U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

The Justice Department and CIA threatens legal action against WikiLeaks for publishing

Incident Details

REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo speaks at The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, U.S. April 13, 2017.

— REUTERS/Eric Thayer
November 16, 2018 - Update

DOJ has charged Assange

On November 16, 2018, the Washington Post reported that the Department of Justice had secretly charged Assange in a criminal complaint filed under seal in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The sealed complaint came to light after a federal prosecutor mistakenly mentioned Assange in a filing in an unrelated case on August 22, 2018.

The charges against Assange are not known.

April 20, 2017

After reports in April 2017 indicated that the Justice Department would seek to prosecute WikiLeaks and its editor Julian Assange for its publishing activities, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a group of reporters on April 20 that arresting Assange was “a priority.”

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” Sessions said. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.”

He added: “So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

The Justice Department’s statements followed a speech by CIA director Mike Pompeo at a DC think tank on April 13, where he called the publisher a “a non-state hostile intelligence service,” claiming that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” Pompeo falsely claimed that “Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges” because he is “not a U.S. citizen.” (Non-citizens have just as many First Amendment protections as US citizens.)

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].