23 May: The United States Justice Department has filed an additional seventeen charges against Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, who is currently fighting extradition from the UK. The new charges are under the Espionage Act and would mean that Assange faces the prospect of being incarcerated for the rest of his life if the penalties run concurrently. It is also still not clear if he will be charged with treason. This could mean that he would face a death sentence. If the Attorney General is contemplating such a charge then it is almost certain that it would not be brought until Assange is safely on US soil. It would surely adversely affect any extradition request.
Like Edward Snowden, Assange tends to be a lightning rod in the “liberty vs security” debate. Whether you view them as heroes or villains depends where you stand in the debate. We need whistleblowers in a democracy because sometimes states do things that are wrong, often in secret. Assange claims to be a whistle blower, but is he? He is certainly an oddball. You might not want to sit next to him on a bus. But does that necessarily make him a criminal? Whether he is or not, it looks like he could pay a heavy price for his actions.