The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday condemned the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face extradition to the United States.
“Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations,” Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a statement.
“Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.
Assange was arrested Thursday morning on behalf of U.S. authorities at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has lived since 2012.
The Justice Department charged him with conspiracy to “knowingly access a computer, without authorization and exceeding authorized access,” to obtain classified information that “could be used to the injury of the United States.” The indictment alleged Assange assisted Chelsea Manning, who passed him classified information in 2010, in determining a password stored on a Pentagon computer to access classified information.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden has also condemned Assange’s arrest and prosecution, saying it represented a “dark moment for press freedom” on Thursday.