The U.S. Justice Department is considering filing criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to multiple reports Thursday.
CNN reported that U.S. officials have prepared charges related to the site’s publication of classified U.S. government documents.
In a separate report, the Washington Post said Assange and members of the organization could face charges including conspiracy, theft of government documents and violations of the Espionage Act.
“It is a priority,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said of cracking down on leaks at a news conference Thursday. “We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”
The Obama administration long considered bringing charges against WikiLeaks for posting a damaging trove of military and diplomatic files stolen by Chelsea Manning in 2010, but ultimately decided not to over First Amendment concerns.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces rape charges.
In recent months, the Trump administration has turned against the organization. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks for releasing information damaging to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. ‘‘I love WikiLeaks!’’ Trump said at a campaign rally in October.
Last week, however, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called the group a “nonstate hostile intelligence agency” and said it was determined to undermine U.S. interests.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish information damaging to Clinton in an effort to sway the U.S. election.
WikiLeaks also recently revealed thousands of files and documents supposedly used by the CIA to hack computers, smartphones and smart TVs, including Apple Inc. devices.
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