WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration plans to continue extraditing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Britain to the United States to face charges of conspiracy hacking, the US Justice Department said.
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi on Tuesday said the US government would continue to challenge a British judge’s ruling last month that Assange should not be extradited to the United States because of the risk he would commit suicide.
In the Jan. 4 ruling, the judge, Vanessa Baraitser, said, “I find that Mr Assange’s mental state is such that it would be very pressing to extradite him to the United States.”
British judges set Friday as a deadline for the United States to appeal his decision to ban Assange’s extradition.
Raimondi said the United States would challenge Baraitser’s decision. We continue to work on his extradition.
WikiLeaks drew the ire of the US government after publishing thousands of pages of classified reports and documents produced by the American military and intelligence agencies, including detailed descriptions of the CIA’s hacking capabilities. WikiLeaks also published hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic campaign and top advisers, which Clinton and some of her supporters said was a factor in her election defeat to Republican Donald Trump.
The debate over a possible American move to seek Assange’s extradition from Britain first emerged nearly a decade ago when Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden as vice president.
Obama’s Justice Department decided not to request Assange’s extradition on the grounds that what Assange and WikiLeaks were doing was too similar to journalistic activities protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Trump administration officials escalated public criticism of Assange and WikiLeaks just weeks after taking office in January 2017 and then filed a series of increasingly violent criminal charges accusing Assange of participating in a hacking conspiracy.
Assange’s supporters have pressured the Biden administration to drop the charges against him during Biden’s first 100 days in the White House.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball; edited by Jonathan Oatis