Assange Faces 170 Years in Prison as US Adds Charges Under Espionage Act

Justice Dept: Assange was complicit with disclosing classified documents

As the US prepares to try to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through extradition, the Justice Department has revealed a new series of charges against him. Assange would face 170 years in US prison if convicted.

The new allegations include 17 separate charges under the Espionage Act. According to the Justice Department, the charges are all related to leaking classified documents related to national security, which were part of the leaks from Chelsea Manning, who the US has already indefinitely jailed for refusing to testify against Assange.

This sets up a potentially very controversial case. Though also used to prosecute proper spies for foreign governments, the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used repeatedly to target journalists and those who provided information to journalists. Its use against the press has historically been deeply criticized.

The Trump Administration has tried to push a narrative in which, even though WikiLeaks behaves like a journalistic outlet, they are something distinct, almost certainly an argument that envisioned having to argue a case like this as being something other than rank censorship of the media.

If the conviction of Assange is successful, it would have a chilling effect on the American press, and indeed the international press since Assange wasn’t American nor in America during the “crimes” in question, establishing that the US government can jail journalists for reporting on their embarrassing secrets.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.