Try As It Might, The U.S. Can’t Find a Way to Prosecute Julian Assange

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Photo: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder has run into yet another roadblock in his quest to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In an article that doesn't once mention espionage by name — a charge the DOJ used to be much more willing to throw aroundThe Wall Street Journal says investigators haven't been able to find evidence that Assange directly encouraged Army private Bradley Manning to leak government documents. According to the paper's sources, Manning initiated the theft himself, "out of malice toward the military or government," undermining the Defense Department's initial characterization of Manning as a young man taken advantage of by Assange.

Others WikiLeaks associates have been tied to Manning, but since Assange is the leaker they're after, the FBI and DOJ are trying another angle against Assange: conspiracy. That's a harder case to make and would rely on contacts between Manning and lower-level WikiLeaks activists, as well as proving Assange's leadership — and that WikiLeaks is not a form of journalism. One bit of good news for federal prosecutors: Coming up empty means Assange's lawyers just lost one prong of its seven-point defense strategy. They will have a harder time using the threat of extradition to the U.S. to keep Assange from being sent to Sweden for sex crimes.

Assange Probe Hits Snag [WSJ]