Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday refused to rule out whether the Trump Administration might criminally prosecute mainstream news organizations for leaking confidential federal documents.
CNN anchor Kate Bolduan questioned Sessions about news reports that the Department of Justice was exploring bringing criminal charges against the WikiLeaks organization and founder Julian Assange.
She asked whether “folks should be concerned” that the plan to prosecute WikiLeaks “would also open up news organizations like CNN and the New York Times for prosecution?”
“That’s speculative and I’m not going to comment on that,” Sessions said.
Federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring criminal charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization for its 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents as well as the website’s disclosure of the CIA’s cyber-tools, CNN and the Washington Post reported.
First Amendment experts warned that any criminal prosecution of Assange should be viewed as a threat to the mainstream media in the United States, not just to the WikiLeaks website.
It is not clear whether prosecutors also are probing WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John D. Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. U.S. officials have said those emails were hacked by the Russian government.
Prosecutors are reportedly considering charging the WikiLeaks organization with conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo on April 13 said the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks is not a journalism organization but a “non-state, hostile intelligence service” that receives support from Russia.
Trump said “I love WikiLeaks” while campaigning for president, but changed his mind about the organization since being elected.