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Julian Assange in a police car after being arrested. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The Justice Department announced Thursday that a grand jury in Virginia has returned an 18-count superseding indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for violating the Espionage Act by leaking U.S. military and diplomatic documents.

Why it matters: The new indictment adds 17 charges to the single count Assange was indicted on last month, and could raise significant questions about First Amendment protections for publishers of classified information.

  • Unlike the first indictment, which charged Assange with conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Defense Department computer, the new counts allege that he and Manning sought to "to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it."
  • The indictment also raises the stakes for the extradition battle playing out in U.K. courts, as Assange is also facing a revived investigation into rape charges from authorities in Sweden.

Be smart: As University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck notes in a Twitter thread, "The issue isn't whether Assange is a "journalist"; this will be a major test case because the text of the Espionage Act doesn't distinguish between what Assange allegedly did and what mainstream outlets sometimes do, even if the underlying facts/motives are radically different."

Read the indictment:

Go deeper

Updated 22 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a powerful and potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring an array of hazards, from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten coastal property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Republican-led Pennsylvania court deems mail-in voting law unconstitutional

Workers count ballots for the 2020 Presidential election at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Nov. 3, 2020. Photo: Hannah Yoon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Republican-led Pennsylvania court on Friday ruled that the state's mail-in voting law is unconstitutional.

Driving the news: Three Republican judges sided with Republican challengers and ruled that no-excuse mail-in voting is prohibited under the state's constitution. Two Democrats on the panel dissented.

1 hour ago - World

China's ambassador warns Taiwan could spark "military conflict" with U.S.

Photo: Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty Images

China's ambassador to the U.S. warned in a rare interview with NPR that if Taiwanese authorities "keep going down the road for independence," it would "most likely" lead to a "military conflict" between the U.S. and China.

Why it matters: Chinese officials rarely speak in such blunt terms, but veteran diplomat Qin Gang was unequivocal: "The Taiwan issue is the biggest tinderbox between China and the United States."