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Can Feds Get Wikileaks Founder for Espionage?

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By Jason Beahm on December 02, 2010 6:16 AM

You knew that eventually authorities were going to come after Julian Assange, founder of the controversial website WikiLeaks, which publishes classified government communications. Now it seems that both U.S. and Australian law enforcement are investigating possible criminal charges against Assange. Chief among the possible charges: espionage.

"We have an active, ongoing criminal investigation with regard to this matter," US Attorney-General Eric Holder told a press conference on Monday, The Christian Science Monitor reports. "I'm confident that the Justice Department is figuring out how to prosecute him," former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith, told the Washington Post.

Espionage is the act of securing information of a military or political nature that a competing nation holds secret. It can involve the analysis of diplomatic reports, publications, statistics, and broadcasts, as well as spying, a clandestine activity carried out by an individual or individuals working under secret identity to gather classified information on behalf of another entity or nation.

However, convicting Assange may be exceedingly difficult according to legal experts. Reuters reports that according to three specialists in espionage law, the prosecution would have to prove that Assange was not only in contact with representatives of a foreign power but also intended to provide them with secrets. However no evidence of that kind has surfaced, or been alleged.

Whatever may come of the Wikileaks matter, it is important to keep things in perspective. While the U.S. government and various politicians and pundits have predicted disaster as a result of the publication of the classified materials, there are no known incidents thus far.

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