Julian Assange is one step closer to going on trial in the US, where he is charged on 18 federal counts for leaking crucial military files from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts as well as classified diplomatic cables. The WikiLeaks founder was officially ordered to be extradited by the British government on Friday, but Assange has two weeks to challenge that decision, that order from the U.K.’s Home Office.
As the U.S. unsealed an indictment accusing him of a criminal conspiracy that led to “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” U.K. authorities detained Assange in April 2019.
In addition to providing information to journalists, WikiLeaks has made a sizable quantity of papers available on its website. About 800 assessments of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, about 490,000 classified military reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and about 250,000 communications from the State Department are among the topics.
The United States claims in court documents that Assange exposed the names of individuals who gave information or otherwise aided the U.S. despite the possibility of negative consequences – not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in China, Iran, and Syria.
Assange’s interactions with Manning were the main subject of the initial criminal indictments. However, a fresh indictment claimed that in 2020, Assange also enlisted the aid of hackers from organisations like Anonymous, LulzSec, and Gnosis to conduct cyberattacks against governmental organisations, cybersecurity companies, and other organisations in an effort to compromise internal databases and gather private information.
In the Eastern District of Virginia, a federal grand jury accused Assange. The Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., would be the location of his initial court appearance if he loses his appeal and is extradited. District Judge Claude M. Hilton has been given the case.
The Justice Department cautions that “Actual sentences for federal crimes are often less than the maximum punishments,” despite the fact that Assange could receive up to 10 years in prison for each of the 17 most serious felony counts brought against him if found guilty.
According to the U.K. Home Office, British courts have not determined that Assange’s “human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression,” would be violated by extradition.
Assange has maintained that he was operating as a journalist, promoting transparency, and disclosing information. However, his critics, including the US government, argue that he is trying to exploit the First Amendment as a shield from accountability for allegedly criminal conduct. The American Civil Liberties Union is one of Assange’s supporters. They believe the United States should drop its charges against him. They point out that the data he presented was accurate, for starters.
However, according to the Justice Department, Assange is not being charged with acquiring classified information but rather with attempting to obtain it through unlawful hacking. Additionally, it claims that the accusations are a result of him disclosing particular confidential information about individuals who were at risk of harsh retaliation rather than his bulk publication of American secrets. When announcing a slew of felony charges against Assange, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers remarked, “Julian Assange is no journalist.”
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