Assange has been holed up in London’s Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 over fears he may be extradited to Sweden – and has called for authorities to allow his release under an UN ruling which found his detention “unlawful”.
The online site, which publishes sensitive and secret government documents, was praised by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign after it released private emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.
Yet now US officials claim they have found a way to move forward with his arrest despite the hacktivist extraordinaire saying he should be protected by the American first amendment – which defends free speech.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed the WikiLeaks founder’s arrest was a “priority”.
US officials claim they have found a way to move forward with Assange's arrest
He said: ”We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks.
"This is a matter that's gone beyond anything I'm aware of.
“We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.
“So yes, it is a priority.
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It is believed that Julian Assange chooses to live in Sweden because the country's media laws are among the world's most protective for journalists
WikiLeaks was praised by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign
“We've already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”
It comes after CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s claims last week Wikileaks was a “hostile intelligence service” in the pocket of Russian actors.
He claimed WikiLeaks "directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States”.
Chelsea Manning, a former US army soldier, was convicted of violating the espionage act nearly three-quarters of a million classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents.
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US President Donald J. Trump gets in the driver's seat of an 18-wheeler while meeting with truck drivers and trucking CEOs on the South Portico prior to their meeting to discuss health care at the White House in Washington, DC
Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed the WikiLeaks founder’s arrest was a 'priority'
She was later pardoned by President Obama during the final hours of his presidency.
Mr Pompeo added: ”It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
But Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Mr Assange, claimed the US Justice Department had not made them aware of any charges.
He said: ”We've had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr Assange.
Mike Pompeo claimed last week Wikileaks was a 'hostile intelligence service'
"They've been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr Assange's status is in any pending investigations.”
Republican Peter King, who represents New York in the House, claimed Assange had “caused tremendous damage to our national security, put American lives at risk”.
He added: “I’m glad that the Justice Department has found a way to go after Assange. He's gotten a free ride for too long.”