News & Politics

Julian Assange's lawyer blasts Justice Department as 'irresponsible' for doing exactly what WikiLeaks does

It is unclear what the charges are against Assange or whether the Justice Department will move forward.

Image (credit David G. Silvers)

On Thursday evening, George Washington University's Seamus Hughes noticed something interesting in a filing from federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia: an apparent reference to an indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

There are thorny legal questions about the implication of an Assange indictment for press freedom and national security. However, there is a remarkable irony in the fact that Assange's attorney is now complaining it was "irresponsible" for federal prosecutors "to put in a public filing information that clearly was not intended for the public and without any notice."

In other words, WikiLeaks' entire business model.

A longtime "transparency" activist friendly with Russia, Assange's organization has spent years publishing classified information from Western nations on its website — by coincidence often in ways that benefit the Kremlin — and played a key role in releasing stolen documents from Democratic officials during the 2016 election. Some of President Donald Trump's associates, including former strategist Roger Stone, face questioning in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation over their potential ties to WikiLeaks.

Assange has been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, to evade an international arrest warrant in connection with rape charges in Sweden. Those charges were eventually dropped, but he is still wanted by British authorities for violating bail.

Assange refuses to leave the embassy, where Ecuador has granted him asylum, because he believes the United States will seek to have him extradited over WikiLeaks activity — something that, for the first time, there is now evidence the Justice Department may seek to do.

According to The New York Times, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said Assange "was not the intended name for this filing." Aside from that reference, none of the rest of the document mentions Assange or anything relating to him. It is not clear what the Justice Department is considering charging Assange with, or whether they will actually move forward.

But whatever happens, it is notable that, quite by accident, the Justice Department made Assange a victim of his own tactics.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.