This is a translation of the original German reporting and document.
Right after the London police carried Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy, the United States demanded his extradition. A March 2018 indictment charges him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison. But that is not the entire truth.
Only one day after writing the indictment, the US Attorney’s Office admitted to also investigate Assange for the „unauthorized receipt and dissemination of secret information“. That is what the Department of Justice wrote in a letter to former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg, which we are publishing in full.
This accusation can be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, a federal law intended to protect military secrets since World War I which has also been used to charge Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Convictions under the Espionage Act can be punished by death. The death penalty is not only inhumane and archaic, it has legal consequences: The United Kingdom is not allowed to extradite Assange if he faces the death penalty.
Charging Assange for publishing classified information is an attack on press freedom, „obtaining and disseminating secret information“ is the very task of journalism. If WikiLeaks is charged, every jurnalist and media outlet publishing secret information will be on trial. While the Obama administration debated this dangerous precedent, the Trump government shows no restraints.
From password cracking to espionage and treason
Investigations against WikiLeaks have been running since at least their 2010 publications of the „Collateral Murder“ video and the war diaries from Afghanistan and Iraq. After they published the diplomatic cables in 2011, the Department of Justice lead their own investigations.
Chelsea Manning was arrested in May 2010 and sentenced in 2013. The accusation now made against Assange was already addressed during Manning’s trial: a chat about attempting to crack a password. Obama finally commuted her remaining prison time, but the Trump administration intensified the persecution of WikiLeaks.
In Virginia, a federal grand jury is secretly investigating Assange and WikiLeaks.