Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Assange Agreed to Destroy Unpublished Wikileaks Material as Part of Plea Deal

'The materials we are talking about are now more than a decade old...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) While much of the world is celebrating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s recent release from prison, there was a downside the the plea deal Assange struck with the Justice Department.

As per his plea deal with the DOJ, Assange must destroy the unpublished classified material still in WikiLeaks‘ possession. Assange agreed this week to plea guilty to an Espionage Act charge in exchange for time served. He had spent the last five years in a high-security British prison while fighting to avoid extradition to the U.S. to face charges of illegally obtaining classified information.

Assange’s plea deal states: “The Defendant shall take all action within his control to cause the return to the United States or the destruction of any such unpublished information in his possession, custody, or control, or that of WikiLeaks or any affiliate of WikiLeaks.

“The Defendant further agrees that, if the forgoing obligation requires him to instruct the editor(s) of WikiLeaks to destroy any such information or otherwise cause it to be destroyed, he shall provide the United States (or cause to be provided to the United States) a sworn affidavit confirming the instruction he provided and that, he will, in good faith, seek to facilitate compliance with that instruction prior to sentencing,” the plea deal states.

Assange’s lawyer reportedly downplayed the significance of the agreement.

“The materials we are talking about are now more than a decade old. I don’t know to what extent any still existed or what possible value they might have, certainly no national security value,” said Barry Pollack, Assange’s US lawyer, according to Consortium News.

“In fact, the United States court in Saipan yesterday conceded, and the judge found that there is no evidence that any harm has befallen any individual anywhere in the world as a result of Mr. Assange’s publications,” Pollack reportedly said.

“That being said, they did insist that he issue an instruction to the editor of WikiLeaks to destroy any materials they might have that were not published and Julian has complied with that provision and issued that instruction.”

The plea agreement comes months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the U.S. push to prosecute Assange. The White House was not involved in the decision to resolve Assange’s case, according to a White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being convicted of violating the Espionage Act and other offenses for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks. President Barack Obama commuted the sentence in 2017, allowing Manning—who underwent a gender transition to become female while in prison—release after about seven years behind bars.

Assange has been heralded by many around the world as a hero who brought to light military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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