The Justice Department was not inclined to bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because doing so would pose complications for U.S. news organizations, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Anonymous U.S. officials told the Post that no formal decision has been made, but said there is little possibility of bringing a case against Assange unless he is implicated in criminal activity beyond the disclosure of top-secret documents.
The sticking point, the officials said, is that Assange published top-secret documents but did not leak them. Anonymous Justice Department officials described the legal complications to the Post as a “New York Times problem,” meaning that if the department indicted Assange, it would also be compelled to prosecute news organizations and journalists who published classified material.
The federal government has charged individuals who leaked classified information, including fugitive former security contractor Edward Snowden and private Chelsea Manning, under the Espionage Act. Manning was convicted in July and later sentenced to 35 years in prison.
A grand jury continues to investigate WikiLeaks’ release of classified military and diplomatic documents, the U.S. officials told the Post.