bail in 2012 - relating to his time at the embassy.

    District Judge Michael Snow described Assange's claim he's never had a fair hearing as "laughable" before ruling the US must produce an extradition case by June 12.

    He now faces a battle against extradition to the US where he was today charged over the Iraq War Logs.

    It came as four Assange supporters tried to go to the British Consulate in New York to protest over his arrest - but turned up at the wrong building.


    Julian Assange found guilty of skipping bail in UK and could face a year in jail
    He was arrested after 2,487 days holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London - costing taxpayers more than ?10m
    Assange went into hiding in August 2012 to avoid facing extradition to Sweden over sex assault and rape allegations
    He is also wanted in US for on suspicion of espionage and publication of sensitive government documents
    Assange fears he could face death penalty if extradited to US over WikiLeaks scandal
    Ecuadorian President said Assange's release dependent on not facing extradition to country with death penalty
    Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said "UK courts will decide" his future
    It's been revealed Assange staged 'dirty protests' while in Ecuador’s embassy
    Swedish lawyers want to reopen the sex allegations which first sent Assange into hiding - a move which has cost the British taxpayer more than ?10m.

    Wearing a black suit with his scruffy hair tied back, Assange sat in the dock yesterday reading Gore Vidal's History Of The National Security State - the book he clutched as he was bundled out of the embassy.

    He waved to the public gallery at Westminster Magistrates' Court before he was remanded into custody.

    He will now learn his fate at Southwark Crown Court on May 2.

    The court heard cops had to call for back up as Assange tried to barge past them when they arrived at the embassy to arrest him - forcing officers to lift him from the building.

    Assange was handcuffed and dragged screaming "this is unlawful" from the embassy by Met Police officers after Ecuador withdrew his asylum status.

    As he was hauled to a waiting police van, he appeared to shout "the UK has no civility" and "the UK must resist".

    Until yesterday, Assange hadn't left the embassy building since August 2012.

    Last night, Assange was transferred to Wandsworth Prison in South West London - where he joined speedboat killer Jack Shepherd, another recaptured fugitive.

    Assange faces up to 12 months in prison in the UK for the bail offence when he is sentenced next month.

    Assange took refuge at the embassy in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden.

    Authorities there wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation.

    Following his arrest yesterday one of his accusers demanded the case be reopened.

    Scotland Yard earlier confirmed he is being held on behalf of the US authorities - where he is wanted for espionage.

    America's involvement raises further questions over the forthcoming battle to be had on his extradition - as his lawyers fear he will face the death penalty if sent to the US.

    But Ecuadorian President Moreno said today Britain had confirmed it would not extradite Assange to a country where he could face the death sentence.

    As he was hauled off to court yesterday, Ecuadorian minister Maria Paula Romo slammed Assange for failing to show embassy officials even “minimum respect” while staying as a guest.

    She said: “They tolerated things like Mr Assange putting faeces on the walls of the embassy and other types of behaviour of this kind that are far removed from the minimum respect a guest should have in a country which has generously welcomed him.”

    After the arrest, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said Assange will face "justice in the proper way in the UK" and it will be "for the courts" to decide what happens next.

    He insisted Assange would not be extradited to any country where he would stand to face the death penalty.

    Confirming Assange's arrest, a Met Police spokesman said: "He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain.

    "The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates' Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum."

    A Home Office spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Julian Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America.

    “He is accused in the United States of America of computer related offences.”

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    Here is Putin responding to the Wikileaks leaders arrest.

    RUSSIA has brazenly accused Britain of "strangling freedom" following Julian Assange's arrest in London today.

    The WikiLeaks founder, 47, was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in handcuffs this morning after spending 2,487 days holed up in West London since 2012.

    But despite killing its own people with nerve agents and poisoning political opponents, Moscow has hit out at the UK following Assange arrest.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted on Facebook: “The hand of ‘democracy’ is squeezing the throat of freedom.”

    Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "We of course hope that all of his rights will be observed."

    As he was pulled out in handcuffs of his hiding place for the last seven years, Assange shouted: "The UK has no stability".

    Assange hasn't left the embassy since August 2012 - costing the British taxpayer more than ?10m.

    He feared stepping off Ecuador's diplomatic soil would see him arrested and extradited to the US for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

    A Metropolitan Police statement said: "He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates' Court as soon as is possible.

    "The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates' Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum."

    Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: "Nearly 7yrs after entering the Ecuadorean Embassy, I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK. I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation & @metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law."

    Yesterday, Fidel Narvaez, the former Consul of Ecuador to London, said: "The Ecuadorian embassy is not protecting Assange any more.

    "It is doing everything possible to end the asylum."

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    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged with 17 new counts under the Espionage Act for his role in unlawfully encouraging, receiving and publishing national defense information in concert with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, setting up a major legal battle over First Amendment protections in the Trump era.

    Traditionally, the Justice Department has prosecuted government officials who leak classified information, but Thursday's announcement that a federal grand jury had returned a fresh indictment against the distributor of sensitive documents marked the latest -- and most direct -- move by the Trump administration to crack down on unauthorized disclosure of classified information and press freedoms.

    Sweden re-opens Julian Assange rape investigation
    Pamela Anderson visits Julian Assange in prison
    Julian Assange starts extradition fight from UK prison
    Such a charge under the Espionage Act has never been successfully prosecuted, according to CNN legal analyst Steve Vladeck.

    The new 18-count indictment handed down in the Eastern District of Virginia alleges that Assange actively solicited classified information, goading Manning to obtain thousands of pages of classified material and providing Assange with diplomatic State Department cables, Iraq war-related significant activity reports and information related to Guantanamo Bay detainees.

    In April, prosecutors in Virginia revealed that Assange had been charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion related to helping Manning obtain access to Defense Department computers in 2010.

    WikiLeaks responded to the news of the superseding indictment Thursday in a tweet, saying, "This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the first amendment."

    Yet Justice Department officials sought to downplay any analogy between Assange and a mainstream news reporter, emphasizing how he published the names of confidential human source knowing they would be put "at a grave and imminent risk" of harm, and allegedly conspired with Manning to crack a Defense Department password.

    "Julian Assange is no journalist," said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who heads the department's national security division.

    "The United States has not charged Assange for passively obtaining or receiving classified information," said EDVA US attorney Zach Terwilliger. "Assange is not charged simply because he is a publisher."

    However, when asked whether anyone had been killed because of what Wikileaks published, a senior Justice Department official speaking on the condition of anonymity told reporters that the government's burden was only to establish the "potential" for harm.

    'A major test case'
    While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump regularly touted WikiLeaks' disclosures on the Democratic Party, but in office, he has called for a broad crackdown on the media's use of anonymous sources and encouraged the prosecution of people disclosing sensitive information to reporters.

    Assange's initial indictment sparked a debate over the First Amendment and whether Assange's alleged role in procuring secret US material constituted protected journalistic activity. Press freedom advocates have expressed concern that a conviction of Assange could undermine protections for journalists to challenge government secrecy, while the prosecutors argued on Thursday that Assange's conduct constituted criminal acts, not journalism.

    Barry Pollack, an attorney for Assange, said the allegations against Assange in the indictment made public last month "boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identify of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges."

    After the Espionage Act charges on Thursday, Vladeck told CNN this will be "major test case" on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Vladeck explains there's an exception in the US-UK treaty for political charges. The new charges bolster Assange's argument that some of them could fall within the exception for political offenses.

    "If that fails, he will surely argue in the US courts that the Constitution forbids criminal prosecution for publishing information that someone else leaked," Vladeck said

    Vladeck says that the government will likely argue that Assange prompted the leaks, so he isn't strictly a third-party publisher.

    The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement following the announcement of the Espionage Act charges against Assange condemning the move as a "direct assault on the First Amendment."

    "It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets," the ACLU's Ben Wizner said in a statement. " And it is equally dangerous for US journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations. If the US can prosecute a foreign publisher for violating our secrecy laws, there's nothing preventing China, or Russia, from doing the same."

    The indictment against Assange said until 2010, WikiLeaks said it accepted "classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance." A footnote in the indictment said WikiLeaks later deleted the word "classified" and added a line on its website saying it "accepts a range of material, but we do not solicit it."

    The Justice Department's move on Thursday came within a window for the US to submit its formal request outlining all legal charges that Assange -- who is in UK custody -- would face if he was transferred to the US.

    It came also after a top Swedish prosecutor said earlier this month that Sweden would re-open a rape investigation into Assange, which was suspended in 2017. Assange has denied any wrongdoing.

    Hours after his removal last month from refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the US indicted Assange for helping Manning access Defense Department computers in 2010 in an effort to disclose secret government documents.

    Manning remains behind bars
    Manning was convicted for her role in the disclosures that included a classified video labeled "Collateral Murder" of a US helicopter attacking civilians and journalists in Iraq in 2007.

    In one of his final acts in office, then-President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence, and she was released from prison two years ago.

    However, Manning has gone back to jail recently after refusing to testify before a grand jury and she remains jailed.

    Prosecutors having told Manning's team that Assange's new charges won't change her situation, a person familiar with the case told CNN.

    Earlier in May, Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson told reporters that after UK authorities removed Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Swedish authorities would seek a new interview with Assange and "that there still exist grounds for Julian Assange to be suspected on probable cause of the charge of rape."

    WikiLeaks said in 2016, before the Swedish investigation was suspended, that Assange had given a statement before a Swedish prosecutor in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

    This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

    CNN's Kevin Collier contributed to this report.

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    Swedish prosecutors on Tuesday announced they were dropping a rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a review of the evidence.

    While the complainant's evidence was deemed credible and reliable, witnesses' memories had faded after almost a decade, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said.

    "After conducting a comprehensive assessment of what has emerged during the course of the preliminary investigation, I then make the assessment that the evidence is not strong enough to form the basis for filing an indictment," Persson said at a news conference.

    The prosecutor said the decision could be appealed.

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    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fathered two children while he was living in London's Ecuadorian Embassy, their mother said Sunday as she pleaded with British authorities to release him from prison over fears for his health amid the coronavirus epidemic.

    Stella Morris, who was a member of Assange's legal team, publicly revealed that Assange was a parent for the first time in a video interview WikiLeaks released on its social media channels.

    Assange, 48, is being kept in London's Belmarsh high-security prison while he fights extradition to the U.S., where he faces 18 counts, including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law.

    He was dragged out of the embassy and arrested by British police almost exactly a year ago after his asylum was revoked.

    Morris said in the video that she first met Assange in 2011 but that their relationship started four years later, when he was living in the embassy. They deliberately chose to have children to ''break down the walls around him" and "imagine a life beyond prison," she added.

    She said she was worried that Assange's life "might be coming to an end" as he remains in confinement amid the coronavirus outbreak.

    In a five-page witness statement, which has been seen by NBC News, Morris said she was going public in support of a bail application for Assange.

    Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson told NBC News in a statement Sunday that Morris had not made the decision to tell her story lightly, having fiercely protected her family's privacy for many years.

    "She wanted to speak in support of Julian's bail application given the grave risk to his health in prison during the COVID pandemic and the judge refused her anonymity," Robinson said.

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