US charges Julian Assange with 17 new federal counts

WikiLeaks founder charged with violating Espionage Act, conspiring with Chelsea Manning in new indictment

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was indicted Thursday by the U.S. on 17 new federal charges, including violating the Espionage Act and conspiring to leak sensitive and classified information to the public.

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District Court of Virginia returned the indictment, adding to the one count Assange was charged with last year.

The new charges say Assange allegedly published classified documents that contained unredacted names of those who provided information to U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These human sources included local Afghans and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents from repressive regimes," the Justice Department said in a statement.

The indictment also alleges Assange was working with former Army analyst and whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, who is currently in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

Manning was convicted in 2013 of leaking the documents.

The Justice Department said Assange and Manning allegedly conspired with each other, with Manning obtaining and delivering information to Assange, and used to the "injury of the United States to the advantage of a foreign nation."

The information Manning gave to Assange included 90,000 Afghanistan war-related activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related activities reports and 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, according to the department.

The new indictment could have a serious effect on press freedoms because of the difficulty of largely distinguishing WikiLeaks from a traditional newspaper. No journalist has been charged under the Espionage Act, which was first created in 1917 as the U.S. was entering World War 1.

The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama never charged Assange under the Espionage Act out of fear it would unsettle more traditional forms of journalism.

Assange is currently in prison in the U.K, serving a 50-week sentence for failing to meet the conditions for bail while facing allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

The U.S. has asked that he be extradited to Washington, which Assange has vowed to fight.

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