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What They’re Saying: Lawmakers, Press Activists React to Assange Arrest

How do you feel about Assange's arrest?

by Axios | 4.11.19

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Thursday with "a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion" related to Chelsea Manning's 2010 leak of State Department cables.

What they're saying: Although the DOJ's charges are more about Assange the hacker than Assange the journalist, some legal and media personnel are still concerned about the implications his arrest could have for press freedom. That concern is not shared among lawmakers on the Hill.

  • Assange attorney Barry Pollack: "It is bitterly disappointing that a country would allow someone to whom it has extended citizenship and asylum to be arrested in its embassy. First and foremost, we hope that the U.K. will now give Mr. Assange access to proper health care, which he has been denied for seven years. Once his health care needs have been addressed, the U.K. courts will need to resolve what appears to be an unprecedented effort by the United States to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information."
  • ACLU: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public's interest."
  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE): "This arrest is good news for freedom-loving people. Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services. He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison."
  • British Centre for Investigative Journalism: "Wikileaks is a publisher. Charges now brought in connection with its material, or any attempt to extradite #Assange to the United States for prosecution under the deeply flawed cudgel of the Espionage Act 1917, is an attack on all of us."
  • Note: The charges do not reference Espionage Act.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): "It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he's our property and we can get the facts and the truth from him."
  • The Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald: "The DOJ says part of what Assange did to justify his prosecution - beyond allegedly helping Manning get the documents - is he encouraged Manning to get more docs for him to publish. Journalists do this with sources constantly: it's the criminalization of journalism."
  • Whistleblower Edward Snowden: "Images of Ecuador's ambassador inviting the UK's secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of--like it or not--award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom." ... "The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking."
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I have absolutely no use for Julian Assange, he will get a fair trial and whatever comes his way he deserves.” When asked if Trump should have praised WikiLeaks when he was a candidate, Graham told a CNN reporter: “That’s up to the President."
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.): "Julian Assange has long professed high ideals and moral superiority. Unfortunately, whatever his intentions when he started WikiLeaks, what he's really become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West and a dedicated accomplice in efforts to undermine American security. It is my hope that British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves."

Go deeper: Julian Assange's arrest doesn't necessarily mean press freedoms are at stake


Written by Axios

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