National Security

Biden DOJ to continue to seek Assange extradition

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The Justice Department under President Biden intends to continue to seek extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange so he can face charges in the United States, an official said.

Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi confirmed that the new administration would continue to seek Assange’s extradition from the United Kingdom. The news was first reported by Reuters.

A group of organizations that advocate for civil liberties and human rights had urged Biden to drop the prosecution of Assange, arguing in a letter this week that “the government’s indictment of him poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad.”

“The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely—and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” said the letter, which was signed by two dozen groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.” 

A British judge last month blocked Assange’s extradition to the United States based on concerns about his mental health. The Justice Department faces a deadline Friday to file a legal brief in a London court challenging the ruling in January.

The Justice Department under the Trump administration charged Assange with computer hacking conspiracy, alleging he helped Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, break into a classified government computer and steal secret military files in 2010. WikiLeaks went on to publish much of the material.

The Justice Department under the Obama administration investigated WikiLeaks but did not file charges against Assange, reportedly due to First Amendment concerns. The Washington Post reported in 2019 that the government began more aggressively pursuing a case against Assange in 2017 after WikiLeaks published the “Vault 7” CIA hacking tools and troves of Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign.

Former President Trump was urged by Assange allies to pardon the WikiLeaks founder in the waning days of his administration but ultimately decided against doing so.

Tags Assange extradition Chelsea Manning Donald Trump Joe Biden Julian Assange National security WikiLeaks

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