Cybersecurity experts reported that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) presented 17 new charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for alleged violations against the U.S. Espionage Act due to the publication of classified information in the cyber activism platform.
If case of being found guilty of all charges, Assange would face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison, according to American laws. “This must be the security incident involving the most important classified information, and Assange’s role was fundamental”, said U.S. authorities.
Julian Assange was arrested in London a month ago after the Ecuadorian government decided to withdraw his political asylum; British justice subsequently sentenced him to 50 weeks in prison for infringing his parole in 2012. According to experts in cybersecurity, the U.S. government seeks the extradition of the cyber activist for the leaking of thousands of classified documents in 2010 through the WikiLeaks website.
Previously, the U.S. authorities had only accused Assange of helping Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, to decipher passwords and access the information. However, in these new processes, Assange is accused of having received and published diplomatic and military documents on multiple occasions, which constitutes a violation of the U.S. Espionage Act, which dates back to 1917.
This is the first time that this law, which prohibits the disclosure of classified information related to the national defense, is used against a journalist, as reported by specialists in cybersecurity.
In the indictment, the DOJ states that “Assange published classified documents in WikiLeaks in regarding to U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic documents related to governments around the world, which poses a serious national security risk for us”.
According to specialists from the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) WikiLeaks spoke about this new decision of the DOJ, considering as “a madness that puts an end to national security journalism, protected by the first Amendment (freedom of expression)”.