Whatever you may think of Julian Assange (I’m not a big fan), indicting him under the Espionage Act—as the Justice Department did Thursday—is an ill-founded, ham-fisted move that endangers free speech for all Americans.
A month ago, Justice issued a single-count indictment against Assange, charging him with conspiracy to break into a computer containing classified information, a crime punishable with up to five years in prison. It was a clever bit of business, nabbing the founder of WikiLeaks, who has done some serious damage to U.S. security, for one of his lesser offenses in a way that addressed the method by which he tried to obtain some information—not his right to receive or publish it.
Now we see this was just a ploy. Thursday’s 18-count indictment goes after him explicitly for receiving and publishing classified materials. By the indictment’s logic, hundreds of journalists could be arrested for simply doing their jobs.