Prosecute Assange Under the Espionage Act - Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Prosecute Assange Under the Espionage Act
Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.
By Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove—more than 250,000 secret State Department cables—he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.
The law Mr. Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorized person to possess or transmit “information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
The Espionage Act also makes it a felony to fail to return such materials to the U.S. government. Importantly, the courts have held that “information relating to the national defense” applies to both classified and unclassified material. Each violation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
No doubt aware of this law, and despite firm warnings, Mr. Assange went ahead and released the cables on Nov. 28.
In a letter sent to Mr. Assange and his lawyer on Nov. 27, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh warned in strong terms that the documents had been obtained “in violation of U.S. law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action.”