Federal prosecutors are fighting a request for the unsealing of any pending US criminal indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to Reuters.
In a Monday filing submitted to Judge Leonie Brinkema, prosecutors in Alexandria Virginia asked the court to deny the disclosure request by a journalists’ group – based on a recent disclosure in a court document filed in an unrelatedcriminal case, which was called an “unintentional error.”
Prosecutors said the erroneous filing does not constitute a confirmation or denial by them as to whether sealed criminal charges against Assange exist, and argued that neither the U.S. constitution nor U.S. common law “require that the government provide such a confirmation or denial.”
On Tuesday, Judge Brinkema is scheduled to hear arguments in a case brought by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which has applied for the unsealing of court records “including the docket and any criminal complaint, indictment or other charging document” related to any sealed U.S. charges against Assange. –Reuters
Assange – along with WikiLeaks and several associated individuals, have been under investigation by prosecutors and an Alexandria-based federal grand jury for several years, although no public charges have been filed. Earlier in the month, Assistant US Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer wrote in a court filing that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.” Later in the filing, Dwyer wrote that the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”
Beginning in 2010, the Department of Justice under the Obama administration attempted to draw a distinction between WikiLeaks and other news organizations – with former Attorney General Eric Holder insisting that Assange’s organization does not deserve the same first amendment protections during the Chelsea Manning case in which the former Army intelligence analyst was found guilty at a court-martial of leaking thousands of classified Afghan War Reports. That said, the former president’s administration chose not to move forward with prosecution.
US officials have given mixed messages over Assange, with President Trump having said during the 2016 election “I love WikiLeaks,”