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The Justice Department's indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sparked a fierce debate between First Amendment advocates and national-security experts.
Assange is accused of conspiring to hack into a classified government computer to help the former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning obtain sensitive documents and videos pertaining to US national security.
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The former federal prosecutor and First Amendment expert Ken White told INSIDER he was concerned that Assange's indictment "conflates the legal and the illegal."
First Amendment advocates also say the indictment spells trouble for journalists in the US and abroad. But national-security experts disagree.
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"It doesn't affect the press freedom debate at all," said one former federal prosecutor, adding that it was "probably a conscious decision by the DOJ to just bring the axe down on Assange rather than bringing an indictment that could raise questions about the threat to the fourth estate."
Early Thursday morning, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British authorities and forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had been staying. Assange's arrest came after the US filed an extradition request with the British government.
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Shortly after, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed an indictment against Assange charging him with conspiring to hack a government computer in the Pentagon that contained classified information.
Thursday's events mark a dramatic inflection point in the ongoing debate over how the US government prosecutes individuals accused of obtaining or leaking classified information, and the broader implications that can have on First Amendment protections.
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Assange was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion over his alleged role in helping the former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning hack a classified computer. The indictment said Manning passed the files she downloaded to WikiLeaks and that she and Assange then agreed that he would help her try to "crack the password"...
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