U.S. Says WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Unlikely To Face Charges

Fears that Department of Justice would have to prosecute news organizations as well

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Chris Helgren / REUTERS

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange waves from a window with Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patino at Ecuador's embassy in central London on June 16, 2013

More than three years after the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks roiled the United States with massive disclosures of diplomatic cables and other secrets, officials say the group’s founder Julian Assange is unlikely to ever faces charges, the New York Times reports.

Citing unnamed sources at the Department of Justice, the Times reports officials have that if they were to prosecute Assange, they would have to also prosecute U.S news organizations and journalists as well, calling their conundrum a “New York Times problem.” The Times published reports on many of the documents Assange provided.

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information with the same theory being applied to journalists,” a former department spokesman said. “And 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.”

The New York Times, along with the Guardian and Der Spiegl, was one of the original partners that published stories about the some three-quarters of a million classified U.S. documents leaked by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning). Manning was later convicted in the leaks and is serving time in prison.

If reports that Assange is unlikely to ever faces charges are true, they represent the success of  strategy he implemented years ago, before Manning’s leaks were first published. Assange and his original partners at the Guardian chose to bring the Times into the partnership specifically because of the paper’s history of withstanding the rage of the U.S. government and the protection from prosecution it enjoys under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.