The US is reviving a campaign to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as part of a broader crackdown against the unauthorised disclosure of classified information, said US attorney-general Jeff Sessions.
The arrest of Mr Assange was a “priority” for the US Department of Justice, he said. “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” he said at a press conference in El Paso, Texas. “This is a matter that has gone beyond anything that I’m aware of . . . So, yes, it is a priority. Whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”
Mr Sessions spoke a few hours before US media reports said prosecutors were preparing criminal charges against Mr Assange for his role in disclosing diplomatic and intelligence documents. Both the FBI and the DoJ declined to comment.
WikiLeaks last month released nearly 8,000 web pages detailing an array of highly classified CIA hacking tools, in the latest blow to US spy secrets.
Prosecutors’ interest in Mr Assange dates to 2010 when his radical transparency group released a trove of US diplomatic cables acquired by a former US soldier now known as Chelsea Manning. In November 2010, then-US attorney-general Eric Holder confirmed “an active ongoing criminal investigation” of the group and its associates.
WikiLeaks acknowledged the existence of a federal grand jury investigating its activities, including the issuance of multiple subpoenas, on the group’s website.
But the effort to prosecute Mr Assange, who took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012, foundered. The WikiLeaks founder defended his role in making public classified US government material as equivalent to reporting by mainstream publications and thus deserving of First Amendment protections.
A successful prosecution now would depend on showing that Mr Assange directed or was otherwise involved in hacking US government computers, according to Matthew Miller, who was Mr Holder’s DoJ spokesman. “Unless they have found something new, there is no way to do this without prosecuting reporters,” Mr Miller tweeted. “There’s a reason we didn’t go there.”
The Trump administration has been bedevilled by leaks in its early weeks. President Donald Trump, who once crowed “I love WikiLeaks”, now says its actions threaten national security.
Ecuadorean officials declined to comment on Thursday evening.
In an interview earlier this month, Ecuador’s president-elect Lenín Voltaire Moreno said: “Ecuador has granted asylum to Julian Assange because we considered his human rights were being violated. Fundamentally, we respect the right to life and I think that right could have been violated.
“However . . . he cannot meddle in [Ecuador’s] national and international politics, and [must have] restraint when he talks about the politics of countries that are our friends.”
Like Mr Trump, CIA director Mr Pompeo has welcomed WikiLeaks’ help on the political battlefield. During last year’s campaign, Mr Pompeo, at the time a Republican congressman, tweeted a reference to the group’s revelations about Democratic Party infighting.
Additional reporting by Andres Schipani in Bogotá
美国司法部长杰夫?塞申斯(Jeff Sessions)表示，美国正在再次发起一场运动，寻求逮捕维基解密(WikiLeaks)创始人朱利安?阿桑奇(Julian Assange)的机会，以此作为一场打击未经授权泄露保密信息的更大范围行动的一部分。
检察官对阿桑奇的兴趣要回溯到2010年。当时，阿桑奇激进的透明化组织公布了一批由目前名为切尔西?曼宁(Chelsea Manning)的前美国士兵获得的美国外交电报。2010年11月，时任美国司法部长埃里克?霍尔德(Eric Holder)曾确认对该组织及其合作者“正在积极开展刑事调查”。