The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ACLU Statement on Long-Overdue Resolution of Julian Assange Case


Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was released from prison in the United Kingdom yesterday after pleading guilty to a single felony count of illegally obtaining and disclosing national security material.

In 2019, the Trump administration charged Assange with 17 counts of breaching the Espionage Act, arguing that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence analyst, who spent seven years in prison for leaking material to WikiLeaks. The American Civil Liberties Union has long advocated for the Department of Justice to drop the criminal charges against Assange.

Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, had the following reaction:

“This is a prosecution that should not have been brought. With today’s guilty plea, Julian Assange stands convicted of practicing journalism, and all investigative journalists now face greater legal peril.

“Exposing government secrets and revealing them in the public interest is the core function of national security journalism. Today, for the first time, that activity was described in a guilty plea as a criminal conspiracy. And even if the current Department of Justice stays true to its assurances that the Assange case is unique and will not provide a precedent to be wielded against other publishers, we can’t be confident that future administrations will honor that commitment.

“We’re grateful that today Assange will be on a flight to Australia, and not to Virginia to face trial and further punishment. The precedent set by this guilty plea would have been far more dangerous had it been ratified by federal courts. But make no mistake, the vital work of national security journalists will be more difficult today than it was yesterday.”

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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