The Australian government discussed the charge of treason – the most serious of federal offences and one that carries a mandatory life sentence – when it examined the WikiLeaks matter last year.
The advice, in a departmental briefing for the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, was among several documents published yesterday by the department in response to Senate estimates questions.
It was provided by a senior officer in the Attorney-General’s Department in September, after WikiLeaks published 90,000 US military reports filed during the war in Afghanistan.
Only the most trenchant critics of WikiLeaks have discussed treason. In November the Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said whoever gave the material to WikiLeaks was guilty of treason and ”anything less than execution is too kind a penalty”.
Sarah Palin said the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, should be ”hunted down” and an adviser to Canada’s Prime Minister called for his assassination.
The release of the briefing shows that, even though no public comment was made about treason, it was at least canvassed early after the WikiLeaks releases.
Yesterday the department played down the mention of treason, saying it was ”standard information included for background purposes only”.