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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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July 29th, 2013
06:45 PM ET

Julian Assange: Convicting Bradley Manning would be 'the end of national security in journalism in the United States'

After spending three years in custody, the man accused of the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history will learn Tuesday whether he has been found guilty of aiding the enemy.

A verdict from the judge in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning has been reached, and will be announced at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman for the military district of Washington.

If Manning is found guilty, "the precedent will be set where if you give information to a publisher, to a journalist, and they publish, then anyone in the world can read it, and the U.S. military is saying that means the enemy can be aided because al Qaeda, for example, could read that information," said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Manning is accused of leaking more than 750,000 documents, videos and other information to WikiLeaks.

"This is a really serious attack. It's the most serious attack the administration is pursuing in its war against investigative journalism. It will be the end essentially of national security in journalism in the United States," said Assange.

Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than a year.

Still, the WikiLeaks founder is not in jail. Manning, on the other hand, has spent the past three years in detention, including months in solitary confinement. He could now spend the rest of his life behind bars if he is found guilty under the charge of aiding the enemy.

"As the publisher involved in this case, there's no doubt that our publishing activities are connected in some way to Bradley Manning's fate, that's provided the embarrassment that the U.S. government is working against," said Assange.

But Assange points to the good that has come from the publication of the classified documents, saying that Amnesty International reports that the overthrow of the regime in Tunisia by its people was directly triggered by WikiLeaks publications.

But is the list of accomplishments ultimately worth the rest of Manning's life?

"It's not my place to weigh that out, said Assange. "He was willing to take that risk from his alleged statements, because he believes apparently that the result is so important."

People who are willing "to risk being a martyr for all the rest of us, we call those people heroes. Bradley Manning is a hero," said Assange.

Another hero for Assange is U.S. intelligence leaker and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein suggested on CNN that Snowden may be leaking secrets to China and Russia.

"He went to two big cyber intruding powers, China and Russia. And left China and went to Russia. You've got to ask why did he choose those two? You’ve got to also ask do the Chinese have all this material? Do the Russians have it?" Feinstein said on CNN 'State of the Union' Sunday.

Assange said it was never Snowden's intent to remain in Russia, but that he was en route to Latin America when the U.S. State Department cancelled his passport.

"We have exercised as much ability as we can to protect Mr. Snowden from any state, the United States, Russia, and China from exploiting him. But the U.S. State Department has worked counter to that purpose, marooning him effectively in Russia," said Assange.

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadarian embassy because the U.K. intends to extradite him to Sweden, where he faces questioning over sex assault allegations. Diplomatic protocol prevents police from entering the embassy to arrest him.

Barry Pollack, U.S. attorney for Assange, said that if Assange were to leave the embassy, there is a chance he could be extradited to the U.S.

"If you look at the Bradley Manning prosecution, he had already pled guilty to leaking classified information. That wasn't good enough for the U.S. government," said Pollack.

"If you're at risk for life imprisonment as the person who leaks the information, think what the government thinks of you as the person who publishes the information," said Pollack.

Filed under: World Lead
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