Joe Biden: ‘We’ll prosecute terrorist Assange’
VP announces that US is preparing charges against WikiLeaks editor
Vice president Joe Biden yesterday made the first official admission that the Obama administration is seeking to bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for making public tens of thousands of secret documents.
Asked about WikiLeaks on NBC's Meet the Press programme, Biden said: "We are looking at that [bringing charges] right now. The Justice Department is looking at that."
Assange's lawyers have maintained for some time that the sex crime allegations made against him in Sweden were orchestrated by the US as a "holding charge" to buy time while the Justice Department comes up with a more substantial charge.
The problem the US faces is that, as publisher, Assange is protected under the Third Amendment which enshrines the right to free speech. However, Biden said yesterday he believed Assange could be charged if he was shown to have been in cahoots with the person who leaked the documents.
He said: "If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military that is fundamentally different than if someone drops on your lap [saying] you are a press person, here is classified material."
The US government line on WikiLeaks so far has been that its disclosures have been trivial and have caused only embarrassment. The gaffe-prone veep appeared to go off-message when he gave the strongest criticism yet of the whistle-blowing website.
Biden called Assange a "high-tech terrorist" and said WikiLeaks has "put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people" and "made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our
He added: "For example, in my meetings – you know I meet with most of these world leaders – there is a desire now to meet with me alone, rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome – so it has done damage."
In the UK, Assange's trial by media continues. Today the
Daily Mail alleges the 39-year-old Australian seduced a
third woman during the same 10-day period in August during which he is alleged to have committed sex crimes in Sweden.
The paper quotes an unnamed American journalist as saying Assange flirted with his girlfriend during a meal in Stockholm's Beirut restaurant – eventually leaving with her, hand-in-hand. The journalist says Assange seemed to enjoy humiliating him.
The Mail has also published the apparently scandalous revelation that Assange fathered a child with a 17-year-old girl. Only deep in the article is it clarified that Assange was 18 at the time. ·
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