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The New York Times also published the documents, among many other newspapers. During President Obama’s administration, officials at the Justice Department said it would be difficult to prosecute Assange given that WikiLeaks wasn’t the only publisher of the documents, and charges were put on hold. It was unknown whether the First Amendment could preclude Assange’s prosecution, but U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN that authorities have found a way to move forward.
Authorities cannot yet prosecute Assange as he remains in an Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’s lived under political asylum since 2012, avoiding an arrest warrant on a rape charge. The new president of Ecuador will not be collaborating with the U.S. in his extradition.
U.S. intelligence determined Russia used WikiLeaks as a platform to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Hackers retrieved thousands of Democratic National Committee emails that were passed along to WikiLeaks.
In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International studies in Washington, D.C., CIA Director Mike Pompeo this month referred to WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, told CNN that WikiLeaks should be protected by the First Amendment because other newspapers also published the documents. Pollack said the information WikiLeaks publishes is in “the public’s interest to know not just about the United States but other governments around the world.”
Nidia Cavazos is a multimedia journalist with an emphasis on political reporting. She's contributed to Univision, KXAN, and USA Today College, and she was named one of six NBC Fellows by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2017.