Both Julian Assange and his attorney Michael Ratner have publicly stated they believe it is "more likely than not" that the Justice Department has prepared a sealed indictment for the WikiLeaks publisher, based on the findings of a secretive grand jury proceeding. As HuffPo reported:
"I think it's more likely than not that there is a sealed indictment against Julian Assange right now," said Ratner, the head of the Center for Constitutional Rights. The lawyer cited the empaneling of a grand jury in 2010, subpoenas that have been issued, and the number of people associated with WikiLeaks who've been contacted by the Justice Department.
"Our contacts with the Department of Justice and the district leave us the impression that there's a fair possibility that there's a sealed indictment," Ratner said. He added that the DOJ has been unresponsive to questions the department normally answers when there is no indictment.
A U.S. prosecution of Assange for his work obtaining and making public leaked classified documents would set a precedent with chilling implications for First Amendment protections. I pointed out Tuesday that the government prosecutors in Bradley Manning's trial have attempted to argue Assange had a strong link with Manning, positing a sort of Manning-Assange cabal with the intention of leaking government secrets. In framing Manning's actions as "aiding the enemy" and working to criminalize Assange's acts, the government is entrenching its fierce and troubling control over what can be known about its internal workings. As I wrote:
A criminal prosecution against the WikiLeaks publisher would set a troubling precedent for the future of journalists who seek sensitive information from sources (the ostensible premise of strong national security reporting). Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, has pointed out that it’s a clear abrogation of the First Amendment “for the administration to target Julian Assange or any individual who discloses information that that individual receives when that person has made no pledge and is under no obligation legally to keep that information within the government.”