The U.S. Justice Department unveiled 17 criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday, saying he unlawfully published the names of classified sources and conspired and assisted ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining access to classified information.
The new charges go far beyond an initial indictment against Assange made public last month that accused him of conspiring with Manning in a conspiracy to crack a Defense Department computer password.
The new indictment says Assange conspired with Manning to obtain and disclose classified national defense documents, including State Department cables and reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It says his actions "risked serious harm" to the United States.
The case presents immediate questions about media freedom, including whether the Justice Department is charging Assange for actions — such as soliciting and publishing classified information — that ordinarily journalists do as a matter of course. Department officials said Thursday they believe Assange strayed far outside First Amendment protections.
The new Espionage Act charges go far beyond an initial indictment against Assange made public last month that accused him of conspiring with Manning to crack a defense computer password.
Wikileaks caused particular harm by publishing the names of people who helped American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. diplomats around the world.
The 47-year-old Assange is in custody in London after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in April. The U.S. is seeking his extradition.