America has opened a grand jury hearing to decide whether to prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, for espionage, reports MediaGuardian.
The hearing in Alexandria, Virgina, is said to have subpeonad an unidentified man for testimony.
The Espionage Act was based on Britain’s Official Secret’s Act when it was passed in 1917. It was used most famously and without success in 1971 against Daniel Elsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers on the Vietnam War.
The jury will seek to establish whether anyone – Assange or possibly Bradley Manning, the US military intelligence specialist facing court martial as the suspected source of the WikiLeaks documents – is guilty on the grounds of “knowingly accessed a computer without authorisation or exceeding authorized access” and “knowingly stealing or converting any record or thing of value of the US or any department or agency thereof”, according to reported details of the subpoena.
According to MediaGuardian: “The Espionage Act has never been applied successfully against a non-government party, and to have a reasonable chance of prosecuting Assange or WikiLeaks as an organisation, the authorities would need to be able to prove to the satisfaction of a jury that they had actively encouraged or assisted the source of the leaks to transmit unauthorised material.”