Judge Leonie Brinkema has denied an application from the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press to unseal the U.S. government’s complaint against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
A U.S. federal judge has ruled against a petition to unseal a criminal complaint against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, arguing that there is no proof that it exists.
Judge Leonie Brinkema of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decided on Wednesday to turn down the request by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to make public details of the complaint, the existence of which was made known inadvertently last year.
“The Government opposes the Committee’s application on the ground that it has neither confirmed nor denied whether charges have been filed against Assange and cannot be required to disclose that information before an arrest is made,” Brinkema wrote in her 10-page ruling.
Assange’s named appeared in a totally unrelated criminal complaint, apparently from a copy and paste mistake. The government called it an “unintentional error.”
Brinkema ruled that despite the government’s admission of the error, “The Government has not acknowledged whether formal charges have been filed against Assange and the Committee has not cited any authority supporting the notion that the public has a right to require the Government to confirm or deny that it has charged someone.”
The Reporters Committee argued in a motion that the “case against Assange is already a matter of public knowledge” and that the government cannot “put the genie back” in the bottle. But the government argued in a court hearing in November that the only conclusion that can be drawn from its admission is that a mistake was made and “anything else is speculation.”
Brinkema came down on the side of the government. “The Committee has not demonstrated with sufficient certainty that Assange has been charged,” she wrote.
The judge ruled:
“Until there is a sufficiently certain disclosure that charges have in fact been…