Grasping at straws……
America is set to bring spying charges against jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, claims his lawyer.
She believes U.S. prosecutors are finalising their case against the 39-year-old behind the publication of more than 250,000 secret diplomatic messages.
Jennifer Robinson said she understands U.S. charges are â€˜imminentâ€™.
U.S. Justice Department officials refused to make any comment last night.
Though he appears to have committed no crime in the States, the administration is under enormous pressure to find some way of punishing the Australian for unleashing a stream of diplomatic embarrassments on to the internet.
Any prosecution would probably have to be started under the auspices of the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to receive national defence information if it is known to have been obtained illegally and could be used â€˜to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.â€™
Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed earlier this week that he had ordered a criminal probe and claimed the leaks had put America at risk.
â€˜We have a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature. I authorised just last week a number of things to be done so that we can hopefully get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable, as they should be,â€™ he said.
Depending on the outcome of the hearing, the U.S. would then have to launch another extradition bid either in Sweden or the UK.
Although America has extradition treaties with both countries, the process is often lengthy and is likely to take months.
The U.S. has never used the law to charge a recipient who has published classified information.
But a senior legal aide said the government might argue that WikiLeaks is functioning as a kind of storehouse, gathering and maintaining the classified material rather than acting as a traditional media outlet.