Why Assange Won't Face Charges: 'NYT Problem'

If the Justice Dept. goes after him, it has to go after media, too: officials
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2013 9:24 AM CST
Why Assange Won't Face Charges: ' NYT Problem'
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Looks like Julian Assange is in the clear, at least as far as US charges over WikiLeaks go. The Justice Department has "all but concluded" it won't press charges, officials tell the Washington Post, and a big part of the reason why boils down to what insiders are calling a "New York Times problem." Prosecuting him for publishing classified information would mean treating all news organizations who have published classified material—including the Times, Post, and Guardian—in the same fashion.

"If you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange," says a former DOJ rep. The Post points out that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are in a different boat—because they actually leaked information, whereas Assange just published what had already been leaked. A lawyer for Assange says the Justice Department hasn't directly signaled its intentions, despite requests. WikiLeaks remains concerned, and it will continue to be until it gets "an open, official, formal confirmation that the US government is not going to prosecute WikiLeaks," says a rep. (Read more Julian Assange stories.)

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