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Trump's administration has prosecuted whistleblowers more aggressively than any other in US history, Assange trial hears

DONALD TRUMP’S administration has prosecuted national security leaks more aggressively than any presidency in US history, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing was told today.

Lawyer and historian Carey Shenkman said that the US President is on track to exceed the number of Espionage Act cases brought under Barack Obama’s two terms in less than four years.

Assange, 49, is fighting extradition to the US to face 17 charges under the 1917 law, as well as an 18th charge alleging he plotted to hack computers.

Giving evidence by videolink at the Old Bailey, Mr Shenkman described the espionage act as “extraordinarily broad” and “one of the most contentious” in the US.

He said that eight prosecutions of media sources under the act were brought under Mr Obama: more than all previous administrations combined.

The Trump administration indicted its eighth alleged journalistic source, Henry Kyle Frese, under the act in October last year, he added.

“This escalation in prosecutions is consistent with a dramatic policy shift in approach to applying the espionage act,” he wrote in his report.

“There has never, in the century-long history of the Espionage Act, been an indictment of a US publisher under the law for the publication of secrets.”

“What is now concluded, by journalists and publishers generally, is that any journalist in any country on earth, in fact any person, who conveys secrets that do not conform to the policy positions of the US administration, can be shown now to be liable to being charged under the Espionage Act of 1917.”

Professor John Sloboda, the co-founder of Iraq Body Count (IBC), earlier gave evidence of the importance of Wikileaks revelations to his organisation’s work. 

From 2003 IBC meticulously logged civilian deaths in Iraq, basing their work on dependable media reports that they were able to verify.

“I quickly realised that the Iraq War Logs were the single biggest contribution to our knowledge of civilian deaths in Iraq that has ever come to light,” said Mr Sloboda.

The log added 15,000 to the known death toll.

Mr Sloboda described what he called a meticulous process of redaction to ensure that names, places, occupations and other identifying details were removed from the files. 

Challenged by Joel Smith, counsel for the US government that Assange took a “cavalier” approach to redaction, Sloboda said that his experience was quite the opposite.


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