Assange Avoids Extradition—For Now
A British judge in January denied the U.S. government’s request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who faces 18 federal charges related to publishing classified documents. While it may be tempting to see the decision as a victory for a free press, Westminster Magistrates’ Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser is actually fine with prosecuting journalists who reveal secrets—just not with throwing them into solitary confinement.
In 2010, Assange and WikiLeaks arranged to receive and publish top-secret documents leaked by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Assange was originally indicted in 2018. A superseding 2019 indictment charged him with violating the Espionage Act by obtaining and disclosing “national defense information” as well as violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Those charges together carry a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison.
Although the Justice Department had prosecuted leakers before, this was the first time it had charged a publisher under the Espionage Act for printing classified information. Civil libertarians warned that the p
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