A chorus is now calling for federal prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as his organization began releasing documents from a cache of 250,000 State Department cables – its third major disclosure of United States government secrets this year. Attorney General Eric Holder has confirmed that the Justice Department is examining whether Assange could be charged with a crime, but legal scholars tell the New York Times that such an effort would encounter steep legal and policy difficulties.
“There is a haze of uncertainty over all of this,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, an American University law professor. “The government has never brought an Espionage Act prosecution that would look remotely like this one. I suspect that has a lot to do with why nothing has happened yet.” The Obama administration has been scrambling to figure out how to respond to the WikiLeaks disclosures. On Wednesday, the White House national security team appointed an official, Russell Travers, to coordinate “technological and/or policy changes to limit the likelihood of such a leak recurring.”