- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Trump administration’s recent escalation of an Obama-era probe into WikiLeaks has amounted to a “war on free speech,” the website’s editor, Julian Assange, said Tuesday.

Mr. Assange defended WikiLeaks against fresh claims from the Trump administration in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Washington Post, taking particular aim at CIA Director Mike Pompeo and his recent characterization of WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” overseen by a “fraud,” “coward” and “enemy.”

The CIA director’s assault, Mr. Assangewrote, “mirrors attempts throughout history by bureaucrats seeking, and failing, to criminalize speech that reveals their own failings.”

In going after WikiLeaks, he added, Mr. Pompeo “chose to declare war on free speech rather than on the United States’ actual adversaries.”

“The world cannot afford, and the Constitution does not permit, a muzzle placed on the work that transparency organizations do to inform the American and global public,” Mr. Assange wrote.

WikiLeaks has been the subject of an ongoing Justice Department probe since its publication of classified U.S. government and military documents in 2010, though prosecutors have failed so far to formally indict Mr. Assange or anyone else related to his website with one exception: Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the source of the 2010 leaks.

The Justice Department reportedly widened that probe after WikiLeaks began publishing leaked CIA files last month, however, and Mr. Pompeo, President Trump and his attorney general have since signaled their support for arresting Mr. Assange.

On Mr. Pompeo’s part, he devoted a significant chunk of his first public speech as CIA director lashing out against WikiLeaks and its founder this month, labeling Mr. Assange as a “narcissist” with no First Amendment rights.

“As a legal matter, this statement is simply false,” Mr. Assange wrote of the latter claim Tuesday. “It underscores just how dangerous it is for an unelected official whose agency’s work is rooted in lying and misdirection to be the sole arbiter of the truth and the interpreter of the Constitution.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, said last week that arresting Mr. Assange “once and for all” is a high priority for his Justice Department. Asked for his take afterward, Mr. Trump on Friday said charging Mr. Assange was “OK with me.”

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