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The Indictment of Julian Assange Under the Espionage Act Is a Threat to the Press and the American People

The Indictment of Julian Assange Under the Espionage Act Is a Threat to the Press and the American People

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20:  Placards are left by supporters of Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing website, outside the Ecuadorian Embassy where Mr Assange has been living since June on August 20, 2012 in London, England. Several South American nations have declared their support for Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to Mr Assange whilst he faces extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Placards left by supporters of Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian Embassy on Aug. 20, 2012 in London, England.

Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

A TRUE DEMOCRACY does not allow its government to decide who is a journalist. A nation in which a leader gets to make that decision is on the road to dictatorship.

That is why the new U.S. indictment of Julian Assange is so dangerous to liberty in America.

The Trump administration has charged Assange under the Espionage Act for conspiring to leak classified documents. The indictment, released yesterday, focuses on his alleged efforts to encourage former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents to him and WikiLeaks about a decade ago.

Many of those documents, including U.S. military reports and State Department cables, were later published by WikiLeaks, but they were also the basis of reporting by major news organizations like the New York Times and The Guardian, which published some of them. The Manning leaks helped reveal long-hidden truths about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the post-9/11 global war on terror. Among the most striking leaks were a classified video of U.S. military attack helicopters killing a dozen people, including two Reuters staffers, in Baghdad in 2007, as well as the more than 250,000 State Department cables, which continue to be an important reference for reporters and researchers studying U.S. foreign policy.

The Manning documents also turned WikiLeaks into a strange new player in the modern journalistic ecosystem. WikiLeaks would obtain materials from sources inside governments and other organizations and then disseminate them, either by publishing them itself or by sharing them with major news organizations. WikiLeaks served as an intermediary between sources and reporters.

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