So extreme and unprecedented are the indictment's legal theories and likely consequences that it shocked and alarmed even many of Assange's most virulent critics.
The new indictment against Assange bears no relationship to WikiLeaks' publication of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign documents or any of its other activities during the 2016 presidential campaign. Instead, it covers only publication of a massive archive of classified U.S. government documents that revealed a multitude of previously unknown, highly significant information about wars, government and corporate corruption, and official deceit. WikiLeaks, in 2010, published those materials in partnership with some of the largest media outlets in the world, including the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais, outlets that published many of the same secret documents that form the basis of the criminal case against Assange.
With these new charges, the Trump administration is aggressively and explicitly seeking to obliterate the last reliable buffer protecting journalism in the United States from being criminalized, a step that no previous administration, no matter how hostile to journalistic freedom, was willing to take. The U.S. government has been eager to prosecute Assange since the 2010 leaks.