The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has asked a federal court to unseal documents related to the federal government's pending prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
The existence of that prosecution appears to have been accidentally revealed due to a cut-and-paste error in an unrelated sex crimes case. Now that its existence has been revealed, the Reporters Committee argues, there's no good reason to continue to withhold other details of the charges against Assange.
"Both the press and the public have a particularly powerful interest in access to sealed court records related to the governments prosecution of Assange," the rights group said in its filing.
Thursday's accidental revelation set off a flurry of subsequent reporting on the Assange prosecution. On Friday evening, the New York Times reported that the prosecution focuses on Assange's relationship with Russia.
According to the Times, Trump's former CIA director Mike Pompeo (now secretary of state) launched an investigation of Assange shortly after taking the job. The Obama administration had treated Wikileaks as a journalistic entity. But Pompeo and former attorney general Jeff Sessions reconsidered that decision and began aggressively probing Assange's ties to the Russian government.
"Their work culminated in prosecutors secretly filing charges this summer against Mr. Assange," the Times wrote. The Times notes that when the federal government charged 12 Russians for hacking Democrats in July, the indictment "contained thinly veiled references to WikiLeaks."
But while it seems clear that the federal government has charged Assange with something, it's not known what specific charges he would face if taken into US custody. The Reporters Committee is seeking to change that, arguing that there's no reason to keep the details secret now that Assange knows he is under indictment.