US prepares charges to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
Possible charges include conspiracy, theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act, the newspaper said, though any charges would need approval from high-ranking officials in the Justice Department.world Updated: Apr 22, 2017 07:55 IST
The United States is reported to have prepared charges to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, for revealing sensitive government secrets, who has been living in the London embassy of Ecuador for at least four years.
While the CNN said, citing unidentified officials, the charges had been prepared, other media outlets said discussions were still on and no decision had been reached.
Asked at a news conference, attorney general Jeff Sessions said on Thursday that Assange’s arrest was a priority. “We have already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,” he added.
This development marks a significant departure from US President Donald Trumps’ own views on WikiLeaks. During the election campaign he had famously said he loved the website, which was then releasing embarrassing details from the campaign of his Democratic party rival Hillary Clinton.
But his administration has taken a different track.
CIA director Mike Pompeo said recently, “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.”
He had added: “It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Now reports come of US preparing charges against Assange, whose lawyer, however, has said they have not heard yet from US authorities. “They have 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,” Barry Pollack told CNN.
Possible charges include conspiracy, theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act, the Washington Post said, though any charges would need approval from high-ranking officials in the justice department.
The move comes after WikiLeaks last month released nearly 8,000 documents that it says reveal secrets about the CIA’s cyber espionage tools for breaking into computers, cellphones and even smart TVs.
It previously published 250,000 state department cables and embarrassed the US military with hundreds of thousands of logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.