Manning: Additional Assange charges are feds using the law 'as a sword'

Manning: Additional Assange charges are feds using the law 'as a sword'
© Greg Nash

Whistleblower Chelsea ManningChelsea Elizabeth ManningWaPo announces plans to increase investigative journalism staff US to question Assange friend jailed in Ecuador: report US extradition case for Assange set for next year MORE condemned the announcement of 17 new charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeWaPo announces plans to increase investigative journalism staff NYT publisher: Trump crossed 'dangerous line' in accusing outlet of 'treason' US to question Assange friend jailed in Ecuador: report MORE, saying they indicated the law would be used as a “sword” against freedom of the press.

“I continue to accept full and sole responsibility for those disclosures in 2010,” Manning said in a statement Thursday evening. “It's telling that the government appears to have already obtained this indictment before my contempt hearing last week. This administration describes the press as the opposition party and an enemy of the people.”

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“Today, they use the law as a sword, and have shown their willingness to bring the full power of the state against the very institution intended to shield us from such excesses.”  

Assange, who had previously been indicted for conspiracy to hack a government computer, was indicted on 17 additional felony charges Thursday, including Espionage Act violations.

The Alexandria, Va., grand jury returned the superseding indictment charging Assange with conspiring with Manning, a former Army intelligence officer, to obtain, receive and disclose “national defense information."

Manning also said the charges indicate that her detention for refusing to answer a grand jury’s questions on Assange are “purely punitive,” as “all of the substantive questions” involved answers she already provided at her 2013 court martial.

Manning’s attorney, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, said the Justice Department has historically been hesitant to prosecute publishers of classified material.

“This signals a real shift, and sets a new precedent for the federal government's desire to chill and even punish the vigorous exercise of the free press,” she said.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases MORE (D-Ore.) also warned of a potential chilling effect following the superseding indictment against Assange, saying in a statement: “I am extremely concerned about the precedent this may set and potential dangers to the work of journalists and the First Amendment.”