Washington: US authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, officials told CNN on Friday.
The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning now known as Chelsea Manning.
During former President Barack Obama’s administration, Attorney General Eric Holder and officials at the Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks was not alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning, reports CNN.
The investigation continued, but any possible charges were put on hold, according to US officials involved in the process then.
Last week, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference on Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a “priority”, CNN reported.
“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” he said.
According to Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack, there has been no communication between him and the Justice Department about any charges against the Australian whistleblower.
Pollack said WikiLeaks is just like any other news daily which routinely publish stories based on classified information.
WikiLeaks, he says, publishes information that is in “the public’s interest to know not just about the US but other governments around the world.”
Assange, has been staying at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, reports the BBC.
He was granted asylum by Ecuador to prevent his extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.