WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Christopher (Kit) Bond (R-Mo.), vice chairman of the committee, asked Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for espionage. Following is their letter to the attorney general:
December 2, 2010
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
United States Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20535
Dear Attorney General Holder:
We respectfully urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take action to bring criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and any and all of his possible accomplices involved in the unauthorized possession and distribution of vast quantities of classified and unclassified material from the U.S. government. The unauthorized release of this information, including the recent release of approximately 250,000 State Department documents, is a serious breach of national security and could be used to severely harm the United States and its worldwide interests.
On Saturday, before the latest disclosures by WikiLeaks, the State Department’s legal adviser, Harold Koh, wrote Mr. Assange telling him that if he were “genuinely interested in seeking to stop the damage” from his actions he should: (1) ensure WikiLeaks ceases publishing any and all such materials; (2) ensure WikiLeaks returns any and all classified U.S. Government material in its possession; and (3) remove and destroy all records of this material from WikiLeaks' databases. As we know, Mr. Assange failed to take these actions, and instead proceeded to release these documents to the world at large.
We appreciate your statement earlier this week that DOJ has an “active, ongoing, criminal investigation” with regard to the WikiLeaks matter. We also understand that Private First Class Bradley E. Manning – who may have been involved in disclosing the most recent set of documents provided to WikiLeaks – has already been charged in military court with eight violations of federal criminal law, including unauthorized computer access and transmitting classified information to an unauthorized third party in violation of a section of the Espionage Act, 18 U.S.C. 793(e).
Section 793(e) of the Espionage Act states:
Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it … Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Courts have interpreted “information relating to the national defense” to include classified and unclassified material. We believe that Mr. Assange’s conduct is espionage and that his actions fall under the elements of this section of law. Therefore, we urge that he be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
If Mr. Assange and his possible accomplices cannot be charged under the Espionage Act (or any other applicable statute), please know that we stand ready and willing to support your efforts to “close those gaps” in the law, as you also mentioned this week. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
Dianne Feinstein Christopher S. Bond
Chairman Vice Chairman